I was woken by four paws suddenly landing on my chest with some force, expelling the air out of my lungs.
I opened my eyes to see two green eyes peering intently at me over the top of my sleep apnea mask.
Life had changed.
My long term part time partner, David, loves cats, having grown up with them for 30 years and had been very miserable over the last ten years without them. So I always knew that if we ever lived together a cat would be on the agenda.
Indeed, he’d spent ten years quietly and carefully indoctrinating me, telling me stories about his cats back in New Zealand, showing me photos, sending me links to cat videos and Simon’s Cat.
I’m not sure when the idea of having two cats was first mooted. David says he tried suggesting three cats but that I firmly vetoed that idea. However, I was persuaded that having two cats would be company for each other. It seemed to make sense.
So, on 20th December 2017, whilst David was on his way to spend Christmas and New Year with his mother in New Zealand, as I’d emailed the property agent a week before but not had a reply, I called him to request permission for us to have two cats.
The agent explained that he had given permission to another couple to have a cat only to discover only a short while later that the cat had shredded the new carpet. As a result, he had determined that he would never allow cats in one of his properties again. My heart sank.
I thought rapidly and said that it sounded as though the cat had been left on its own for long periods whilst the owners were at work and that there would be no such difficulty with us as I, though retired, was almost permanently chained to my computer at home. Whilst admitting that I was a novice, I stressed David’s 30 year experience of being with and looking after cats.
We discussed the practice in the USA of de-clawing cats, which I hadn’t known about until David had mentioned it and had said he was totally against it. Fortunately, the agent felt the same way. I said that we would provide scratching posts for the cats and renew the carpets if they had been damaged when the time comes to move on.
Finally the agent agreed we could have two cats. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I phoned David who was then on the train on his way to the airport.
I began 2018 with a massive sort out, de-cluttering and re-organising of everything, including the removal of everything out of the cupboard under the stairs working through everything, getting rid of some stuff and replacing the remainder in better order.
At the same time I was also preparing for the anticipated arrival of two kittens, which included actually getting used to the idea now that it had become almost a certainty rather than an abstract concept.
David returned from NZ on 9th January and whilst he was recovering from the jet lag, I was studying all things cat related and attempting to cat proof the place without any actual idea of what might be expected. A collection of glass vases, ornaments and framed photos were moved to our storage unit together with the rattan shelving unit, leaving a space for a large cat tree. And items were moved higher up the shelves in what was to become the ‘cat room’.
We had decided that we wanted to get the cats sooner rather than later, so that we could settle them in and David could teach me how to handle them before he started his new job on 1st February.
David had spoken with a cat protection agency, the Blue Cross and the RSPCA and it seemed that everybody wanted kittens and we decided that, as it wasn’t really the season for kittens, for the sake of our deadline and because we wanted two cats, we’d opt for slightly older cats.
It seemed best to have two cats who already knew each other and were happy in each other’s company rather than risk ending up with two cats who didn’t get on together. I spent hours looking at various websites. All the cats who came in pairs seemed to be over 50 miles away, which meant that we couldn’t really go and see them on repeated visits to get to know them. We’d have to see them and say yea or nay there and then.
We started compiling a list of equipment we’d need: litter trays and litter, food/water bowls and food, two cat carriers, cat tree, a sheet of plastic to cover the floor in the guest bedroom where we planned to confine them for the first 48 hours. Though small, the room had enough floor space as the bed is a folding Z bed.
Discussions were held debating the merits of covered or uncovered litter trays and the types of food and I spent hours reading the reviews of various cat trees on Amazon.
On Sunday 14 January I found an advert on the website www.preloved.co.uk for two cats in a village just west of Spalding, Lincolnshire. They were siblings born in the same litter; a female tabby and male black and white, aged eight months. The owner wanted them to be adopted together.
David sent her an email, explaining that we’d like to adopt both as long as they took to us, asking what sort of food and litter the cats were used to and checking on their health and vet details.
We ordered a cat tree from Amazon for next day delivery and spent Monday assembling it before placing it in the room ready for the cats.
The next day we went to the pet shop (the first of many visits which I’ve since made) and bought what seemed an astonishing amount of stuff, including a book about cats for me and a few toys for them.
On Wednesday 17 January, we went to see the cats.
My anxiety levels had been rising over the last two weeks and I was intensely nervous.
Suppose they like David but not me?
Suppose I couldn’t look after them and I inadvertently hurt them in some way?
Suppose, suppose, suppose……
What was I letting myself in for?
I’d already begun to mention the cats in emails to my brother JJ, then on holiday in Penang, Malaysia and to my cousin DE in Melbourne, Australia. Effectively, they form a diary of my experiences with the cats.
Next: January 2018