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In Our Own Backyard...Agreeing to disagree

The silence was so intense you could have heard a whisker twitch. The big orange cat, Mufasa, held court over the new red faux-velvet Christmas bed as though he were a king on a throne. Only the most astute of observers would have noticed that he...

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The silence was so intense you could have heard a whisker twitch.

The big orange cat, Mufasa, held court over the new red faux-velvet Christmas bed as though he were a king on a throne. Only the most astute of observers would have noticed that he had stiffened ever so slightly, but otherwise he sat grandly in his Sphinx-like position as he gazed straight ahead at an invisible spot on the floor.

Mufasa had claimed the bed as his own from the moment it arrived just before Christmas. And though it was intended for both him and his little "sister" Sunshine, he made it clear that the battle was won before it ever got started - and he was taking no prisoners.

It was unusual that the oversized, mellow cat would react that way. Almost from the time that he and Sunshine, both shelter rescue cats, were newly introduced into our household about a year and a half ago, they seemed to have made a pact to get along and share the bounty of their newly adopted home. They ate side by side, met us in tandem at the front door each night, and slept wrapped around each other in their fleece-lined cat bed each night. And while it would be somewhat misleading to say they were fast friends, they did seem to have at least a grudging acceptance of each other, and we never worried about them fighting or otherwise getting into trouble (well, not too much, anyway).

A few months ago, they started getting territorial, however. When we'd feed them first thing in the morning and again before we went to bed at night, Sunshine - "the gulper" - would dive into her bowl of food. As soon as Mufasa - "the grazer" - strolled off from his half-eaten cat food to use the litter pan, and Sunshine would dart over and inhale his food as well. We didn't think too much about it until Mufasa started begging for food as soon as we walked in the door at night, as though he were starving to death. And Sunshine - well, Sunshine started to get chubby.

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Not long ago we decided we'd have to feed them in separate rooms to prevent Mufasa from going without, and Sunshine from ballooning up into a full-blown candidate for "Biggest Losers." The plan left them completely befuddled. As they ran for their former feeding station while we prepared to dole out the cat food, neither one of them wanted to have to go in the other room when we moved one of their bowls - even though it, too, had food in it. We tried rattling the food bowl, calling them by name and finally hefting one of them into the other room and closing the door in between until both were finished.

It didn't work.

Mufasa was used to using the litter pan halfway through his meal, and he couldn't get to it because the door was shut. Sunshine was so nervous about what Mufasa might be getting that she wasn't getting she hardly touched her own food. And we were running ourselves ragged from dashing from one room to the next with cat food and bowl and then bolting to the door in order to close it in time before the cat inside escaped.

It was around that same time that the cat bed issue surfaced. When the Christmas bed arrived in the mail from our daughter and her boyfriend on the East Coast, we pulled it out of the box, placed it in the middle of the living room and - since Mufasa just happened to be there at the time - we set him in the new bed to try it out. From that time forward, it became "his" bed, and Sunshine never made a move toward it.

That is, until the other day. Out of the blue, I heard a growling sound coming from the direction of the new cat bed - and then, total silence. I glanced around the corner to see Sunshine standing stiff-legged in front of the bed as Mufasa held his ground inside it staring fixedly at the floor. After a matter of moments, Sunshine leaned in over the edge of the bed - being infinitely careful not to touch it - and began to lick Mufasa industriously right in the middle of his forehead. He briefly allowed his eyes to float shut and seemed to be enjoying it, but then the low warning growl came from the back of his throat once again.

"Mufasa!" I scolded. "That bed is supposed to be for the two of you!"

In classic cat-like fashion, the two of them cast a stony gaze in my direction and completely ignored me. The next instant they were locked in mortal combat in the middle of the bed. They yowled and spat and finally the two of them both ran off down the hallway, leaving the plush, new bed empty.

Relieved that I didn't have to intervene, I went about my housework. It was about a half hour later that I happened to walk past the corner of the room where the cat bed sits and glanced in that direction. And there, lying side by side in the bed - and carefully avoiding any form of contact with each other - were Mufasa and Sunshine!

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