Lions & House Cats

This past weekend I went to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (aka the National Zoo) and had a chance to watch the lions.

Remember awhile back when a scientific study of feline behavior found similarities between house cats and lions? (And then a bunch of people picked up and ran with the idea–disregarded the study’s real findings–and claimed your cat wanted to eat you?). Well, my cats aren’t plotting my demise, but while I was watching the lions I couldn’t help seeing large muscular versions of my house cats.

Here was a lioness who wanted to get back into her indoor enclosure:

And here is Fafnir wanting to be let in from our porch:



Caliban 2


Update: He’s staying.

The little bundle of adorable black fluff has cuddled up in our hearts and can no longer be trusted to the care of anyone else. Faced with a ball of cuteness that purrs like a motor boat when held, curls up in our laps for a nap when we’re reading on the couch, and who has become better at fetch than Fafnir–there is no longer any choice but to accept him as a permanent resident.

The decision was made weeks ago, but life has been busy. My phone’s camera folder has been filling up with pictures and videos, though, and now that I have an open Sunday afternoon, it seems like the best time to recap what has been happening and share some of the documented cuteness. I tried to group them in some kind of coherent order, but it’s mostly just chronological.

* * *

First step towards integration: letting Caliban out from his seclusion in the bathroom and allowing him to interact with our other cats. Caliban took it in woobly kitten strides.

(The “hey” from me in the video was to stop Fafnir from grooming Caliban, who wasn’t in the all-clear for worms yet.)

The sounds you here in the above are Fafnir, not Caliban. It took us a few incidents to figure it out since Fafnir had never meowed like that before. I kept rushing into the room thinking Fafnir was hurting Caliban at which point they always scattered. It took being in the room already to realize Fafnir was the one vocalizing to get Cal to play with him. He’d most often “scream” before Cal had even finished a jump.

As much fun as they were having, there were still times when Fafnir’s energy wasn’t quiet up to matching that of a kitten. At which point, Caliban usually went after his tail.

Nate knew he wanted to keep Caliban as soon as he brought him home. Fafnir accepted him at first sniff. I melted after a bit over a week (I loved him right away–I mean, duh, a kitten!–but the whole idea of keeping 3 cats took longer to accept). Our female Grendel, however, took a bit more time to decide if she would put up with him.

She never bit or scratch him, but there was plenty of suspicious hissing and a few well-aimed smacks of the paw when he got too friendly with her. Caliban didn’t appear to mind. As skittish as he was starting out with us–and still is with any human visitors–he has always been eager to befriend other cats.

One of the funniest early-day interactions between all our cats was when Grendel was trying to come through the crack in the bathroom door (to steal Cal’s food) and Caliban decided to just run under her legs to get through the narrow opening. Grendel leap right in the air in surprise, hissed, and fled, but Caliban didn’t give her a second glance and trotted on to his food bowl.

In the above, Grendel isn’t hiding in a litter box. It’s just a litter box lid that we’d left out and she’d decided she liked hiding in.

She still hisses at him sometimes–mostly when he decides to interrupt her naps or accidentally jumps onto her in the climbing tree–but they now play with one another, will sleep in the same area (though she won’t cuddle with him like Fafnir does) and for now, I call it a cat family at peace.

Caliban can keep himself pretty occupied too, and enjoys playing with Nate and I. Grendel and Fafnir, usually exhausted and hiding up in a perch somewhere by the afternoon, much certainly appear to appreciate some alone time.

Fafnir keeps Caliban pretty clean. While Grendel was still hissing over Cal smelling like the vet after he came back from his latest shots, Fafnir immediately went to work grooming him down.

Caliban has not been able to join the Fafnir and Grendel grooming parties. But he doesn’t appear to mind much.

Caliban REALLY likes watching computer screens and after a few cat-on-keyboard incidents, he’s learned to just watch and not try to catch the mouse. He makes a good study-buddy.

That is, assuming I don’t stop my homework to try documenting how cute he looks when he falls asleep.


Caliban tends to have two states of being (like many kittens). Playing and sleeping.

Caliban also has a thing for catnip.

As I mentioned above, he has also learned fetch. Fafnir plays fetch with the feather toy or hair ties, but Caliban prefers his catnip-stuff beaver toy (it came free in the “Kitten Kit” we got from the vet). Any of his mice toys work as well.

Like with Fafnir, I “taught” him fetch by modifying his already existing playing behavior. I noticed he was intentionally bringing his toys to one spot to play and I stepped into that spot so that he would be bringing it back to me. Grendel’s never shown this behavior, so she has yet to learn fetch.

