Whilst we waited for the cat door solution to arrive, the cats still had to go out and so, when David got home, we’d open the back door and let them out, without jacket and lead. We’d already done that a few times to accustom them to it but with treats in our pocket to entice them back if needs be.
This time it was different. I was in the kitchen and David was outside with the cats. He relates the story.
Tux quickly worked out how to jump from ground to fence to the flat roof of a neighbour’s extension, “What fun!”, thinks he shortly followed by, “Damn, how do I get down now?” He managed to jump from there across the passageway to the roof of another neighbour’s car port, which was actually higher, but still could not work out how to get down.
Susan hadn’t seen him on the flat roof but, when I caught her attention through the window, she could see him on the car port. She looked horrified.
I never left him, but I did let him to do what he could to figure out how to get down on his own because next time I might not be around to help. Eventually, I tried tempting him down the more obvious routes with treats, but he was evidently too distressed to be interested. As his distress grew, I fetched something to stand on that got me just high enough to grab him. He’s since been up there several times more, of course, and can get down on his own.
Tux wasn’t content with watching through the gate as the world went by, especially once he’d had views of it from the neighbours’ roof and car port. He wanted to be out there.
And the next day, Tux jumped the back fence before I could do anything about it and quickly disappeared. He’d been out there on the leash before, but I wouldn’t let him into neighbours’ properties, and this was his big chance to see what he’d been denied.
There was nothing much to do but to wait for his return. When he didn’t show up for dinner, I went out calling him, and still no sign. Eventually, I overcame my reluctance even to walk uninvited on somebody else’s driveway in order to look over a fence near where I’d last seen him.
There he was, in one of those long, thin strips of walled-off garden, bushy-tailed in a face-off with Sooty, a fluffy faded-black cat who lives several doors down from us. It’s not as if this was Sooty’s garden, but it was near his own and he clearly regarded this as an extension of his territory.
I tried calling Tux and despite there being an obvious escape route via a plastic composting bin and over the fence, it took some time to extricate him. He seemed happy to be carried home, perhaps relieved.
The parts for the cat door arrived on Saturday and were duly installed. Aside from night-time curfew, they were then able to come and go as they please. Thankfully, this has had the generally desired effect of calming them down when indoors as well as enriching their lives.
The story does not quite end there. One evening some days later, we saw both Tux and Tabs sitting in the courtyard, perfectly still, intently looking up. We followed their gaze and there, on the carport roof, was Sooty looking down at them. Their gaze was fixed while he looked about with feigned disinterest. Perhaps he was attempting to assert dominance, “I’m up here, you can’t touch me and anyway, this is my territory!”
Tux and Tabs, of course, were having none of it. “Oh yeah? Says who? And since this is our territory and we’re down here and can go where we like including inside while you’re stuck up there, trapped, we’re going to sit here until you bugger off.” Eventually, Sooty lost his nerve and fled across the roof in the direction of his home. Well done, Tux and Tabs.
More recently, another cat unknown to us tried the same thing, and our pair’s reaction was much the same. Sit. Stare. Wait. This one marked the roof and sauntered off, maybe a little hurriedly.
On both occasions, both seemed quite composed when defending their turf, but their behaviour when back inside made it quite clear that they found it discombobulating. We gave them lavish praise and treats. They’re young adults now and they’ll soon grow into themselves as they gain confidence.
We’ve never seen any cat on that roof before. It’s possible we’ve just never noticed, but it’s also possible that other cats have come to check out the new kids on the block as mentioned in the Daily Olfactory.
Tux is evidently enjoying his new freedom to explore.
It’s clear that Tux likes being on the neighbour’s car port roof (complete with the striking sculpture which we can see from the kitchen window).
And that getting down no longer holds any fears for him.
But when he gets home, it’s time for a wash and brush up.
So far, Tabs has shown no inclination to wander out into the big wide world but has explored every inch of her territory: our garden, our immediate neighbour’s garden which isn’t used and the passage way at the back.
