Sunday 30 August 2009

Eat, drink and be self-reliant ... !

Being a very considerate cat owner I've always got my cat's best interests at heart, even to the point of filling the little indent in the manhole cover outside the back door with bottled water so my spoilt feline can feel he's foraging for himself!

It must really gall him to have to be reliant on me, a mere human, for his nourishment. So he politely accepts the morsels I offer, picks at them daintily and for just long enough so that my feelings aren't hurt and then rushes outside to where the food is still on the hoof (or wing!) and where the eating process is still fraught with danger and, let's face it, fun. It's because of their instinct for hunting and it adds a certain frisson to life.

Cat satisfaction levels increase in direct proportion to the level of difficulty in obtaining sustenance. Do I know what I'm talking about? No not really! But I have noticed that Austin's been as skinny as a supermodel up until quite recently. This we've put down to either his "Ginger-vitis" or his picky appetite - or both. However, the last month or so, despite his ongoing fastidiousness with the indoor-already-dead type of food, he's definitely getting more rotund. He must, therefore, be eating out; and who can blame him? Why settle for the prepacked genetically modified pap from the supermarket when there's organic free range a la carte right on the doorstep?

Anyway, nearly all teenagers like eating fast food and they don't come much faster per poundage than a starling or a baby rabbit! On the other hand he could be eating round at Tigger's!

Sunday 23 August 2009

Walking to heel !

By nature cats are not followers. Even when they are following, they tend to do it from the front! Am I the only one to have noticed this? Many's the time I've indicated to Austin that he should "come with me please" (for instance, to the kitchen) to find that he's taken his natural position right in front of my feet so that when I take a step forward I have to decide in a jiff whether to tread on him or swerve sharply to the side, thus causing myself an injury.

Being an animal lover, of course, I would much rather do myself serious damage than harm a hair of his little feline personality. So we proceed on our journey, all the while his ears are like antennas checking constantly for any change in movement or direction. And I shuffle along behind in a kind of one-legged hop as I try to predict which way he's going to veer. I stop to regain balance; he stops as he's "following" me. I place my left leg to his left and right leg to his right. So now I'm straddling him! He looks at me:

"Make up your mind!"

I hop over him and gain the advantage of being at the front. He nips round the side of me and stands on my left foot. We reach an impasse. Confusion reigns. We pause to consider our positions and then the whole thing starts over again; but by this time I have forgotten what it was I was supposed to be doing anyway, so I swivel round on my one free foot and hobble back to base camp in the living room for a regroup and a bit of a think. Austin goes back to rolling on his catnip stash behind the piano.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Extreme sleeping!

You have to laugh; well HE makes ME laugh. Austin is such a messy sleeper. Though he is technically a short haired moggie, he is actually a bit longer than short, if you get my drift! So that, coupled with a tendency to be rather intense when sleeping, makes his place of repose a place of discompose!

I only mention this because Tigger is exactly the opposite. He eats like a starving peasant, but sleeps the sleep of the dead. He sheds nary a scintilla
of fur, claw or dead insect and he leaves the place neat and tidy when he's done. Austin, who gives a whole new meaning to the word "dainty" when it comes to eating, sleeps like he's going 15 rounds with Mike Tyson. Whether it's on his blanket in the conservatory, on the back of the overstuffed armchair, or on my lap, he tosses and turns, twitches and jumps, grunts and groans until the place is a tip; it's particularly noticeable when he's been doing this on my lap!

The shiatsu technique (I have mentioned before) is only the beginning. Once he's finished preparing
the ground, he burrows deep, deep down and wedges himself securely, head in one of my hands and bum in the other. He then proceeds to run the whole gamut of sleep disorders, from talking and snoring to apnoea and night terrors until his "bed" begins to resemble an earthquake zone. When he wakes up (or is woken up!) he rises, stretches, yawns, looks at me calmly and jumps down, emitting a short mew of thanks and proceeds to go about his business.

Meanwhile I am left dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Austin; a state of emergency is declared around
the area of my lap and disaster recovery ensues. The clear up operation can take a while and generally involves a brush, wet wipes and TCP. I just love that cat :>)

I also love this
cartoon ;)

Sunday 9 August 2009

The Thin Edge of the Downward Spiral!

Well it's happened! After 1 year 9 months and 8 days, Austin has finally spent the whole night alfresco. I know why; it's the lure of the Friday night laddish sub-culture. When they get to a certain age, they discover "attitude" - you know the type of thing; the asserting-their-independence rite of passage: so it's out-with-the-lads, couple of beers, a catnip spliff or two ... . Last week, we had him rolling in at 2.30 a.m. - and he only came in then because I'd got up to ... well .... you know! So bleary-eyed on the step - that's me, not him - I was all for having it out there and then, but was too bunged up with cough and cold to be able to do justice to the
seriousness of the situation:

"Wod tybedoob yood caw did?" would only make him fall about laughing and the moment would be lost. (BTW if it wasn't swine flu I had, it was definitely something that came with a snout!). So I let it go ... and then let it go ........ Consequently, when this Friday night came round, I let him stay out as usual until about 10.30. Big Mistake. No amount of calling, whistling, banging the food bowl or not-so-veiled threats would tempt him inside. Ok, there was a cat at the door at one point, but it was just Tigger. Now much as I love him, he's not actually family - not even legally adopted, just an itinerant and a scrounger; a "schnorrer" in fact.

