This morning I got a chance to observe Luckie's behavior around the boys and I have to say, they do have a point. I mean, I get the whole "one person cat" thing, shy cat, stressed cat, but I still wonder why her behavior has escalated to this new level. It not only happens when I'm away but when I'm back. She just has total freak-outs.
Here's an example of what goes on:
Soon as I came home last night, all night and all through the morning, Luckie was overall very affectionate, relaxed and happy. She was cuddling, following me around, wanting to be petted and kissed, playing with toys, sleeping in my bed, rubbing on my legs, etc. Occasionally she'd get a little jumpy, but I've read that overreacting to things a sign of stress in cats, stress in this case being "abandonment" and a dirty litter box.
So anyway, she's fine when I leave to meet the boys downstairs for breakfast. When the place turns out to be closed, we go upstairs. Luckie is in the main room and as soon as she sees the boys are there, she starts freaking out. She backs off, crouches, and starts doing this whiny meow that descends into a scary growl. She darts and stalks around behind things, runs under things, etc. If Daniel or Caleb approach, she hisses and growls more and more. In a way, it reminds of one of those insecure little dogs. I walked up to her and she came up and let me pet her. I tried to tell her things were OK but it was a no go.
A while later, she was hiding under the couch when Caleb tried to look at her. She's growling again but I swear she was shaking like she was terrified. When I talked to her, she'd respond with a squeak like "Help!" and would shake. What the heck is she scared of? The boys haven't changed their behavior, e.g. they're not attacking her, yelling at her, etc., that I know of, but she acts like they're going to kill her.
For the past couple of hours, since the boys left to go shopping, she's been hiding under the bedcovers. Partially she's sleeping, but I think she's also just hiding. In recent weeks she's taken to the bed as a place of safety, where she can hide if there's anything going on she doesn't like, e.g. people visiting, door to hallway open, etc. If I close off the bedroom, she'll hide under the couch.
It seems like she is happy only when I am here alone with her, door closed, nobody else here, and that otherwise she gets super, super stressed. I found some expert articles on stress and cats last night and am going to see if there are recommendations that may help, like adjustments to the environment, to my behavior, the boys' behavior, etc., that could help her be more relaxed. She doesn't have to cuddle with everybody, but this hissing and growling thing is a total overreaction.