She is more adept at using the cat door, knowing exactly where to push whilst Tux still has a tendency to scrabble at it in his impatience to get out. Sometimes Tabs stops halfway out and has a look around before continuing to go out. So far, I’ve not seen her go into reverse gear and retreat back inside.
Whilst Tux will have his attention caught by something and rush off, Tabs observes the world very carefully. She’ll check out the sound of birds and stalk the minutest insect on the ground but, alas, she’s caught some of her brother’s bad habits when it comes to chasing bees.
Sometimes Tabs finds herself looking out of the kitchen window, wondering where her brother has got to but after a hard day spent observing everything in the garden very carefully, she needs her beauty sleep. She’s pretty quick at nipping on to my chair when I’m out of the office.
One afternoon I was looking out of the open bathroom window and could see Tux on the neighbour’s carport roof. He was thoroughly enjoying himself, checking everywhere out, lying in the sun. Then he happened to catch sight of me and decided to join me.
He jumped across the passageway onto another neighbour’s flat roof and checked that out. I was worried he was going to go in through their open window. But then he moved on to our immediate neighbour’s roof.
By then I was talking to David on the phone and Tux was attracted by my voice through the open window. He looked at me and then sized up the gap between his roof and the sloping roof at the back of our house, which is below the bathroom window and which covers the kitchen extension and forms a porch over the kitchen window.
“Oh no”, I thought as I raced down the stairs and outside. When I got into the garden I couldn’t see him. Then I heard a noise, looked up and saw him on the sloping roof. He’d managed to leap four or five feet from the neighbours flat roof to our sloping roof and he looked pretty pleased with himself. The jump from there to the ground was quite easy for our mountaineering cat.
Yes, I realise all this activity is pretty normal for cats but knowing it intellectually, from things one has read over the years is not the same as knowing it emotionally and watching your own cat in action when you are a novice cat owner.
One morning I stood at the passage gate and watched Tux stride purposefully in the direction of the main road and around the corner. By the time I got there he had disappeared from sight. I walked along the pavement a little way but there was no sign of him. I knew that Tux had to go exploring and that I had to trust him to come home in due course.
We’ve told some of the neighbours about him and told him where we live. The neighbours with the car port met Tux when he was out on the lead with David. They are quite happy for Tux to go in their garden, hopefully to see off rats or mice which they’ve seen. Oh dear, I think I’d rather not know that last bit.
We keep the cats’ stick treats in a jar, which is useful for the rattling sound which they make when shaken and which alerts them to lunch time and they come running at speed. So David has used it a few times to call them in for dinner. Tabs always comes running but if Tux is off somewhere he doesn’t hear it.
One evening Tux just didn’t appear and I, as might be expected, was getting somewhat anxious. David went out with the treats once again and this time Tux did appear, from the other side of the side road. When David told me where he’d come from, I think I blanched. I’ve always been fearful of Tux crossing that road because vehicles come around the corner quite fast.
But they are my fears. And I had made up my mind that I had no right to inflict my fears on the cats and thus spoil their lives by stopping them doing what was quite natural to them. Hence, I had given in to David’s persuasion regarding the need for a cat door before they were too old to learn how to use it and take care of themselves, though I’d insisted on the jacket harnesses and leads to introduce them to the outside and let them learn about it whilst we were there to provide security.
Early on in the diary, I described having Tabs sitting on my lap as furry diazepam. Now I’m beginning to think that if Tux continues his escapades, I will need diazepam to cope. But maybe this is one of those times when what the eye doesn’t see….. as long as I can keep my over active imagination under control.
No matter how wearing it is on my nerves, I have no regrets, either about getting the cats four months ago or about getting the cat door so they can come and go as they wish and enjoy their lives. I just hope they’ll allow us to sleep undisturbed in the morning now that they have their feeders and they can leave the house any time after the first feed of the day.
The cats have brought a whole new dimension to my life, one which I wouldn’t have missed. And now I understand just how much David missed having cats over the past ten years.
The cats were one year old on 21st May. Happy birthday Tabs and Tux.
Next: More glimpses of Tux and Tabs life