I have been told repeatedly by my husband that my animals are a bit strange… personally I don’t see it, but then I guess that is just me – so dear reader, I am asking your opinion on this matter!
The thing that first triggered this statement was when Izzy, feeling a bit cold when it came to bed time, did her usual trick of jumping up on the bed beside me, walking up to stand on my pillow, miaowed softly and started patting at the edge of the duvet. Now, this is a well recognised signal, one I have been trained by many cats to acknowledge by rolling onto my back, bending my knees and lifting the edge of the duvet so they can slip in to curl up under my raised knees in the “tent” that is formed there.
This is an ideal position for a small, somewhat chilly, cat – as it is somewhere dark, warm, and smells of “Mummy” and therefore safety (so long as I don’t fall asleep, forgetting they are under there, and drop my leg on them). I have had several cats that have trained me to do this, or something similar – Tinker (the calico female cat I had with my ex husband) used to climb under the covers, put her head on the pillow, her paw around my neck and purr till we both fell asleep curled up together.
I see nothing strange in this, I just see it as part of the special bond between my cats and I – ok, granted, not everyone would be as willing to share their bed that way with an animal, but I have never had a problem with a cuddly kitty.
Okay, so I have had sock-knappers (raiding the laundry bin at 3am for dirty socks – god alone knows why), chocolate thieves (again, an attack of the midnight munchies), and cats trained seemingly by the SAS who have managed to get to places I have stashed the catnip or treats when I have no idea how, or disappeared so thoroughly in a locked house that I swear they have vapourised – but this isn’t really strange behaviour, just quirky behaviour and we all have quirks, right?
However, it isn’t just my cats that I have had this accusation leveled at – my rodents have had similar comments made about them, ranging from when Sergei and Alek are asleep in their tunnel, upside down, or one of the rats climbs up the cage, suddenly realises that girlie rats aren’t really built to reverse and so just let go to get down, or when hamsters past have decided that chips with curry sauce and an evening watching star trek or x-files is simply all that a hamster should do. (I would just like to mention that the chips with curry sauce was a VERY occasional treat, not a regular diet (much to her annoyance)).
When the rats took down their hammock and decided it was a far better sleeping bag (if you chew the edging of the hammock up so you have an opening between the two layers of fleece, it really is quite snugly you know) – it just seemed to me that this was another of the quirks, it didn’t make them odd, or strange in any way in my eyes, but then I suppose I could be a little biased ;)
I have come to the conclusion that one mans strange, is another woman’s quirky – and no matter the outcome, I wouldn’t change any of them for the world, their quirks are what makes them unique, and what makes them who they are – life without a few quirks would be very dull indeed.
I promised that I would tell you the story of how the princess, otherwise known as Izzy came to be mine, or rather, how I came to be hers!
She lived on our estate, belonged (and I use the word loosely here) to a family that lived opposite us – but from a very young age, almost day one in fact, she was kept outdoors, all her meals were given to her outdoors (which frequently meant she had to fight off the other neighbourhood kitty’s) and no matter what the weather was doing, she was denied the luxury of a warm, safe, dry home.
Personally I had never understood the point of them having her in the first place, I mean, surely if you get an animal, you want to interact with it more then just to stuff a food bowl under its nose twice a day?
Me, being soft as I am, couldn’t stand to see such a small creature out in all weathers, and it wasn’t long before (despite the strict “no pets” clause in my rental agreement) I was encouraging her to come in to my home for a little while now and again for some comfort and company. I was good, I never fed her – I would never feed any animal that I knew belonged elsewhere, and when she asked to go back out, I never refused her, no matter how much it tore at my heart to watch her slink out into the foul weather once more.
I was often found outside, playing with her, making a fuss of her, and talking to her – she seemed to enjoy the contact as much as I did, and regularly came running over when she saw me come home from work, or follow me to the bus stop of a morning to purr around my ankles till my bus came.
She also took to darting inside whenever the door opened, much to the annoyance of my then boyfriend who would then spend his morning trying to catch her and put her out before he left for work too. One particular day, he was running late, and she refused to go back out, hiding in out of reach places so he couldn’t persuade her. There were some leftovers from the night before’s supper on the side, which he had forgotten about in his rush to get out to work. I got home before him, and opened the door, went upstairs and saw a trail of pastry crumbs up the stairs, confused, I followed them, to discover a very sleepy little black bundle of fur curled up in the centre of my bed, with the remains of what had been a very tasty looking chicken and ham slice on the covers around her.
It wasn’t till I started to giggle that she cracked open an eye, yawned, stretched, chirped as if to say “so, you’re home now huh” and came over to headbutt my hand by way of thanks for her bed and board for the day before jumping with her customary thud from the bed and trotting downstairs to ask to go out. I nervously searched the house for mis-haps but much to my relief, there wasn’t a single puddle or pile to be found.
It was with a heavy heart I watched the family pack up and move, knowing that my time with Izzy was running out, but hoping that they would finally start to treat her like part of the family (not that they had shown any inclination in the 18 months I had known her). At first, I missed seeing her around dreadfully, I missed our interaction, despite me being friendly with several other cats in the area, but as the days went by, although I still missed her, the weight lifted somewhat.
About six weeks after they moved, after several weeks of severe weather, I was coming home from work in the dark, not really paying attention, lost in thought, when I rounded the corner to my front door. It was only when I heard a tiny squeak (she still hasn’t learnt to miaow properly) which was instantly familiar that broke me from my thoughts. Peering closer into the dark of my lawn, I saw a very thin, very sad looking little black cat – her third eye-lid mostly over her eyes, and generally in a very poor state.
I called her and she came over, warily nuzzling my hand before skittering off again, the weeks since I had seen her hadn’t been kind to this small waif. Hurriedly I unlocked the door, and tried to call her in out of the rain, she sat, looking longingly at the warmth just in her grasp but too afraid to trust the offer. I was at a loss, what had possibly happened to this confident, carefree little cat to make her so timid.
I ran up the stairs to my kitchen (it was one of these fancy maisonettes with most of the rooms on the second and third floors) and started rooting through my cupboards for something to offer her, all the time calling to her down the stairs and hoping she wouldn’t run off before I got back down to her.
Snaring up a tin of tuna, and a bag of those pre-cooked chicken bites, I hurried back to my front door. At first I couldn’t see her, but then came the same sad little squeak, and I crouched down, tearing open the chicken. It didn’t take long for her nose to start twitching, she was obviously very hungry, and gradually she came to me for the food.
My boyfriend came home, and hopped off his bike, and she ran. I sighed softly, loosing her quickly in the dark. He apologised and offered to go look for her when I explained what had happened. I refused the offer, hoping she would come back of her own accord now she knew there was food here. Over the next week, I repeated the same steps, most days she was waiting for me, or when she wasn’t the local kids (who knew she was back and without anyone to care for her) would knock and tell me where she was. I would go to her, feed her, talk to her and coax her near to home.
One night about a week after the first time she arrived on the doorstep I was feeding her titbits at the door when my boyfriend came home. Seeing what I was doing and giving me a resigned look, “Well,” I said defensively, “I can’t just leave her…”
He smiled, agreed, and snuck past us to go upstairs, leaving me to continue feeding her and tempting her nearer and nearer the door. When she was within reach, and seemed to be a bit calmer, I gently swung her up in my arms, backed through the door and kicked it closed.
At first she was nervous, but she soon found the chair and curled up to doze. While she was sleeping I snuck over to my friend’s house to beg some cat litter from her, I explained the situation and she was only to happy to donate some for me.
The setup wasn’t very sophisticated, an old Avon box lined with a black bag was her litter tray that night, and I shut her in the kitchen as I wasn’t sure she knew where the box was before I went to bed. She howled and howled to go back out, completely confused that this was now her home, I hardened my heart and ignored her, telling her softly that it was for the best this way.
