Over the past few days, I have had several conversations with people about dogs and cats. Received wisdom is that cats are aloof, independent, don’t listen and don’t really give a flying duck about humans apart from their use as a food source, whereas dogs need humans, can be over-dependent, love them and want to be with them all the time. Both of course are stereotypes and I do wonder if people are put off having a certain type of pet as a result of what they hear.
My cats are a complete mixed bag. Arthur and Merlin are very dependent. Merlin will go and play outside all day but comes in every half an hour or so to check on me. Arthur also plays outside but is rarely there for more than five minutes at a time. He far prefers being my shadow and normally sits at my feet, on my shoulder or next to me on the couch. He loves a lapsit but is unable to do this anymore due to arthritis. However the moment I lie down, he is on top of me as he finds it far easier to stretch out along my side than sit on my lap.
Merlin is very, very bright, demanding attention-wise and will play up if he feels he is being ignored. Said playing up includes breaking things. He also takes great exception to me being annoyed or upset. He adored one of my boyfriends but woe betide the boyf if he upset me. Merlin, without fail, would wait until the following day when said man was caught unawares, would jump up on him as if wanting a cuddle and pee all over him, flashing me what appeared very plainly to be a triumphant look before dashing off. He loves sprawling over me – around my neck, across my shoulder and on my lap.
Despite being 12 this year, both are still capable of jumping onto my back from standing and it is a rare morning when I go downstairs without one of them hanging off me. They behave much more like dogs than cats.
Guinevere is very different. She used to be cuddly and very independent. She spent hours with the foxes and used to run around with the cubs who were babies when she was first let outside. When I called her in at night, she would regularly be sitting side by side with the alpha cub, on top of the shed. She learned to make fox chirrups and when she wants a cuddle, she still tends to sneeze, something I saw the foxes do when they approached the cats or me. She would also come in smelling like a fox which was less cute. However, she changed completely after she was spayed, becoming withdrawn and comfortable only on her own, with me or with the twins. Over the years she has got a great deal better, but for the most part, she lives upstairs and ventures out for a short while to eat grass, preferably just as I am starting to get everyone else back in. She much prefers to be outside in the evening and in the summer, I tend to get everyone in and let her stay out a bit longer. She loves cuddles but will not sit in my lap and during the winter, spends her nights either in a hammock on the radiator or next to me on the bed.
Felix is very independent, has her own routine which involves leaving the house, going to the social club, obtaining her second breakfast (something I only discovered when she went missing and I flew immediately into action, putting flyers round the neighbourhood that night and the social club responded the next day, saying that they had given Felix her breakfast as usual and she definitely wasn’t missing) and then wandering onto the allotment for the day. She was dumped and lived her early life there and is officially the allotment cat. She keeps rodents down, gets a great deal of love and attention and still chooses to come home to me at night, something I consider to be an honour. If I see her on the allotment, she runs straight over and asks for a cuddle. Her favourite place in the summer is on my lap whilst I break for a cup of tea. She craves cuddles at night and creeps up one side of me and sleeps under my arm.
Jaggie is again very different – very aggressive himself but hates aggression and noise, it took him years to let me pick him up without a fight and it has taken the same amount of time for him to trust me enough to try and sit on my lap (something he has been watching the other cats do and working up the courage to do himself; finally achieving it in the early hours two days ago). I suspect he had never had a ball thrown to him because the first time he saw the others playing with balls and toys, his eyes grew wide and he stared as if in amazement, looking at me every so often to check whether I too was enjoying the spectacle. He loves a head and chin rub and headbutts me when I am relaxing. He never approaches me when I am on the computer or actively doing something and I suspect this was not encouraged in his former home.
As a kitten and young cat, Oscar was adored by the child of the house but no litter box was provided for him indoors, so he was used to messing wherever he felt comfortable. This did not make him over-popular with the Mom in the family and he still hates anyone shouting near him. He went onto the allotments as a kitten but follows a different routine to Felix. He tends to go onto the allotments first and in the afternoon, he visits a lovely German lady on our block who gives him milk and a headrub before he returns home. He has only just in the last few weeks asked for cuddles, but is quite affectionate in other ways – he rubs past me in the morning and when he comes in at night. We have developed a routine whereby when I take his collar off in the evening, I give him a head rub and a tummy scratch. He very, very rarely sleeps on the bed.
Poppet is a real cuddle-bum. Completely neglected and used to running wild, he loves head rubs and his jaw being rubbed along his gum line. He will ask for cuddles but also loves being outside. He lives quite happily within the menagerie and doesn’t challenge his place in it – I think he is just happy to be part of a nice home with cuddles and regular food. He is extremely tolerant of the other cats and avoids Jaggie only if he is in a temper. He has a special bond with Oscar, which is very sweet as they have similar markings, white with tabby bits in Poppet’s case and ginger bits in Oscar’s.
Mewsie on the other hand is really demanding. Despite being unneutered at present, he doesn’t stray and spends most of his time in the garden and conservatory. He comes in without a fuss, but prefers to get the first few munches of fox food in before he does. He views all contact (including being passed on the stairs, his name mentioned, being picked up to be brought inside and being looked at) as an excuse for the cuddle. He loves being held like a babe in arms and will reach up and put his paws round my neck before burying his head into my hair. Of all of my cats, he is the most vocal and will exchange chirrups for minutes at a time. He is the latest addition; not particularly happy with being at the bottom of the pecking order but does not fight – just runs into a corner when challenged.
When I say I have eight cats, people always go …”What?” And whilst it is true that at eight, we are definitely at a limit, both in terms of space and time I have to spend with each cat, there was a bigger jump when I went from 3 to 4 than there has been with each subsequent cat. It is very easy to understand how people end up with more cats than they can cope with.
I like seeing happy cats, batting balls and bits of paper around; asleep in various places around the house and in truth, if I had more space, time and money, I would definitely take on the 2 strays who live in my garden and as many more as I could fit in happily and healthily. For every piece of worry, heartache, stress and money they have cost, they have given back in love, joy and learning.
I have two cats who behave like dogs, one cat who thinks she is a fox, three cats who are typical cats, one cat who thinks he is a jaguar and one who is convinced he is a baby. So much for cats being standoffish and independent!!
I would love a dog. I would also love some bearded dragons, a snake or two and some ferrets but I know I could not offer them the care and attention they would need. I love big dogs – huskies, Alsatians, rottweilers but they need huge amounts of time, exercise and care that I just do not have.
However, as I write, Mewsie and Arthur are sitting next to the water bowls, Jaggie is fast asleep in his favourite chair, the others are dotted around the house in various places and reposes.
My house, after dinner, attention to fur washing (theirs, not mine) and the odd request for a cuddle, is warm, quiet and full of happy cats. What more could a girl want?