Thursday, July 29, 2010

When the Owner's Away, the Cats will Play

There is an old saying known to every one to the effect that: 'When the Cat's away, the Mice will play.' I always felt that it was a statement that referred to an abatement of the natural and very logical cowardice and consequent dampening of the spirits of the mice in the presence of their predators. When the Cat no longer is sensed, the Mice can run amok or celebrate, dance and sing or do whatever it is that Mice long to do but seldom can.

The owner of the house in which I live is gone for a couple of days and I therefore have unrestricted access to the spacious kitchen on the upper floor. The prospect excited me most for the sake of the Puttikins who usually are forced to live in a rather small and shabby space with me on the ground floor.

The Puttikins' Holiday has not been an unqualified success. They say that prisoners become comfortable in their cells and often cannot stand the prospect of freedom. Those who are accustomed to small, enclosed spaces often are distressed when confronted with wide, unrestricted places or open skies. It is a sad fact and one that can be applied to Cats as well as human beings.

I have been able to do very little work of any kind or even eat a proper meal since I began 'Operation Air-Lift Puttikins'. I bring them up the stairs one by one to deposit them in the kitchen. I cannot carry more than one at a time. Inevitably, the first one to arrive cries piteously and loudly, standing at the door, poised to hurtle out of the room, until the next one arrives.

Even with two or three of them in the room, the response is not positive at first. They agitate one another, crying and pacing. Even the one that was introduced to the kitchen previously on a few occasions finds the atmosphere of general paranoia contagious.

They wail and rant at me, begging to be taken back into their 'cell' with their comrades. It does not matter how I respond. I can talk to them until I am blue in the face and they do not become more resigned to their temporary freedom. I can set out any number of delicacies and they will spurn or ignore them completely. Even the addition of one of their old litter boxes has not given them any sense of security.

The worst offender has been Pumpkin, oddly enough. I had no idea that he had become such a coward. When brought here alone, he wailed horribly even though I held him and caressed him constantly. Any noise at all, whether the firing up of the air conditioner in the wall or a tiny sound when the house shifted sent him into a paroxym of terror.

After an hour of complete and unrelenting agony for both of us, I surrendered to his stubborn fears and took him downstairs again.

This morning, I had to clean one of the Tiny Babies in the half-bath on the same floor as the kitchen. After doing so, I left her here while I fetched Ash, her father. Ash, who once was so paranoid that he feared his own newborn offspring, now demonstrates far more calmness than most of my feline family. He was one of the first to be brought to the kitchen as well when the door closed behind the owner. Yet, when little Iseult of the White Paw began to wail, he joined her in a duet.

The entire day has been spent with this sort of nonsense. After importing Apollodoro once Iseult and Ash became inured to the new space, I decided to bring Pumpkin back for an encore. Once again, his piteous wails rose to the heavens...

I took him into the little half-bath for a combing and while on my lap there, he became still at last. When I began to carry him back to the kitchen, he leapt from my arms to race back into the bathroom. The three other Cats followed with lightning speed.

The half-bath is far smaller than the ordinary space in which they live. There is no room in there even to swing the proverbial cat. All four Cats packed themselves into the room like sardines and for the first time in two days, they looked utterly content.

I surrendered and left them there. I think part of the struggle, apart from the terror, was due to the natural stubborn nature of the Cat. They are not obedient. They do things in their own way, in their own time.

Here comes Ash at last, sauntering out of the tiny water closet to leapt onto the chair next to mine. He is licking my hand now... No doubt the others, discovering that they have won a great victory against me, will follow sooner or later. By that time, however, I shall be obliged to take them downstairs again so we all can go to bed for the night.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Leo's Little Shadow

Time moves too quickly sometimes. The Tiny Babies, born on 24 April, are three months old. It is time for them to go to new homes, to embark upon the great adventure of life.

They have reached an age where they are filled with energy and a sense of boundless curiosity. They investigate everything, using all of their senses. Sniffing, batting, biting and licking every new object encountered, they still are very dependent emotionally on their older siblings and their mother, Beauty.