Fafnir would put hair ties on the end table because they’d glide better when he bat them and he could “chase” them when they fell over the edge. Caliban preferred dropping his mice in a shoe box lid, so he could bat them in and out of it.

I stood by the shoebox lid, threw the toys out, and he would trot it back to me. After awhile, he started to equate me, not the lid, with the game. Although, he still prefers bringing toys to the bedroom since our current routine usually involves throwing his toy for him while we get dressed in the morning after our run.

And lastly, to wrap this massive gathering of photos and videos up. Caliban being adorable:

And falling asleep.



We have a new feline monster in our midst. He has been named Caliban and he may or may-not be staying long term (depends if you’re asking me or my husband…). This is the story of how he came to us. Or, if you just want photos and videos of a cute kitten, scroll on down.

* * *

During the New Year’s long-weekend, another resident in our apartment complex – I’ll call her Jane – heard mewing outside her window. Not a a hungry cat meow, but a baby kitten’s mew for its mother. Jane has two cats already – rescues – so she grabbed some of her wet cat food, and went outside to see if she could lure the kitten inside.

Over the next few days, the food disappeared and she successfully saw the kitten a few times – it was small and all black – but it wouldn’t let her get anywhere near it. She tried calling shelters, but everyone she reached out to was closed for the holidays. She heard the kitten in what she thought was her neighbor’s car engine, but couldn’t figure out how to lure it out.

Nate works at the apartment leasing office. When he was working on Tuesday, the maintenance and ground crew said they kept hearing a kitten out in the parking lot. They saw a flash of little black fur once, but they hadn’t been able to figure out where it went. It was a horrible day for a missing kitten: cold and rainy. When they stopped hearing the kittens mewing anymore, they worried it might have crawled away somewhere and died.

That evening, I got home from work ahead of Nate and start to preparing a nicer meal since it was technically our anniversary (we went out to dinner and a movie the night before though since we both had to work on the 3rd). I noticed that Nate was running late. Seeing as his commute is walking the length of the parking lot, this was odd. I checked my phone and saw a text from him that he was waiting with his coworker for her ride to pick her up since her ride is running late.

Then a few minutes later, I get a phone call. While they were waiting, they’d heard the kitten again. They thought it was in the car right in front of the office and Nate wanted me to bring some cat food to them to lure it out.

So I grabbed a jacket, turned off the burners on the stove, and poured a bowl of dry cat food (much to the annoyance of our feline duo who wanted to know why I wasn’t giving the food to  them) and headed out to meet them.

We didn’t find the kitten that night though. Nate looked up the parking registration on the vehicle and figured out it was Jane’s. We called her and she came right out, filling us in on the whole ordeal of her weekend trying to capture the little guy. She opened up the hood of her own car, and we search and searched to no avail. We started up the engine, moved the car forward and backward. Nothing came running out and the mewing had stopped.

We figured it must have high-tailed it out of there at some point when we weren’t looking. Hopefully it would turn up again. A crowd was gathering and it was getting pretty dark, so our chances of success seemed few. Even if it was in there, it was probably going to hunker down and not move after all the commotion. We called it a night, I reheated dinner, and Nate and I discussed if we’d take in said kitten if they found it, or pass it off to a shelter.

Next day, Nate had a day off from work because of a class he was taking in the evening. Usually he texts me throughout the day when he’s home, so I was a bit surprised by his silence. Then, I got this:


This was followed by a phone call and I was brought up to date on the ordeal of this little kitten.

Jane had gone off to a dentist appointment that day – an appointment a good 30 minute drive away. To clarify for those familiar with the DC Metro area, it was a 30 minute ride on the Capital Beltway, or as I like to call Interstate 495: The Circle of Death. I had to commute on it for a year to and from work and there’s just something wrong about a commute running anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half based on traffic and whether a semi tipped that day or not. I like to call 495’s on-ramps bumper-car lanes.

Jane had heard the kitten again, she was almost certain. And she was, understandably, freaked out. She called the office, trying to get a hold of Nate. His coworker called Nate, Nate called Jane, etc. Nate decided to drive out and try to help. There was a chance the kitten had already crawled out and run for it, or might do so by time Nate got there and Jane had finished with her dentist, but he’d rather know he’d done what he could to help the poor thing. He helped find a mechanic nearby and they explained what they needed him to check.

