What better day for the topic of pets than Caturday!
I've had cats all my life. I don't think I'll ever want to live in a house without them. They turn a house into a home. At the moment, I only have one, and as Mr Fidget does not particularly like other cats, I don't think we'll be getting another one any time soon!
So, I thought I would show you my cats, and tell you a little bit of their stories.
We already had cats in the house when I was born.
Dinah was the oldest. She was born in 1976, so she predates my parents marriage. She was very definately Mum's cat. She came from a pet shop and Mum has always said she regrets not getting the other kitten, Dinah's litter mate, at the same time. Dinah was lovely. She was already a fairly middle-aged cat when I was born, but I got to see her kittenish side when she got old, because she totally reverted to kittenhood. She had amazing reserves of energy, and would play with scrumpled up bits of paper for hours.
Her kidneys failed with old age; we had to have her put to sleep when she got too ill. We were all devastated. I have a memory of sitting on the sofa with my Mum and brother, all three of us weeping uncontrollably and clutching at a box of tissues, while my Dad did the deed. Hers was the first death I had to deal with as a child. I was nine.
Lizzie was our second cat. She was born in 1980, so was still a fairly young cat when I first knew her. Lizzie was a typical fat lazy cat. She didn't play as much as Dinah, and spent a lot of time sleeping in the sun. She was very laid back. Like Dinah, she lived to the ripe old age of 14, before her kidneys failed as well.
Mitzi came to us as a tiny kitten, only 8 weeks old. When Dinah died, our neighbours across the road had a cat who had just got pregnant. Tabby was only six months old at the time! Our neighbour very kindly offered us first choice of the litter, so Lizzie was only on her own for about four months before Mitzi joined us. Of the litter of five, two were girls and three were boys, and quite clearly the girls had a different father to the boys! Mitzi and her sister were fathered by the vicious ginger tom; they were both torties, although her sister was a brindled tortie rather than Mitzi's solid tortie and white (I believe you Americans would call her a calico?). The boys were fathered by the black tom; two were grey and the third white with small tabby spots. Of the five kittens, Mitzi was the only one who survived to adulthood. The grey boy they kept ran away and was never seen again, her sister and the white brother were both run over while young, and I forget what happened to the other grey boy, but he died young as well.
Mitzi and Lizzie got on very well, and would often be found curled up together on my parents bed. Mitzi learned the ways of a fat lazy cat from Lizzie, and was a fat lazy cat herself all her life. She loved sleeping in my bedroom, although she inherited her Dad's vicious streak, and loved to lie in wait and ambush passing ankles. She was very good at the trick cats do where they wind pleasingly around your ankles to make you go "aaaaw", before carefully arranging paws for a full on strike attack. Her claws were extremely sharp, and I still bear scars on my hands and arms from her playful attacks! She would never attack Dad though, he was immune!
Mitzi lived a very long life. She died a few years ago, put to sleep after her liver failed. She was almost 15, and died on the day after Boxing Day. I took this photo just a few days before. I was glad to see her before she went, as by this stage I'd been living away from home for 4 years.
When Lizzie died, in 1994, we knew we had to get another cat to keep Mitzi company. Several lovely ladies who lived on our street volunteered for the Cats Protection League, so they had houses and garages full of homeless kitties. They put us in touch with a woman who had just rescued a pregnant cat, and given birth to four healthy kittens. Mum was black and white, two of her sons were the same colour as her but the other two, a boy and a girl had Siamese colouring. It was a very odd looking litter! We took the girl home, and called her Daisy.
Daisy was gorgeous! She had a proper gravelly Siamese-y voice, although her markings weren't proper pointing; you can see her nose was just a smudge of black down one side, and all four paws were white (sort of like a Burmese, I guess). Everyone adored her. Unfortunately, she was too good for the world, and only a year after we got her, she was run over on the street outside our house. She died almost immediately, there was nothing we could have done for her. My parents didn't tell me before school, even though they knew. My brother knew. I didn't find out till I got home. I knew something was wrong the instant I walked into the house. I was devastated. Losing Daisy was very hard for me (I was 11), especially so soon after losing Lizzie. Mitzi also took it badly. It was years before I could even think about it without bursting into tears. Even now, if I think too much about what happened, I will start to cry.
Of course, once we'd got over our inital grief at losing Daisy so young, we went straight back to our lovely Cats Protection ladies and asked to see what they had. Unfortunately, Suzanne had a cat with Feline AIDs, so none of the thirty or so cats she had were allowed to be rehomed. She put us in touch with another lovely cat lady, Rosemary, who had recently taken in a six month old kitten who had to be rehomed as her elderly owner was moving into a nursing home, and couldn't take the cat with her.
