Just the four of us

The more cats, the merrier! It may bring along some extra cleaning work, but it’s all worth it. Few things give me more joy than to witness how the different personalities come into its own when contrasted with others. In spite of cats being solitary creatures, for me a ