At first glance, I felt sorry for Cassie. She misses one eye and the spot where the eye once used to be still looks fiery, as if it’s permanently irritated. Her owner lets me know she has been doing so much better since the amputation though. It was unavoidable, because of a tumor. So her owner thinks I shouldn’t feel sorry for her, but happy. Cassie has been so much better since the operation!
Cassie is perhaps the least approachable among the nine cats in this household. Mostly she turns her back on me when I try to approach her. Her favourite hangout is a carton box filled up with a soft cushion, on the far end of the dining room table. Cassie seems to hate the disproportionately represented male part of the household: six out of nine. She prefers to ignore and avoid them. But there’s one among them that knows how to push all of her buttons, and that’s Jackson. He’s a stunning looking gib, a ginger with a lion mane. There’s one thing that he’s not though and that’s a pussy cat.. Jackson’s trying to keep little Boris under his thumb. So far, it’s a draw as the Benjamin of the family seems to enjoy the attention and is turning it into a game of cat and mouse. But Cassie just as well as Izzie can’t seem to stand him. It happens regularly that either one of the ladies starts hissing without apparent reason. Without exception, I only need to turn my head to see Jackson sitting quite close, playing innocent. It makes me wonder what he’s saying, without making a sound!
It seems to me, Cassie is suffering more that Izzie under the male overpopulation. One time while hoovering, I find a dried-up pile of cat dropping under the dining room table. As it’s close to her favourite spot, I immediately suspect her. Owner Louise is confirming this. Her theory is, that because during the winter months the cats prefer to stay indoors more, the males are in her comfort zone much more often than usual. Or put differently: if she would encounter one of the boys trying to reach the litter, she might possibly not be able to make it in time. A big turd by Jackson hidden in the litterbox was another plausible explanation for her doing it on the carpet…
I’m looking after Oscar again, the cat who meows an awful lot. At least in my perception! The first time around, I was quite worried that he missed his owner and felt lonely. After all, the evening of her return, she sent me a photo of the two of them, nice and cosy on the couch. He hadn’t left her side. By now, I’m convinced he also knows quite well what he wants: he wants food. His owner doesn’t want her cat to be fat, so she has put him on a diet. Oscar finishes each meal at the speed of light! It seems to me he’s not satisfied, as he’s meowing piteously shortly after having finished his meal. In case of doubt about his intentions: as soon as I get up from my seat, he runs for the kitchen. If I don’t follow, he seems to come and meet me halfway. He stares at me intently and meows loudly. This cyclus repeats itself and Oscar holds out for quite a bit. His owner admits he’s slightly obsessed with food, but apparently this is less of an issue when she’s around. Perhaps he’s worrying if he’ll get his next meal from his sitter?
As I feel for poor Oscar, I can’t get the issue off my mind. In spite of not having the illusion of resolving it within the long weekend I’m looking after him, I’ve become quite curious and start reading about it. Having been with his owner since he was a kitten, having suffered from under-nourishment can be ruled out. A diet can be a plausible reason for begging. Proportioning food, so that it can’t be gobbled up at once is mentioned as a solution.This brings me to an idea for a present for Oscar next time I’ll be sitting him: a food puzzle will keep him occupied and apparently it will lead him to feel satisfied more quickly. Just imagine a stack of containers, each divided into separate compartments. Lids can make the puzzle harder if needed.
For now, I can only apply the most important rule in case of begging: to make sure I’m able to ignore it.
Black Pepper, or Kara Biber in Turkish, his mother tongue, owed his name to his jet-black fur. I got to know him as a very loving cat. He was quite good at purring and was always ready for a bit of fuss: cuddling up to me, some scratching in the neck. It was quite clear though, that he was getting a bit older… From a distance, one would spot that gorgeous jet-black fur, from up close he was starting to look a bit scruffy. It appeared more dull and less well-groomed.
But without the shadow of a doubt he could cuddle with the best of them! Whenever I would leave the bedroom door ajar at night, he would be the first cat in the household of nine felines to discover. Little Yeter would settle for a small corner at the foot end of the bed; you wouldn’t even notice she was there. But not Black Pepper! One night I felt him cozying up to the length of my spine. He appeared to long for closeness. It was a – in the spirit of Black Pepper – totally loving gesture. Nevertheless he managed to spoil the momentum. Caught up by his self-indulgence he slowly began to stretch his paws, making pumping motions with his nails. Straight into my back.
I will never forget the startled expression on his face when I chased him out of the bedroom! From that moment on, I always left the bedroom door closed at night.
Unfortunately, this song text has very little to do with cats! Al Stewart serenades a big love that he seemingly experienced during the year of the cat. Part of his inspiration, he clearly gets from the movie Casablanca, by referring to Bogart, Lorre and the woman of his dreams. But what does the year of the cat stand for? After all, in Chinese astrology there is no such thing as a year of the cat! Al Stewart finally unveiled the mystery in Royal Albert Hall in London in 2015. While he was working on new material, his girlfriend was involved in Vietnamese astrology. One fine day, a book open on the table displayed a page mentioning “The Year of the Cat”. About that moment, Al Stewart says: “I don’t know a whole lot about a whole lot of things but I recognize a song title when I see one and that was a song title”. Fact is, the title was there before the rest of the song. As popmusic generally is not about cats, the theme of the lyrics is… love. In the year of the cat!
Pirate and Poppet had a long journey behind them: from faraway Shanghai, they ended up in Switzerland. Thanks to being adopted by their owner they were surely saved from an uncertain fate. Ever since, their futures looked so much brighter. Whereas back in the days they had to roam the streets of Shanghai to fend for themselves, they now were offered a tin of wet food twice a day against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps.