It amazes me how much a Kitten from one litter may resemble a brother or sister from another litter. This little one looks so much like Leo when he was the same age. They have the same almost cross-eyed Siamese gaze which none of the other Kittens have.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Little Dauphin and the power of Genetics


I have talked to parents who have more than one child and inevitably, they admit that there usually is one who is the real favourite, however much the best parents strive mightily to conceal it or repress it. Certainly, where my Cats are concerned, i have loved all of them, but in any litter, one or two will touch the heart to elicit a deeper or more poignant response.

In both of her litters, Beauty had one Marmalade Kitten. In the first, it was Pumpkin, aka Dandelion. In the second, it was the little Dauphin Soleil, so called because his older sibling would have seniority. Pumpkin's colour changed completely as the months passed. His fur now is tawny rather than orange, with only the faintest trace of any markings. Little Dauphin at three months still is fiercely orange.

It is not for their colour, however, that I felt a particular love for these kittens, but for their personalities. Mind you, although the other kittens quickened different emotional responses in me, those responses were no less profound.

The two Marmalade Kittens are very different in personality. Pumpkin was a watchful kitten, even when he was a month old. He would look up at me, head slightly tilted and watch me thoughtfully, even when his siblings would greet me boisterously, clamouring for attention and food. Pumpkin never ignored me, but he would remain wherever he had been when I entered the room and yet, head tilted a little, look up at me searchingly, fixing his entire attention upon me. As soon as I touched him, he would begin to purr...

When I lived in Manhattan, a close friend of many years adopted a couple of my Cats and he called one of them his Shaman for exhibiting similar characteristics. For whatever reason, Pumpkin no longer fixes his gaze upon me as completely, possibly because of the atmosphere of utter chaos that reigns with the five Tiny Babies underfoot. He still is the only Cat who does not clamour for food or attention, preferring to watch from a distance, to trust me to deliver whatever he needs and he still will purr as soon as he feels my hand upon him.

The Tiny Baby who resembles him most physically shares the same sweet trusting disposition. He is far more athletic than his older brother, but he shares the trait of purring as soon as I touch him. He is utterly perfect physically and emotionally and utterly lovable. Of all the Tiny Babies, apart from his little sister, Iseult of the White Paw, he is the one who will be most difficult to surrender to the care of another.

Iseult of the White Paw and her sister are the two Tiny Babies who differ physically from all the Puttikins. They have the most extraordinary markings. I originally thought they would be Blue-Cream Persians, which would be a throwback to one of their grandparents. Instead, they have red as well as white in their fur and are more like Calico Cats. It is little Iseult, the 'runt' of the litter, who pulls at my heartstrings. Her sister, very similar in appearance, may hold slightly more promise of extraordinary beauty, but is far more certain of herself and far more aggressive. Tiny Iseult looks up at me as though begging me to care for her.

The most incredible thrill in the world is that of watching the wonders of Nature unfold. Although I would not have wished for another litter of kittens, still, experiencing the birth of new life is one of the great joys in existence, and especially when every new life is a kitten. Physically exquisite, emotionally responsive, filled with curiosity and love: how could a person NOT respond to these tiny creatures?

When I think of the people who could drown a litter of newborn kittens, throwing them into a sack and letting their lives be snuffed out without a moment's hesitation, it makes my blood run cold. I have studied humankind and I have studied felines and between the two, Cats are more deserving of life and our protection, in all honesty. The sort of perverted, hothouse sadism and selfishness that is exhibited again and again by humans is seldom found among Cats. Even when neglected or treated badly by a former owner, a Cat usually will come to respond to kindness and love in time...

When a Cat is feral, moreover, that is no more than the cat's natural instincts for self-preservation and not a desire to interfere in the lives of humans in any way.

But enough of these gloomy musings! The photographs here show little Dauphin Soleil playing with Osiris' favourite toy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cat Lady Award


While working on a little Guide for Farmville, a very popular Facebook game or 'app' as they refer to them, I won an Award for brushing my virtual Cat a specific number of times. Any act performed with respect to an Animal in Farmville, whether it is that of collecting Eggs from a Chicken, Calming a Bull or Brushing a Cat or Llama, is 'harvesting'.

