The Internet is made of cats and our domicile has more than its fair share of them. So the time has come to bring these two inexorable facts of life together.
Here are the present and past feline contents of the Phi household. We exclude visitors, though our neighbour’s cat Tom now spends 95% of his time here, and may therefore graduate shortly.
Sienna, the tortie. The pet shop in Greytown that sold her to us said she’d been returned as feral, yet she’s one of the gentlest of the clowder.
Jack was our neighbours’ cat. One day they asked if we’d seen him as he hadn’t crossed their door in weeks. As we’d been feeding him morning and evening all that time, we realised he was ours. Now the neighbour has moved. (Jack doesn’t always sit like that.) He’s now the oldest of the collection at fifteen or so, and we are giving a little more attention. He’s rather overweight (like many a ginger cat), and we think he has a rota of other sources of food, so our attempts to control his diet are having little success.
More recent arrivals are Miranda and Silver who made their débuts in May 2013 as themes in my Independent daily crosswords. They’re siblings, so we felt we had to get them both. Silver’s photo has already prompted someone to get out their diary and tell us the dates of cat shows, as they were sure he’d win.
And this is Natasha, aka Tash. Yes, she’s a Kitler. One of a quartet of foster kittens, she attached herself irrevocably to me from an early point, and so I now have to get used to a cat sleeping on me (Marjorie has been the target of all previous attempts in that direction, although Sienna has recently started to diversify). Tash also high-fives greetings on a regular basis, and appears to be a southpaw.
This is Phoebe, our first long-hair. She vocalises a lot as well (often to herself), and we are wondering whether there is some Maine Coon in the mix here!
Dot, who we got at the same time as Dash. He was named so because as a kitten he dashed everywhere; she was named after the heroine in Sunday in the Park with George. Only subsequently did we realise the Morse code possibility. Dot passed away on 1 July 2020, very shortly after Harvey. She had early-stage kidney disease, but we think it was mainly a viral infection that caused a huge loss of weight. We also wonder whether she had developed a bond with Harvey – in the last few months they had been a regular pair demanding breakfast, and subsequently had taken to ganging up on us at other mealtimes. It’s very quiet without Dot’s habitual chatter – she would always meow back if you called her name.
Harvey escaped a cat hoarder, was abandoned by his next ‘owner’, and then lived rough for a few months, during which he was ‘beaten up’ regularly by some feral cats before being taken to an animal shelter. He was already nine years old, and few people take on older cats. But we fed him up and restored his confidence, and he became part of the household. He needed surgery to remove half of each ear, and to freeze sections of his nose and toes, to remove cancerous growths, which he came through very smoothly. He also overcame a fear of me, though it took a couple of years before he would approach me for affection (but the picture shows how he managed). It took him a while to vocalise, though he eventually developed a chirrup rather than a meow, and would climb on you at 5am chirruping to be fed; if that didn’t work, he would sneeze in your face. Like many older cats he developed kidney problems. He was the only cat we’ve had who actively went to see visitors, having popped out to say hello to our house-painter just a couple of weeks before he died. (All the others just ran.) He passed on just a week before his sixteenth birthday.
Peanut – who turned up as a panicked kitten on the Anderson shelter in our garden in Walthamstow in 1996, and was still lording it over the rest on the other side of the world until September 5, 2015. She will always be our ‘first and best’. She was the oldest of the four we brought over in 2006, and we thought she might have a year or two here, maybe three. But in the end she had nine-and-a-half years on each side of the world, and was still quite active when she passed nineteen earlier in 2015. But she had a stroke, which left her blind, and slowly other things started to fail. For her last week, she wasn’t eating much, and needed help to move, but would still show disapproval of Debussy (she really hated La Mer) or Ravel.
Cousin. Cuz was so named because to begin with she always arrived with Little ‘Un, but was far more timid, and hence was known as Little ‘Un’s terrified cousin. After three weeks of not being able to get near her without her bolting through the cat flap, we finally got between her and the door, proffered a few gentle strokes, after which she didn’t go outside again for three weeks. Just as well, as she was a growing kitten and would have throttled herself on her collar.
Sooty was again from Walthamstow, and was also a neighbour’s cat who decided our side of the fence was the better option. We did try to prompt the neighbour that we were looking after their cat, until one day we went to prompt them, and it was a new neighbour.
Little ‘Un, who appeared from somewhere. We never did find out why our little area of back gardens in Walthamstow produced so many stray cats – it wasn’t as if it was easy to get in to or out of. Still, appear she did, and eventually took up residence. A very gentle cat and the one most at ease with visitors (human visitors, that is, though she got on well with all the other cats too).
Dash – seen here against the unlikely background of a snowy garden (the first snow in Wellington in 30 years). His left eye was deformed (a condition called micro-ophthalmia), and he couldn’t see too well out of the other one, but that never stopped him scaling anything he could find. He was attacked and killed by two dogs in our own back garden in September 2013 (two so-called dogs, one nearly blind cat – dogs might rebel at being associated with the attackers). Dash has his own blog here (and see this page in particular), and it will be maintained by one or more of the other residents.
This is Nemo, who was only with us a few weeks. Marjorie took him from the shelter where he wasn’t able to get the attention an old cat needed. He had a good but short time with us – a sparky little character, even though he was quite old (into his teens).
When Peanut died we said we wouldn’t get a cat to replace her. But within a week or so, an emergency arose, and we agreed to take on another old guy who would otherwise have been put down. He was a 14-year-old long-hair called Dusty, and he’s clearly been harshly treated at some point, as he was disinclined to approach you for attention, although happy enough to receive some. He eventually spent a lot of time outside, and made friends with the other cats after several months.
I’m happy to add that as Dusty spent more time with us, he started to stomp out and shout for food with the rest of them. We also discovered that he loved riding in the car, so the last few months have seen him visiting some local landmarks – you can find them on Marjorie’s website: here’s the link to the last of them. He declined very rapidly, and actually managed to cheat the vet by passing on during the morning before the formal appointment.