Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Clowder of Cats

We have two cats, a 15-year-old gray and white named Smokey and a 5-year-old mackerel tabby named Fafner. He is a mackerel tabby because his marking make an M on his forehead. My son thinks he is also a an Egyptian Mau, a variety of tabby descended from the ancient temple cats. Nonetheless, we adopted both cats from a local shelter.

Our daughter also has two cats, a dapper black and white named Remy, who is almost 2, and a tortoiseshell kitten of about 10 months named Eleanor Rigby, Ellie for short. Remy, who has an easy-going, sociable personality, was lonely, and so Jamie adopted Ellie who lost an eye as a young kitten.

This week, which is spring break for me, my husband, and our daughter, Remy and Ellie came to visit us in the suburbs while Jamie went to visit her boyfriend in Houston. The dynamics have been interesting.

Remy spent most of the summer with us while Jamie was at various music festivals, so he was already comfortable in our house. In fact, he loves our house with its stairs, many rooms, windows, and other cats. (Jamie lives in an apartment.)

Smokey surprised us by adapting quickly to the new cats. He is fond of Remy, in a cat kind of way. He and Remy play well together, wrestling and chasing.

Fafner was named after the dragon in Rochard Wagner's opera "Siegfried." Unlike his namesake, our Fafner is a big coward. His favorite activities are eating and sleeping. He has bonded strongly with our son. A strong attachment to one person is one of the characteristics of Mau cats.

Ellie, tiny and young, is a diva, though a most affectionate one. She loves me and my husband, twining herself around our legs and sitting in our laps. She also loves Remy. The other cats are a different story. There was a lot of hissing the first few days, all by Ellie directed at Smokey and Fafner. There was some hitting, too. She has now calmed down and only remembers to hiss, softly, occasionally.

Having four cats is a lot of cats. Every time you turn around there's a cat. You have to watch where you step. Cat meal times are crazy - our two cats eat a different diet than Jamie's cats, but our cats think Remy and Ellie's food is much more delicious than theirs, so we have to try to separate them. But those bowls of Fancy Feast are just irresistible!

I had been calling them a herd, but that really doesn't fit cats. They don't act together like herds do. So then I tried pride, like lions, which still doesn't fit. A pride of lions is a more cohesive group than four cats is. So I Googled it. A group of cats is called a clowder. An odd word, I wondered where it came from. Here's what says:

variant of dial. clodder clotted mass, noun use of clodder toclot, coagulate, Middle English clothered, clothred (past participle), variantof clotered; compare obsolete clotter to huddle together; see clutter

I don't really see much huddling together or clotted masses with these four. Clutter and glaring are also terms for a group of cats. Glaring makes a lot of sense to me. There's plenty of glaring, growling and hissing when a group of cats assembles. I can also see clutter, as they do tend to clutter the place up.

In any case, our clowder has livened this week up. We miss the youngsters when they go home with Jamie.


  1. the dynamics and sub-currents of cat-mixing would Byzantine court politics seem simple and straight forward. PS I'm sharing this with other cat-clawdor friends

  2. I must admit this is not my world; yet, I am fascinated by your post and can only imagine the implications for the cats in your midst.