In any case, having received the Award, I felt it might be appropriate to post it here, as I quickly have become a 'Cat Lady' in reality, with Beauty's incredible fertility...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Gala Morning Ballet

In response to every one's questions, sadly the answer is: 'No.' No, I have not sold off any of the Tiny Babies yet. I need to create an actual 'selling page' I expect, where they are shown in all of their beauty, with their pedigrees displayed. My own photographs are less than satisfactory and I await another photographer who has made a number of dates she yet has to keep.

In any case, the first visit of the morning to the Cats' bathroom always is somewhat of an ordeal for me as I never know how much havoc will have resulted from my very few 'off-duty' hours in the wee hours of the morning when I finally catch a little sleep.

I suppose I should not have been surprised when the heady odours of the litter boxes attracted a fly this morning. He must have entered the chamber when I did, but I had not seen nor heard any evidence of his existence until then.

As I began my seemingly endless (and often thankless) task of clearing out the litter boxes, I suddenly realised that the attention of every single Cat, young, younger and older, was fixed upon a single object. At the same time, I became conscious of a loud buzzing. In the small room, the sound of the buzzing was amplified a hundredfold. Every head was turned towards the same small object, a Fly that careened from wall to wall, obviously aware of the terrible error of judgement it had made when it followed me into the feline chambre de toilette.

What followed then was one of the most entertaining examples of performance theatre I have ever experienced. While the Fly performed increasingly desperate and wild manoeuvres to escape its fate, 11 heads continued to follow its movements. Cats are not like humans in this respect. When their eyes follow a moving object, their heads follow it as well. I would have to research the reason for this. It seems that they COULD watch an object simply by moving their eyes from side to side. After all, their eyes are similar to ours in that they both face the front, unlike the eyes of a cow, horse or bird. In any case, the eleven heads turned, the Fly's movements became increasingly drunken as it crashed from wall to wall while its buzzing became more hypnotic, rather like the vuvuzela horns that are so much a constant counterpoint to the 2010 World Cup games.

By the time I realised that I ought to capture the performance on video, it had ended abruptly and rather mysteriously. Did one particularly dexterous and intrepid Putti catch the Fly? Was it devoured in an instant? Did it die of sheer fatigue and, having perished, no longer interest the Cats? Or, horrible thought, did it somehow find an escape route through a crack in the door or dilapidated wainscoting?
I missed the last act of this particular drama...

When the buzzing ceased and the Dance of the Fly ended, the audience broke up and, like any audience at a performance, its members went their separate ways. The Tiny Babies with their insatiable taste for entertainment, attempted to find a substitute, but the little gaily-coloured plastic balls containing small bells that usually delighted and excited them, failed to move them now. They batted a couple of them about in a desultory manner before abandoning them in the middle of the floor...

I suspect that their toys never again will have the allure they once possessed. Having witnessed a live performance, nothing ever will be quite equal to THAT.

A final thought: The fact that the flight of the Fly continued for about ten minutes does not reflect positively upon the hunting abilities of the De Conde Cats. My Cats never, never have been heroes where the world of Nature is concerned. When Leo first was confronted by the sight of Kiffle, a little trembling Chinchilla, he exhibited a degree of terror suited more to the sight of a Monster in a horror film than a small, caged rodent. (In fact, he soiled himself! I hesitate to publish the humiliating fact, but it is so unbelievable...)

In another stunning example of the cowardice of the De Conde Cats, the patriarch of the family, Ashleigh Attila lived in abject terror of his own offspring for two and a half months! So deep was his fear that he actually lost weight because he was too terrified to move past them to his food. I had to hand-feed him...

Like all Cats who cohabit with human beings, mine trust me to exhibit the powers of a god or goddess and no doubt they believe that I could organise a repeat performance by the Acrobatic Fly. In all honesty, I actually am rather surprised that this was the first example of the species they ever encountered. It has to be a tribute to my unrelenting menial service in clearing the litter boxes. No wonder I am exhausted all the time.