From the 17 January to 31 March – 74 days of having two cat companions.
As I write, Tux is curled up on the top of the cat tree in the office bay window and Tabs is curled up on the faux sheepskin lining the tray on the black work table. Both are dozing and peace reigns.
At some stage they’ll probably swap places or Tux may move across to the tray and start grooming Tabs, as he often does. She loves the attention.
The cats were just a few days short of being eight months old when they came to us and now they are over ten months old. I wish we’d measured their lengths at the beginning as they’ve grown so much that they overflow their chosen spots, though I’m relieved that they still manage to fit themselves on the cat tree perches.
Brother and sister, they were born in the same litter from a stray mother who simply arrived on Jo’s doorstep, heavily pregnant. Working for an animal charity, and with two elderly cats and a rescued but still nervous pretty grey cocker spaniel, Jo took the cat in. I’m not sure how long it was before the cat gave birth under Jo’s son’s bed or what happened to the mother after the kittens had been weaned.
Because of her other cats and the dog, Jo felt unable to keep the two kittens and found homes for them. Tux (then called Mickey) the black and white male, went to a young couple and Tabs (then known as Tabby) went to an elderly woman whose cat had died.
Neither placing worked out and the cats were returned to Jo. Indeed, Tabs had been put in a bag and slung across the desk in the charity shop where Jo was then working. Perhaps the elderly woman couldn’t cope with a young kitten and she’d have been better off adopting an older rescue cat.
So Jo had the two cats at home again. She said the kittens were so pleased to see each again, that they played and slept together and she was sad that she couldn’t keep them but she was now adamant that they should be adopted together. The photo she’d used in the advert showed them snuggled up against each other.
The fact that they’d originally gone to separate homes explained why Tabs had been spayed and vaccinated but Tux hadn’t been, though why the owners hadn’t seen fit to neuter and vaccinate him remains a mystery. So there was a full vet history for Tabs but nothing for Tux.
David examined the two cats very carefully whilst I sat the other side of the room watching and keeping the very pretty grey cocker spaniel company, distracting her from what David was doing. Jo, despite being a cat person, had rescued Dilly who, though still nervous, was very affectionate and snuggled up against me. I’d forgotten what it was like to have a dog close and would have loved to smuggle her home with me.
David expressed himself satisfied and it was clear that they had taken to him, with Tabs standing up on his chest, looking at him intently. In fact, Jo said she’d never seen them take to anyone so quickly. She evidently felt that the kittens would be going to a good home where they’d be loved, their forever home. David gave her a good contribution to the animal charity funds and got the two new carriers out of the car.
I’d lined the carriers with old towelling and faux sheepskin and David had taken some treats to entice the cats into them. We strapped one into the front passenger seat, next to David, and the other into the back seat, next to me. And off we drove.
It was a long drive home, across the Fens in the dark, on unfamiliar roads. Only fifty miles but ninety nerve racking minutes with clearly upset cats in the carriers. And worry as to whether the forecast snow would start before we got home. We were both very relieved to reach home.
David had moved cats to a new home before and he had it all planned out. The ‘cat’ room was ready and waiting, the carpet covered by a plastic sheet. The two litter trays, the water bowls and the cat tree were in place. The heater had been on, to provide some warmth. And a chair was there, with a cushion on it.
He put the carriers on the floor, removed the lids and sat back cross legged on the floor, waiting for the cats to emerge as and when they were ready.
Tabs was the first out. She made a beeline for the bottom of a shelf unit, to a space next to a storage box and crouched there, peering at us. But it wasn’t long before she found her way to the top of the tall cat tree where she took up residence. From there she could look down on us.
Tux took longer to emerge and he took refuge under the chair, next to the heater. Apart from visits to the litter tray and the food/water bowls, he stayed there for quite some time but eventually he moved to the base of the cat tree.
Of the two kittens, Tux seemed the most timid and Tabs the most adventurous. How things have changed over the past ten weeks!
Now Tux is the exploring, inquisitive and downright nosey cat whilst Tabs laps up affection but is rather indolent. Tux plays with the toys more than Tabs but there a few toys that they both have fun with.
David says that the most surprising thing about having these cats is just how many toys have appeared. However, as I pointed out, he comes from homes where there were big gardens and even open countryside for the cats to play in and explore but here the cats are still house cats.