Katie had been found by her owner under a bramble bush, seemingly abandoned and only 4 weeks old. I suspect she hadn't been abandoned at all, and that her mum was just off hunting for food. Anyway, the lady took the kitten home, called her Wiggy and all was well. When Rosemary took her in, she thought Wiggy was a stupid name, so renamed her Bramble. We fell in love with her as soon as we saw her, and took her home straight away. We thought Bramble was just as daft as Wiggy, so we had a small debate and renamed her Katie.
Katie is tiny. She's all fur. When she gets wet, you can see just how little cat there is underneath it all. Her jaw is slightly twisted, but other than that she is perfectly healthy. I just love her colouring, it's the same brindled tortie as Mitzi's unfortunate sister. Katie has the same sort of voice that Daisy had, which is just adorable. She loves my Mum so much. She's really old now, 17, but still going strong. She loves to wake you up in the morning by climbing onto your chest, putting her paw on your face and going "Mreh!". For a small cat, she feels very heavy once she's been sat on your chest for a little while! She also talks to me down the phone when I'm chatting to Mum. The vets are amazed at how healthy she is for her age. She has no teeth now.
Rosie was our accidental cat. She was born down the road, in a litter of four. Two tabby and white, two black and white. The two tabby and white kittens, a boy and a girl, were called Rosie and Jim, and were a regular sight around and about the street while they were growing up. They would come into our garden to play and say hello. Jim used to climb our bird feeder then sit in wait at the top for the birds to come back. Which of course, they never did, and then he'd realise he was stuck and couldn't get down!
Both of them were unlucky as young cats, and were run over. Broken limbs, nothing too serious, but when they had the pins removed from their legs, they both ran away. Their owners weren't great, the sort of pet owners who lock their pets out at night no matter the weather. Rosie used to come and sleep in our house (as we always had a window open for our two) during the winter nights, because it was just too cold for her to sleep outdoors. We let her, because it was a losing battle to keep her out.
They disappeared for a good few years. We never saw Jim again, but one day my Mum was in the house and heard an odd noise coming from the kitchen. When she went to look, she discovered Rosie, cramming down as much food as she could from what our cats had left over from breakfast. She was skin and bones. We took her to our vet (through happy coincidence, also the vet she had been registered at before, so they had all her medical records) and they told us she was fine, just needed feeding up and a bit of TLC. We tried to talk to her owners, but they were quite dismissive, only saying "well just shut her out of your house, and she'll come back to us eventually". My Mum was having none of it, so we became a three cat house.
Mitzi remained aloof from the other two - I think she didn't want to get attached to Katie or Rosie in case they left her like Lizzie and Daisy had. But Katie and Rosie got on well enough - they are the same age, after all. Rosie had several more run-ins with moving vehicles in the first few years - she like to cross the main road to get at the rabbits in the field, so was hit by cars at least twice after she moved in with us. The first one wasn't that serious, but the second shunted her pelvis out of joint, and damaged the nerves in her left arm. We thought we were going to lose her, but she pulled through. For ages, she only had one working leg, and she would drag herself around using just the one paw. That leg got very strong!
As you can see in the photo, her left front leg is useless. Nerve damage meant she could no longer move it past the shoulder, but as it wasn't bothering her the vets advised against amputation. She gets on quite happily with her frozen limb, using it to dig, and to climb! She doesn't like the cold though, it makes all her injured joints ache, and her frozen leg twitches uncontrollably in the winter.
Her and Katie are now 17 years old. Recently, Rosie has been losing weight and looking like she might have reached the end. However, it turned out her thyroid was overactive, so now she is on drugs to control that, which seem to have worked. One bad side effect of the hypothyroidism though is that she is now blind. Mum and Dad are keeping a very close eye on her, and as long as her quality of life remains, so will she.
Not content with rescuing one cat, we ended up rescuing another. Floyd used to live down the road, but when his owners moved away, they left him behind. I really don't understand how people can do this! He spent the winter living in our garden shed, using my cycle helmet for a toilet. We put food out for him, but he was very wary of us. His white fur was yellow and discoloured, and he was incredibly skittish. In the February, I managed to convince him to be petted, and slowly he moved into the house and settled down. The vets thought he had cancer, because his chest was all covered in lumps, but it turned out to be a severe chest infection. We had him for about three years, and he was on antibiotics the whole time, although we did manage to wean him off them mostly by the time he died.
Floyd loved us. I mean really, really loved us. He would curl up under the covers with me in bed. It was almost like he was so grateful to us for rescuing him and making him feel better, he was constantly telling us how much he loved us. Floyd was still with us when I left home to go to university, and he died the following Easter.
So there you go, all my lovely cats. Mr Fidget, of course, you know well by now!