Migration Patterns of Baby Raptors: Stress and distress

Naturally the kittens got stressed when the big cats came in. We expected this, and we planned to visit the cattery regularly to calm everyone down. We knew Sweetheart would hiss and growl at them, and that Hedwig would follow them around. What we did not expect was that the kittens would turn on each other!

Okay, I’m exaggerating.

Furriosa, in the safety of the Raptor Pen

The kittens were suspicious, maybe a little afraid, of the bigger cats. So when any of the big cats came over, they hissed and growled. When Sweetheart hissed at them, they hissed back. That was to be expected. But we didn’t count on the kittens hissing at each other!

It seemed like they were feeding off of each other’s distress. Furriosa would hiss, and Blondie would hiss back, or vice versa. Soon they were growling at each other. Next thing we knew, they were swiping at each other! And poor Samwise was stuck in the middle.

We were very worried. Furriosa had always been temperamental. When they were still in our room, and Blondie and Samwise were running amok, Furriosa often just sat on the edge of the bed, watching them. She’d join in and run a little, then jump back up onto the bed. In the cage, her sisters would be playing and biting and rolling around, and she would be sitting in a distant corner, watching, joining in only occasionally.

Blondie and Samwise, sniffing around

Now it seemed that moodiness was at work again. She seemed extremely stressed about the move, and was aggressive towards anyone who accidentally bumped into her or caught her off-guard in any way, even if it was her own sister!

Blondie’s distress was also a surprise. She was normally a sweet kitten, curious and playful. When they were still in our room, and Hedwig and Sweetheart would come in, Blondie was the one who made friends with Hedwig. We thought it would be the same when they moved into the cattery.

Instead it was Samwise who was friendly with the big cats, and Blondie was suspicious and nervous. It was stressful for us too.

One night, we went into the cattery to spend time with the babies. Furriosa was lying on top of their cage. I stood beside her and started scratching her: on her neck, on her legs, on the top of her head, on her back. She looked up at me, as if asking, “Where have you been all day, Mommy?” and she started purring loudly. She started writhing and rolling and stretching, and then she settled down on her side. I had my arm curled around her body, and she put her head and one front leg around my arm. Soon she was falling asleep. It seemed as if she had been stressed all day, but in my presence she was finally able to relax. My poor kitten.

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