I think that bored cats will become destructive cats so I look for toys which will engage them, exercise them physically and mentally, present challenges to them. Who would have thought I’d spend so much time reading and analysing cat toy reviews on Amazon?!
Cats like places to hide and the two tunnels (one in the cat room) and the tent have had a lot of use and have withstood much battering. Both the tent (a cube with three porthole entrances) and the tunnels are collapsible and can be stored away but they get a lot of use and have been erected since they arrived. Both the tent and the tunnels have a ball with a bell inside it suspended from one of the entrances and they both provide places of refuge.
The tent gets flung around and turned upside down as the two cats fight over possession and is showing signs of wear and tear but at just £5, will be easily replaceable. The tunnel has also had an immense amount of use and can often be found several feet away from where it started. However, it seems to be wearing up well but, if it needs replacing, at just £3.25, it will be well worth it.
As well as the rear end of Tabs sticking out of one of the tunnels, the photo shows Tux lying on one of the scratch pads. For some reason the cats not only like to lie on them but also doze on them. I thought we were training the cats to use it to sharpen their claws but it seems more as if they have trained us. They scratch it and then look to us for the reward.
If I don’t immediately respond Tabs will look at me, make a noise to catch my attention, then yawn. When I look at her but don’t move she’ll make another noise and wriggle around, as if to say ‘get on with it‘. When, still without moving, I ask what she wants, she looks up at the jar of treats on the table. And, of course, she gets one.
The yellow toy is the first major toy that I bought. It has three tiers, each with a ball which can be pushed around. Tux in particular likes to play with it. It was fairly expensive but is robust and has survived despite some rough treatment as the cats have been racing around. I think it was well worth it and it remains the cats’ favourite.
Of course, I’d seen enough cat videos on youtube to know that the cats may be more interested in playing with the box rather than the contents. Or with sitting in the box. So, I actually gave them a couple of boxes to play with, looking forward to seeing what they did.
Hmmm. Nobody warned me that first Tabs and now Tux would set about tearing pieces of the cardboard off the box and flinging the bits around. Unfortunately, they seem to have no concept of clearing up after themselves and I am reduced to crawling around collecting all the pieces before the floor is vacuumed.
When we moved the tall cat tree from the cat room to the sitting room it blended into the background too much and got little use but as soon as we started talking about getting rid of it, the cats started using it.
It had two fabric hutches for the cats to hide in but they were never used. I removed them and I used a staple gun to cover two of the ledges in a bright turquoise fleece material. It originally had two small hanging white mice toys which were almost invisible so I attached several coloured toys, some of which have bells inside and now it gets a lot of use.
Tux has discovered that from one of the high ledges he can keep an eye on what’s happening in the kitchen. And he’ll often lie on it, with his head over the side, watching us while we’re eating.
And he’s developed the habit of climbing to the top to be given his treat whilst Tabs jumps on to the coffee table for hers.
I hope they don’t get too big to fit on the ledges. Thankfully the three top ones have a wall around but even so Tabs has nearly given me heart failure by almost rolling off.
A few days ago I heard a noise and investigated, to find that Tabs had decided to take the hard route to reach the top, spurning stepping from ledge to ledge but clambering up the side. She was hanging from the top ledge but she finally made it, with a bit of a push from me.
I knew that cats like to sleep a lot but I read recently that it can be up to 16 hours a day. Initially I felt guilty that we hadn’t bought them any kind of cat bed but David assured me that they didn’t need one, that they would decide where they wanted to sleep. And he was right.
Initially Tabs liked to curl up on my dressing gown on the bed but now she favours the base of a cat carrier on one of the shelves in the cat room, from which she can look out of the window. And Tux still favours the bed, always the same place, near the window. But they will often doze on the cat trees or the tray on the work table in the office, singly or together.
Alas, they no longer chose to sleep on our bed with us at night. Tux, after spending quality time snuggled under the duvet with David whilst he’s reading, leaves the bedroom when David settles down to sleep. Then I shut the bedroom door so I can get some sleep undisturbed. Tux will often sleep on the top of the cat tree in the office window or on the cushion on the chair in the cat room. Tabs doesn’t come into the bedroom at all at night now but generally curls up on my office chair to sleep.
