It started out as a rescue mission. My sister’s daughter, forced to make a lifestyle choice between boyfriend and cat, needed a new home for her eight-month-old orange tabby called Sherbert. Amy, who never met a kitten she didn’t want, batted her eyes brought the little bundle of purring fur out onto my mother’s porch.

I didn’t stand a chance.

The unanwered question, of course, remained. How would the miniscule, always-purring, always loving Sherbert fit into the already established domain of our other two felines? A.C. (short for Anti-Christ) and Trouble were, after all, the established rulers of the house. We accepted the fact long ago that while dogs have owners, cats have staff. We wondered if A.C., the alpha-cat among the two males already at home, would accept a third male to the party and worried the new cat might not be safe.

Sherbert purred and nestled in Amy’s lap for the 24-mile drive to our house. He looked more curious than scared as I took him into the kitchen, put him down, and watched him explore his potential new home.

All seemed serene — for about 45 seconds — until A.C. ventured in, spied the intruder, and froze. He went, literally, catatonic, stopped in mid-step, unsure what to make of the alien invader who approached from the other end of the kitchen floor. They came nose-to-nose. A.C. remained absolutely still, transfixed by the sight.

Then Sherbert flattened his ears, bared his teeth and let out a horrendous scream. A.C. backed away, unsure of his next step. Trouble, awakened by the racket, ventured downstairs to investigate. By this time, Sherbert had retreated into the living room, under the coffee table, screaming all the way. Then both a growl and hiss emerged from A.C. — sounds we had never heard from him. Sherbert wheeled, screeched and charged. A.C. ran, retreating to the top of the dining room buffet. Then Sherbert turned on Trouble and all we heard was screaming, growling and hissing as a blur of grey and white chased by orange made two laps through the downstairs before Trouble escaped to his hiding place upstairs.

Sherbert trotted into the living room, stretched out on the fireplace hearth and promptly fell asleep. Mission accomplished. It took this tiny bundle of eight-month-old fur less than 15 minutes to establish himself as the new alpha-cat. Calm would last only until either of the two older cats came within Sherbert’s field of vision. Then hissing, screaming, growling and the sounds of retreat echoed through the house.

Not sure how long this experiment in terror will last. Peace may come to Iraq before it returns to Chateau Thompson.