“Haven’t dealt with that one before,” was the mechanics comment as he put the car on a lift so he could get underneath it. He pulled back the plastic that covered the engine from below and promptly exclaimed “There’s a cat in here!”

The kitten was – not surprisingly – terrified. It frantically started crawling up further into the engine, but the mechanic managed to grab and pull it out. The kitten thanked him by biting him. Jane grabbed the kitten by the scruff. But kittens are kind of like octopuses; they can contort into unimaginable shapes. The kitten turned its head and promptly locked its little teeth onto Jane and it took Nate prying open its jaws to release her hand.

Thankfully, Jane had already gone to pick up a carrier from the nearby Walmart and they quickly put the scared guy into it. After a bit of back and forth trying to decide its fate, Nate volunteered to take it until we placed it in a permanent home and called to check that it’d work for me. I agreed, as long as we kept it isolated from ours until we could get the kitten checked out. The last thing I wanted was our cats catching something from it.

Nate made an appointment with our veterinarian for that afternoon, and I came home early from work. The kitten hissed whenever it felt cornered, but there was no more biting. Once picked up, it would purr and purr and start snuffling around in our clothes like it wanted to nurse. It ate and drank some, but mostly prefer to cower in the back of the cat carrier or mew whenever it heard our cats meowing at the door.

Thus far, our other two cats were going nuts about us hiding in the bathroom (where we’d isolated the kitten) and because we were not letting them get closer to the ball of fluff  they saw through door cracks or in a closed carrier. Fafnir wanted to befriend it. Grendel was hissing and growling murder. She is the one you hear in the video above – she’s mewing to see us, but if we opened the door and let her see the kitten, it was all hissing.

Nate left for his evening class and I prepared for the vet. As soon as I sat down to tie my shoes, Grendel promptly claimed my lap. And Grendel doesn’t even like sitting in laps.


I dislodge my insecure feline, got the cat carrier, and took the kitten to the vet. Unlike both our cats, it didn’t make a peep the whole drive there.

They confirmed the kitten  was uninjured by his car ride. It was also male and somewhere between 6 and 11 weeks old, and he weighed just under 2 lbs. Before proceeding with vaccinations and de-worming, they ran a feline leukemia test on him. The vet was optimistic about the likely results – he looked fairly healthy – but the test would take 15 minutes. During the time I waited, he fell asleep in my lap with his chin resting on my arm. I really, really, hoped he was healthy.


The test came back negative! A stool sample proved he had round worms, and thus began his less-enjoyable medical treatments with needles and syringes. We would have to keep the cats isolated for awhile longer – especially not sharing a litter box  – to keep them from getting worms too and ideally we wouldn’t let them mix or groom one another for awhile either.

Considering the fact that every time the kitten just saw Fafnir he’d start purring and mewing and wanting to get near him, complete isolation wasn’t going to last too long. We broke down in a few days.

We currently let them chase each other around the apartment when we are home, but isolate them when we are out or when they need to eat (Fafnir would just steal the kitten’s wet food otherwise and I’m fighting to keep my cats at a healthy weight).

We looked for a name that went with a literary stowaway, but ended up going with something that fit our existing monster theme (Grendel & Fafnir). Nate settled on Caliban. I was trying to argue for just calling him Cuteness, since we’re only fostering and shouldn’t get attached. But Nate would prefer to keep him, unless we find someone we personally know who’ll take him in. We’ll address that in a month or so once Caliban has gotten his health in order. Until then – we have three cats.

 And the videos:


Note: He LOVES kneading things, even if it’s just the air while we pet him.


For more on Caliban’s story (and how he has ended up staying) see:
Caliban 2 – March 19, 2017 post. 

Hidden Grendel

Black cats are wonderful, but owning a completely-black feline has its consequences. Just the other day, I did a weird jump step to avoid stepping on the cat sprawled across the floor only to realize I’d only dodged a sweatshirt. On the flip side, I’ve bumped into what I thought was a shoe on the floor only to have tiny teeth and claws sink into my foot and inform me otherwise.

Shoe impersonation are kind of her favorite.

And while many cats like to hide in luggage, the probability that I might actually fail to realize she’s in there is high.

Also, I think Grendel’s finally getting over her vet-anxieties. She actually decided to chill in the carrier after we left it out – though it took seeing her big pink mouth in a yawn before I noticed she was doing it.

And lastly, Grendel’s new favorite spot to hide – a black storage box I turned on its side when the top lid broke: