The invasion

The invasion

It has finally happened: we have acquired cats. They’ve been with us now for about two days (as I write this) and already it’s as if they’ve always been here.

They didn’t actually come from an animal shelter after all. They came to us more-or-less by happy accident: a colleague of my wife had a friend who had a cat which had just had a small litter. The one slight drawback as far as we were concerned was that they were born on a farm and more used to a barn than a house. In the event, the owner had realised she’d need to give some of them away as pets, and so made sure they had plenty of human contact (the first four weeks are crucial) and were at least partly house-trained. We got them at about 8 or 9 weeks of age, about the youngest you should ideally adopt cats; that way we know they should have got the hang of personal hygiene, but haven’t got too used to the idea of unlimited freedom.

There were three in the litter: we took the two that usually played together, while the third was more attached to the mother. At the moment, they’re up here with me: our house has two floors (not counting the cellar), the upper floor containing my office and some currently unusued rooms (one will eventually be converted into a classroom). This is ideal, because for their first few weeks we don’t want them to run around the whole house: the stairs are really nasty, and we have to make sure they can use a litter tray. We can shut the door to prevent them getting onto the stairs but still give them the run of most of the upper floor.

It’s just as well, because we discovered that the female, whom I have called Bonnie, hadn’t quite worked out that a litter tray can be for pee as well as for poo. They’d also, it seemed, never had anything special to sleep in, so when my wife brought in a small cardboard box with a fluffy blanket, it was a matter of three minutes before the blanket was impregnated with the odour of eau de Bonnie. After a similar accident involving another blanket was narrowly averted (and a surprised Bonnie plonked unceremoniously in the litter tray), we think she may be getting the idea. Hope springs eternal (although we hope that Bonnie’s pee doesn’t).

Otherwise they’re no problem, except for getting up to the kind of mischief kittens always get up to (they’re only allowed in my office if I’m in it, due to the large number of chewable cables). They weren’t even fazed by the car journey: they wore expressions of puzzled intrigue. On arrival here, they took a few minutes to pluck up the courage to leave their carrier, inspected the room and went to sleep. Since then it’s been one long marathon of play alternating with snooze.

Bonnie seems to be initially the bolder of the two and tends to be the first to investigate, but her brother Clyde is sometimes the first to experimentally bat something new with his paw. The ping-pong ball, which they were introduced to today, seems to have been an exception: Bonnie was immediately taken with it, chasing it all over, while Clyde clearly wanted to inspect it first before deciding whether it was safe. Bonnie is also a great softie, and will even start purring if she thinks you may be about to pet her; Clyde is a little more reticent, takes longer to trust people, and often doesn’t want to be petted at all — but when he wants attention, he’ll demand it with a certain vehemence.

The plan is that for a few weeks, they’ll stay up here, with space to run around, some ancient chairs and mattresses they’re allowed to chew and claw to pieces, and various toys, scratching posts and so on. Once we think their perception of depth and sense of balance have improved to the point where they won’t tumble down a marble staircase, we’ll introduce them to the rest of the house. The great outdoors will have to wait until they’ve been neutered, so until then it’s a question of making sure they don’t get bored (that’s when they start shredding the wallpaper).

The attached video was made yesterday. The old sack, which we brought from the farm to ease their transition (probably unnecessarily in the event, as they took to their new home like ducks to water) has been replaced by a clean one we had hanging around.