When I was a cat owner myself back in the days, the vet told me biscuits offer cats all they need, so I was a bit surprised about their diet. Unfortunately, Pirate had little other food options. Roughing it in Shanghai’s back alleys had left him with no more than four teeth. Nevertheless, he ate his food with lots of gusto. As soon as diner was being served, he would gobble it up in no time. It would require me to pay close attention to what would happen next as he would easily eat his sister’s portion as well if given the opportunity! She was a little less focused on food, and definitely had an easier time eating biscuits, that were always readily available. Poppet would incidentally graze on them as well, but it was quite clear that it wasn’t without effort!
Pirated was given his name for a good reason. The tough street life had not only left him with a fraction of his dentition, he was also blind on one eye. All this gave him an endearing appearance, which – I suspect – he used to the fullest extent. As soon as he noticed that I’d sat down on the sofa, he would come to keep me company. In spite of generally regarding cat hairs on clothes as an accessory, white cat hairs can seem a bit over the top. So sometimes I would try to keep him off! This cuddle bug wouldn’t take no for an answer, but kept searching for an opportunity. As soon as he had found it, he obviously felt at home and enjoyed his excellent vantage point to the fullest.
After enjoying the movie Shrek quite a lot, I possibly liked Shrek 2 even better. The reason why? Without a shadow of a doubt thanks to the character Puss In Boots being introduced. Never did I see anyone – not even a cat – metamorphose as fast as this seemingly touching little guy.
After Shrek and princess Fiona have found one another and have even gotten hitched, nothing seems to be in the way of their marital bliss. That is, until it’s time to meet the inlaws! While Darling daughter is still being welcomed with open arms, her man of choice is being treated with distrust, perhaps even hostility. After all, they had a different man in mind: Prince Charming.
After Puss In Boots enters the scene as a potential hitman to get rid of the ogre, the situation is resolved by a raging hairball, one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Eventually, Shrek and Puss become allies; together they save Fiona from the greedy hands of Prince Charming, who turns out not to be as charming as thought. Needless to say there’s a positive ending to the story: Happily Ever After.
Nine cats under my care: a new record! In the house where this bunch is living, a framed piece of embroidery is standing on the sideboard: “One cat leads to another”. Sloane, Bailey, James, Ivan, Michael, Boris, Horace, Callie and Minnie are all, with the exception of Boris, from Doha, Qatar. Owner Chantal vividly describes how one cat after another crossed her path, usually in a pitiful state, so that she would end up taking care of them all. Often that lead to her trying to persuade others to adopt one of the cats, including an offer to pay for vaccinations and a stash of cat food. Sometimes she succeeded, but not always by far...
And that’s how eight Qatari cats ended up in the French Pyrenees. Number nine, the last one, is a local kitten that came to their doorstep and never left. He turned out to be a perfect addition to the Gulf Arabs as he had a soothing effect on Horace, initially the ‘enfant terrible’ after their arrival from Doha. During my stay she only startled me once by using my shoulder as an intermediate station between the top of the fridge and the kitchen table. Her owner Jari told me he lost at least five shirts due to her past outbursts. Those days were now over, and times were much cheaper now. Horace had only vice left: an obsession with the top floor of the house. It had been declared a much-needed cat free zone, to accommodate guests with allergies or dislikes for cats. Often Horace would be lurking for an opportunity to get to that forbidden place. As soon as the door would open, she’d run for it. Sometimes even faster than the speed of light, in which case I would find out only later that she’d done it again! Once upstairs she had no intention to leave anytime soon. She’d potter about for a bit, in spite of realising I wasn’t going to let her enjoy her victory for too long. Her favourite hiding place was one of the big armchairs. Luckily it was not too hard to tilt them and catch the little tiger from underneath. One of these moments that I had won.. for now.
This is the second time I’m cat sitting Ron. The first time was about a year ago, only for a weekend. This time around his owners are travelling for two weeks. Initially, I get to see the same cat as back then. Or better said: no cat. He’s softly meowing behind the door when I put the key in the lock, but is disappeared before I enter. Usually I find him staring at me from underneath the dinner table with startled eyes. He doesn’t seem to trust the situation at all. It’s quiet clear Ron is no friend to all people, but he gets all the time he needs from me to get to know me properly. He doesn’t seem very interested though. Eventually, it does take some time before I get to see a whole different kitty. This new cat doesn’t only meow loud and clear as soon as I open the front door, he also waits for me to greet me. He meows, purrs and asks for attention. The largest part of the time spent at the house, he stays right next to me. At first, next to me on the couch, later on increasingly and for longer periods on my lap.
Ron is a gorgeous cat, without a shadow of a doubt. His beautiful fur needs daily brushing; he seems to merely endure it. Along the way, I learn how to brush him in a manner that is as pleasant as possible for him: by detangling the knots without pulling them too hard. As soon as I’ve mastered that trick, he clearly enjoys the treatment! The chest goes down and the rear goes up! In the end, I’m fed up with the brushings long before he is.
Bike in hand, I am ready to leave to run errands. After opening and closing the gate again, I’ll be off. Until my eyes catch Loesje’s. She’s standing on the roof of the house extension and gazes at me penetratingly. I know what she wants, so I give her an encouraging smile and talk gently to her. “Come on girl, you can do it! You got on that roof so you should be able to get back down again. I’ll give you a treat when I return!” And with those words I take off, not looking back once as I actually have a very soft heart. Especially for gorgeous black and whites with transparent whiskers that glint in the autumn sun. Loesje’s owner says that she’s a princess. “She wants you to go up to the first floor and open the balcony doors, so that she doesn’t have to jump down. She’s such a drama queen!” I do think of Loesje on the roof while running my errands.
Upon return, Loesje’s still there, on the extension roof and it seems to me she’s shooting reproachful glances at me…
Later, much later, I get notice Loesje’s developed arthrosys…