I don't know what it is about this tabby, but he manages to be very eloquent with his eyes and general demeanour.
He completely mesmerises you with a kind of prescient confidence that compels you to do as he wishes. So, not family, but definitely "familiar", a demiurge in the gnostic pantheon who gently demands appeasement and knows without a doubt that he will be satisfied. I dream about those eyes. What do you think?

Though a photo does not do justice to the sheer force of his personality. Never once have I ever seen him with that "rabbit caught in the headlights" look that Austin always adopts when he wants to come in and I'm a nanosecond behind in responding to his ear-piercingly eloquent demand. For him it's as if the world is coming to an end and I'm the sole cause of it! No, Tigger is as self-assured as it is possible for a cat to be. He rules. End of.

Anyway, I need to reverse out of the narrative cul de sac I've inadvertently turned down and return to the burning issue of last Friday night. Austin had obviously found catnip heaven and wasn't about to give it up for a bite of Morrison's trout'nprawn in jelly or pretend fish pellets from PetzRUs! I gave up and went to bed. The neighbour's security light went on and off ALL night long and then at 5 a.m. I heard the aged mother stomping through the kitchen and open the conservatory door. Talk about stage whispers! I doubt if Dame Edith Evans could have done any better. The whole of North Wales is now aware of Austin's nighttime wanderings and he still didn't come in.

It wasn't until about 8 a.m. that he decided to show his face. He looked a bit cocky that's for sure, and he was hungry (which makes a change) and then proceeded to sleep the day away on his blanket. Not wanting a repeat performance the following night, I "encouraged" him into the garden at about 6. Funnily enough, he was banging on the window at about 8.30. Back to normal now, but awaiting next Friday night with some interest!

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Leader of the cat pack!

It is common knowledge (at least it should be) that dogs are pack animals. Within the group they develop a complex set of behaviors related to determining each dog's position in the social hierarchy; so unless you want a dog that takes control and rules the roost, you have to establish very early on who is the leader of the pack. There is something in Wiki about it, so it must be true!

Yeah, well! Over the last couple of years I have come to believe that young Austin, although definitely not "one of the group", has shown the ability and desire to bond with other cats (Tigger, to be precise) and the odd human (that would be me!). He also responds very well to some commands. I have tried to write a lot of humourous stuff about life with him and most of it is true, if sometimes skewed for effect! However, I have come to be very fond of this characterful feline and I believe that he has of me, too, in a narcissistic sort of way.

Some observations: Tigger is really the only other cat he actually likes having around; in fact it was Austin who brought him home one day and made the introductions. He even lets Tigger eat his food; this is amazing, as it doesn't appear to bother him at all. All he does is look on with detached amusement as the tabby stuffs his face in a prole-ish kind of way. When Tigger is not eating, they fight and chase each other around and then studiously ignore each other while they tidy themselves up and then proceed to sleep together very companionably in the summerhouse or conservatory. It's very clear though that Tigger is "Benny the Ball" to Austin's "Top Cat"! Any other cat (Big Ginge or one of his gang!) is summarily chased away with much snarling and yowling and fur flying.

Now about his relationship with mere humans! I know cats are supposed to be cunning and manipulative. But he's not really, despite the cute thing he does with his head! The way he goes about requesting juicy morsels of chicken or salmon from my plate is not at all disingenuous:

"Please can I have a tasty morsel of chicken or salmon from your plate?"

"No you can't."


And he goes off to vent his spleen on a bluebottle that's wandered in from the garden. Then he doesn't have to follow me around the house to make sure I'm nice and comfy, before curling up at (or on) my feet; he could chose any one of several beds he's got set up around the place. And for no reason at all he will stop in mid clean to jump on my lap, rub his head against mine and then jump down again to continue his ritual bath. He doesn't have to do this, but he does.

First thing in the morning it's generally my mother who's up at the crack of dawn to let him out, but it's me who mostly gets the lovey dovey treatment. Anyone else enters the room and he takes scant notice, but as soon as he hears me trudging up, he goes all coy, rolling on his back asking for his tummy to be tickled.*

He nearly always responds when I call his name - ok, it occasionally takes a little time if he's reached an interesting point in his dream, or he's several gardens away plotting retribution on one of the eleven spitting dogs; but I generally only have to say "uh-uh" once for him to stop doing what he shouldn't - unless of course he's got a mouse or bird and then all I see is his tail disappearing over the fence; OR if he's scratching the furniture - he's got a project on at the moment to dismantle the sofa thread by thread, until the arm falls off completely! I think he feels it's some kind of retro-therapy to help assuage the trauma of his early months, and of course it's marginally cheaper than a shrink! So, all things considered, I would say that Austin at the ripe old age of 2 years plus vat is happy and contented (on the whole) and has me exactly where he wants me - firmly under the claw!!

* Since writing this, he met my cousin for the first time and at a stroke (literally) he changed his allegiance. She reckons it's because we've got the same smell! Huh! I think he knows when he's on to a good thing. SHE's a Big Softie and HE always has an eye to the main chance. Anyway his bags are packed and he's ready to go. Such fickleness, after all I've done for him ! One thing I haven't told him though. She's got a dog - and it's a big one!