Just as we were getting used to life without Spice…

Tanya was cooking dinner tonight when she heard a knock on the hull.  She went outside and was shocked to find a man who lives near the end of our dock standing there holding Spice.  He had heard meowing from the boat next to his; one that didn’t have people aboard, let alone cats.  He investigated and found Spice inside.  Apparently she went in by an overhead hatch and couldn’t get back out.

Needless to say, we are ecstatic to have her back.  Spice is restless and re-exploring all the corners of the boat.  She doesn’t look like she’s been trapped for 8 days, although she plainly smells like a closed boat.  I’m sure the boat doesn’t smell any better for the encounter either.  She’s hoarse and starved for attention, but not much thinner than she always has been.  

Spice’s return has put a crimp in Sugar’s plans of household domination, and Sugar isn’t exactly welcoming her.  

Without going too much into the social dynamics between our cats, Sugar has always been the big sister but Spice has always been the favorite.  Sugar is jealous of the attention Spice receives.  While Spice was gone Sugar did not pine for her as much as we thought was appropriate.  We were willing to chalk this up to an animal’s acceptance of the ways of nature, but we harbored a slight suspicion toward Sugar as having had some involvement in Spice’s disappearance.

However, our suspicion was stronger regarding a stray cat that we’ve been dealing with.  We think he’s a tom, and he has not been shy about coming aboard at night and claiming our boat as his territory.  

Spice has always been the bouncer.  In Atlanta she bolted through an open door to chase a neighbor’s cat off of our back deck.  She didn’t stop until she got to the backyard fence, whereupon a visible look of panic crossed her face as she realized she was outside in that green stuff, and then ran even faster back into the house.  In Clearwater she chased a squirrel… onto the roof of the house.  Tanya heard the plaintive meows and had to rescue her with a ladder.  

So our leading theories about Spice’s disappearance were that she chased the tom and got lost, hurt, or was up a tree and couldn’t get down.  We checked the trees nearby and hoped for the best.

While Spice was gone Sugar received all our regular attention and maybe some extra.  She blossomed in the absence of her sister.  She seemed to become a sweeter cat.  And last night she ran off the tom.  

Tanya sleeps upstairs now (to reduce the impact to both of our rests when she trundles out of our bunk 4-5 times a night) and was awakened last night to a full-blown catfight in our cockpit.  It was Sugar and the tom.  She thrashed him pretty good and then stood guard at the cockpit door for the rest of the night.  I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t come back.

Sugar is now directing that aggression toward poor Spice.  We’ve seen this before when Spice came home from an extended visit at the vet’s office smelling like that feared and hated place.  We’re doing everything we can to make Spice feel welcome and expect Sugar’s rejection to pass as Spice reacquires the household smell.  If that starts taking too long we’ll just give them both a bath and call it even.