Feisty felines overcome labels to become friends

Marky Mark and Coddle the cats
Unlikely feline friends Marky Mark and Coddle both had some behavior challenges in the past, but now they’re happy just palling around.
By Sarah Thornton

A good friend can make a world of difference, no matter what your species (unless it’s a solitary one, of course). We all want to feel safe, supported and loved, and having fun is just as important. Friends can help us be our best selves. Just ask Marky Mark and Coddle, two feline friends and roommates at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary who used to be a whole lot to handle before they met and mellowed down.

These days, they are saving their scrappier sides for playtime with one another, and everyone is happier for it — especially the two of them.

A cat with a big personality

It didn’t take long after Coddle arrived at the Sanctuary from a nearby shelter for him to develop a bit of a reputation. In a room full of quiet, sometimes shy cats, he was a big new personality and he made it everyone’s business. He became territorial and had a tendency to guard the female cats in his room and chase others away from them. It was stressful for all of his roommates, and two of them were so anxious that they even refused to eat or leave their hiding places.

Cats weren’t the only ones on the receiving end of his behavior, either. With his confident personality, he would approach caregivers and visitors for attention, but it didn’t take much for him to get overstimulated. And when he got overstimulated, he would swat and grab with claws and teeth.

[Cat Behavior Modification and Counter-Conditioning]

It became clear that Coddle required another living arrangement — for his sake, as well as those around him. So, caregivers moved him to an area of Cat World set up for cats who are happiest living solo or in pairs. He had his own room with his own private catio that gave him the space and quiet he needed to start calming down.

By the time Marky Mark came to the Sanctuary, Coddle’s interactions with people had loosened up; however, he hadn’t yet been introduced to any new cats since leaving his old room. That would soon change.

Photo by Molly Wald

A cat who wants his space

Marky Mark’s Sanctuary stay began at the clinic because he was suffering from a bad bite wound on his leg (the reason he had come to the Sanctuary from a nearby shelter) and veterinarians thought amputation might be necessary. Thankfully, X-rays revealed that the leg could be treated, but they also detected a different problem — a buildup of fluid on Marky’s chest.

“We were pulling around 100 milliliters of fluid weekly for several weeks,” says Chris Kruse-Wright, a vet tech assistant. Sending Marky to Las Vegas for a special surgery was also discussed, but there was a less than 50% chance that it would be successful. So, veterinarians tried something else: antibiotics and a special low-fat diet. It worked, and veterinarians noticed that Marky Mark’s chest was clearing up.

At the same time, being confined in his limited space along with all the constant medical handling was causing Marky Mark to lose patience. “He was likely an indoor/outdoor cat, and wasn't neutered,” Chris says, “so being (confined) wasn't helpful.”

[A once-upon-a-time grumpy cat finds a best friend]

Upgrading to a bigger room at the clinic with access to an enclosed outside area helped, and getting neutered really helped. But after he left the clinic and before he could move into a room at Cat World, he had a temporary stay in another small indoor space. And he let everyone know how unhappy he was with the arrangement.

“When they were cleaning out his space, he would just come over and let out his frustrations,” says caregiver Bee McCarroll. “He was having a really hard time.”

Marky’s special diet prevented him from moving into a big room with a lot of roommates who weren’t on the same meal plan. But there was someone else with tummy troubles eating the same food — Coddle. Since Marky had been on his best behavior, caregivers had a hunch that, without female cats involved and having had plenty of time to settle in, he might be able to handle a roommate. Their hunch was right. The move turned out to be the best they could have hoped for.

Photo by Molly Wald

Fast feline friends

Bee set up Marky Mark in a tower kennel in Coddle’s room (the typical way to safely introduce new roommates at the Sanctuary) and it took no time at all for them to get familiar through the wire. The very next day, Marky Mark was out in the room with Coddle and they were acting like they’d known each other forever.

Both young, energetic cats were delighted to have a friend to roughhouse with, and they were absolutely on the same page when it came to playtime. They both had a healthy outlet for all that energy. And then they started influencing each other in even more ways.

“I think Coddle helps Marky Mark in the sense that Marky Mark’s more aloof, and he’s coming around,” says Bee. “You can pet him more and he wants to be around people more. I think Coddle’s confidence is helping with that. And (with) Coddle’s ‘busyness’ and being very curious, Marky Mark’s helping with that because now he’s got a play buddy. They run up and down the halls and they’re goofy together. If one’s in something, the other one’s coming to check out what cabinet he’s in.”

[Three kittens plus three kids equal a whole lot of fun]

The two cats play nicely with their human friends and visitors, spend time in the big outdoor playpen and go on stroller rides side by side. Coddle has become the kind of cat to follow his favorite people from room to room (or, according to Bee, sit outside the door and yell for them). And following Coddle’s lead, Marky is gradually coming out of his shell, too.

“It’s just fun to watch them and see that they’re happy and they’re exploring things together,” says Bee. “They’re kind of a support system for each other.”

It can take a while to find what makes the animals at the Sanctuary content in their home-between-homes. The staff, volunteers and veterinary care teams all do their parts, but sometimes it’s the animals themselves who help each other the most.

Photo by Molly Wald

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