CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Marlowe gets along well with his three canine siblings. In fact, his owner, Barbara Danford, of Barboursville, sometimes thinks he might be one of them.
The 5-year-old black cat roughhouses with the dogs and likes to play fetch. One of his favorite toys is a dog toy.
It’s fitting they get along so well because it was due to one of the dogs, the 11-year-old yellow Lab mix Lucky, that Danford got Marlowe in the first place.
“Lucky felt that all kitties loved him,” Danford explained with a laugh. “We would walk around the neighborhood, and he would stand and wag his tail when they approached him. He looked thrilled to death when they’d rub up against him.”
Danford adopted Marlowe, named for Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, in October 2009 from Little Victories, a no-kill animal rescue in Ona. The then-3-month-old kitten was one of three she looked at, ultimately deciding he would be the best fit for her family, which at that point only included Lucky.
A smooth integration was very important to her — and for the most part, it was.
“At first, I had to make sure Lucky wasn’t alone with Marlowe. Lucky wanted to chase him because he thought he was fascinating,” she said. “I had to keep telling Lucky, ‘He’s not a toy.’”
The two settled into a friendship, though, and soon it was Marlowe who would initiate playtime.
“He and Lucky would roughhouse. He would throw his little paws around Lucky’s neck and make him start to play.”
Two years ago, Marlowe got new playmates when Danford inherited two border collies, Samson and Delilah. That integration was a bit more difficult because of the dogs’ herding instincts, she said, but now they mostly get along. Samson, the younger of the two collies, still is sometimes too much for Marlowe to handle.
“Delilah will play with Marlowe. If I take a nap or go to the bedroom to read, Delilah, Lucky and Marlowe will join me on the bed, and Marlowe will decide he wants to play. They can’t try it on the floor because as soon as Samson senses someone is having fun with the cat, he comes running in, and it’s over. Marlowe’s like, ‘Two dogs are too many,’ and the game’s over.”
Marlowe also has a cat tree centrally located in the house, so he can flee to safety if he feels he needs to.
“We’ve maintained a balance — through sheer determination of will — sometimes,” Danford said with a laugh. “I think anytime you’re integrating an animal, it’s crucial to try to figure out beforehand how to set up safe zones.”
Though Marlowe likes playing with the dogs, he doesn’t need them to have fun. He’s always had a penchant for playing fetch, which was new to Danford.
“I’d never heard of cats fetching toys,” she said, noting that he’s especially fond of milk jug rings.
“He loves milk jug rings! I was so disappointed when they started making them tighter on the jug, and you can’t get them off.”
He also loves hair bands.
“I can’t ever find hair bands at my house. He absconds with them. And he’ll bring me actual headbands sometimes. He finds one, and he’s like, ‘Here, throw it.’ It’s 10 times in a row at least — usually as I’m trying to go to sleep.”
Besides milk jug rings and hair bands, Marlowe also likes Loofah Dogs, which, technically, are toys meant for canines.
“He’ll stretch out and kick it until his little kitty heart is content,” she said. “When he gets feisty with me, I’ll get one of those so he can take his energy out on that and not my hand, and we’re both happy.”
The occasional feisty moments are something Danford has had to get used to as a first-time cat owner. The biggest adjustment, she said, was “just getting used to the fact that cats are not like dogs.”
For one thing, she doesn’t have to worry about the dogs getting on the counter.
“Marlowe and I have an understanding,” she explained. “When I am in the house, I better not see him on the counter, or I will yell at him. But I am quite aware that when I’m not in the house, it’s anything goes. Things occur when I am gone, and I am fully aware that I am not in charge when I leave the premises.
“He probably believes I’m not in charge anyway,” she added with a laugh.
For now, Danford has no plans to add a second cat to her clan, primarily because her allergies won’t let her.
“Around Christmas one year, there was a stray,” she said. “I had her checked out and brought her in, but my allergies said absolutely not!
“I do well with Marlowe,” she continued. “His dander doesn’t bother me. But with her, it was just miserable. I couldn’t stop sneezing all the time.”
So, what was Marlowe’s reaction to Danford having to give the cat up?
She groaned. “He wanted to keep her. He thought she was great.”
Reach Amy Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4881.