It was a long night, and the start of a fairly rocky couple of weeks for us, but also the start of a life long bond that exists between us, something really special. But dear reader, I have taken up enough of your time for one blog – there is plenty of time for me to finish the tale for you, and many others to share with you too – so for now, I will say “until next time”
Hi, Its good to meet you dear reader, let me introduce myself and the rest of the mad house you will find lurking in these pages ready to attack your unsuspecting toes.
My name is Nikki, and I love animals – I always have from a very young age, a trait that was whole-heartedly encouraged by my equally soft-hearted father. It all started in the normal way, with a host of hamsters padding softly through our home, followed as I grew by the larger animals such as Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, and Cats… Although some of these are no longer with us, their stories may well end up sneaking in here from time to time for your laughter or tears.
There have been brief periods of time throughout my thirty something years where out of necessity I have been forced to live in a petless house, but even then, I normally found a way around it by “adopting” the local stray, or playing with whichever neighbourhood moggy happened to cross my path.
Approximately 10 years ago, I had a fateful meeting with one such neighbourhood kitty. I was sitting on the lawn in front of the house with a friend of mine, discussing generalities and putting the world to rights as was our want on a lazy summer evening – when out of the blue, this tiny black streak went hurtling past us with Toby, the local border collie, in hot pursuit. My friend and I looked at each other, and a look passed between us that if we should hear any sort of sounds of distress, we were going straight after the pair to ensure that Toby didn’t get too enthusiastic with the tiny kitten he had been chasing.
We were just starting to get worried by the silence, when Toby burst from the bushes as if the hounds of hell themselves were after him – imagine if you can, the surprise on our faces when a moment later the reason for his headlong flight appeared – yes, you guessed it, that self same tiny kitten had turned the tables on a dog more then eight times her size and was now chasing HIM across the estate.
Little did I know at the time that this fluffball would end up playing a huge part in my life just about a year further down the line, and infact, still lords it over the household to this day. That tiny kitten, was in fact my own dear Izzy, and how she became mine is a story for another blog.
Also in our mad house, is my ever loving, extremely indulgent, and very understanding husband, John. Who quite frankly will let me get away with pretty much anything, and can normally tell just from the look in my eyes when we enter a pet shop or shelter, if he will be gaining yet another housemate. I can’t express how much I love the man, who despite having his own reservations about some of our housemates, has good naturedly agreed to me having them anyway.
As well as Izzy, who is undoubtedly queen of the roost, we currently have two rabbits (Blackberry and Daisy, a bonded couple), eleven guinea pigs (Diva, Divine, Todd, Toffee, Hannah, Ginger, Honey-Lemon, Nutmeg, Midnight, Lucy, and Lulu), Twelve rats (Spot, Splat, Splotch, Ruby, Liquorice, Cariad, Precious, Blue, Luna, Maggie, Thelma and Louise), fourteen degu’s (Dilbert, Pinky, Dribble, Bag, Dougie, Squeak, Stitch, Titch, Pancake, Donut, Big Mama, Sweetie, Cupcake, Darling), three gerbils (Spatchcock, Ginger and Cinnamon), three ferrets (Taz, Dooky and Shadow), and two hamsters Cohnan (Syrian) and Marvin (Chinese).
You will also “meet” in these pages some of the precious babies that we have lost over Rainbow Bridge, including our guinea pig friends Patch, Nibbles, Fluff, Fudge, Tinker, Daisy, and Amy. Brambles, my dwarf lop rabbit, her boyfriend Jasper, and our netherland dwarf grump Lola, our gerbils Mungo, Jerry and Honey, as well as a whole host of little hamsters including Aleksandr and Sergei who were the first of our welsh pets, and then finally, our rat babies, including Tess, my half blind albino rat, and her sister Lola (grey and white) to name but a few (if you want to know more about any of our animals, check out the relevant pages on our main site).
I think that is enough about us for now, but dear reader, if you are still with us here, maybe you will come back soon, and see what other tales (or should that be tails) I have added about our somewhat eclectic family.
See you soon.