At 8 am the two cats are scratching at the bedroom door, informing us in no uncertain terms that it is their breakfast time and that we should be doing something about feeding them. When one of us emerges they race down the stairs and into the kitchen with us. When the other comes down afterwards, they try very hard to convince us that the nasty first person has neglected them and they haven’t been fed at all.
I am not a lover of net curtains but there are times, when for privacy sake, they are needed. And living in a house which opens onto the pavement and with a bay window which faces the street, this is one of those times. The cat tree in the office window has been brilliant but alas, the net curtains have suffered and holes are appearing.
Often they will sit on the top level with one paw stretched out, clinging to the net. On other times Tuz manages to wrap himself in it but trys to get at Tabs through it.
Or he lies on the window sill between the glass and the curtain. I wondered how some of the holes came to be quite so high and then saw him standing up on the top level, front feet against the curtains.
The curtains now look like old rags and I am thinking of putting a sign in the window to say it’s the cats ‘wot did it‘.
When the cats have their mad half hour and race around the place, we often end up in a ‘high noon’ situation, with one at the top of the stairs, generally Tux and the other at the bottom of the stairs. Eventually one of them will make the first move.
Lying on the landing at the top of the stairs, next to the bedroom door is one of Tux’s favourite places. The markings on Tux’s face mean that he wears a rather perplexed expression.
Tux explores everywhere, high or low, and I’m still having to re-arrange things in the office and the cat room, which has shelves with stuff for which there is no room in the office. When I bought a black waste paper basket I never dreamt that I’d have a black cat who would like to go head first down into it to investigate. There are times when I think that I wouldn’t find him if it wasn’t for his white socks and bib.
He loves to hide away in all the nooks and crannies, such as under the tv and sound equipment. Or in a cubbyhole in my desk which I was using to store some files.
Though not a lap cat, Tux likes to be close. And he likes to know what is going on. When I’m doing the washing up he crouches on the kitchen window sill watching every movement I make. He is fascinated by the water in the sink and will peer down the side of the bowl to see where it has gone. He’s not so keen on getting his feet wet and will daintily shake a foot if he’s accidently done so.
Tabs used to be a lap cat and I described her as furry diazepam but now, sadly, she seems to have outgrown my lap. However, she will position her body so she gets lots of attention and stroking. One might even say she flaunts her cuddliness.
She is definitely the greedier of the two cats and would happily finish her food and then turn her attention to Tux’s even when he was still eating. And if he wandered away for a break, his dish would be empty when he came back. So I took to supervising the meal, feeling like a dinner lady at school, and if Tabs moved in on Tux’s food, I’d guide her away. However, in the last week, Tux has taken to eating his food much more quickly, so there’s nothing left for Tabs to finish.
Of course, the food which goes in emerges as waste, hence the use of litter trays. After discussion we chose trays with lids/hoods and swing doors but the cats didn’t like those and we removed the hoods. Then we tried a complicated system which we soon discarded but kept the accompanying high rim, which helped keep the litter in the tray.
Then we tried the trays with the lids back on but no doors and that seems to have worked. The cats have no problems though Tux still hasn’t quite got the hang of covering his mess. However, it leaves us with the problem of disposing of the waste material.
We started with wood pellets as the litter because Jo said that was what they were used to. The cats seemed to get on okay with it, depending on the brand. But then I read about clumping litter and tried the Fuller’s Earth type. It is rather heavier than the wood pellets and I very nearly gave myself a hernia lifting the bag onto the trolley in the shop and I’m afraid that it stayed in the car until David came home.
The clumping worked and all we had to do was scoop the stuff out into a bin. Given that we’ve been through a dreadful winter, with much rain and snow, I wasn’t keen on going outside with it very often. But, of course, there was always the risk of odour from the small indoor bin.
Last week, I was looking for a new bin, one which is more air tight but then thought “this is silly, we’re not the only ones to have this problem. Somebody must have found an answer to it” and took to the internet.
Lo and behold, two days later a Litter Locker arrived. It’s smaller than the previous bin and is pretty neat (once the card wrapper is removed). It’s designed for use with clumping litter and has a system which prevents any odour. We’ve been using it for 48 hours and are pretty happy with it. Who’d have thought I’d be writing lyrically on GAL about a waste disposal system for cats’ excreta?
Next: The Next Step