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Healing trauma and feline politics

A colleague of mine recently treated a couple of tiny homeless feline litter mates. One baby had a fractured leg, the other a back injury. These kittens were found in bad condition and, since neither speaks a human language (all they’ll say when asked is “meow, meow, meow”), we can only guess at what happened.

Dr. Jeff NicholBaby bones heal fast. Within a couple of weeks, the girl kitty with the leg fracture was a fully functioning curtain climber. Her brother’s back, while not painful, has improved slowly. The little guy’s rear legs don’t operate normally. He ascends the furniture by spar pole climbing, showing potential as a lineman.

Both kittens are happy, playful, and living permanently with their doctor and her significant other. They have a dog who loves everybody of any species and a 5-year-old indoor cat named Sterling. He’s the challenge.

Like all self-respecting felines, Sterling is an inveterate hunter. Around dusk, his innate predatory proclivities escalate, causing him to approach those little striped rug rats in unsettling ways. He has stalked, pounced and wrapped all of his appendages plus his mouth around them. No one has come away with wounds, but there have been a few tears. These folks needed help. They already knew that reprimands and other punishments would only heighten Sterling’s agitation toward the little ones. Everybody’s well-being would worsen.

The hard wiring of our cats’ brains includes a predatory mindset starting at nightfall. All feline creatures, great and small, must associate only sweetness and light with their togetherness. If the kittens are going share a home with the big guy, only good times can be allowed. They needed a reliable plan.

Sterling and the kids were to be completely separated in the evenings. If the big fellow showed even a hint of tension toward the young ‘uns at other times, they were to be gently separated. Activities in the open space of the backyard, on the other hand, have gone predictably well. Sterling has even found it in his heart to groom the babies. Tomorrow, you’ll find a video on my Facebook page (

Sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference for Cats on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet questions on or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.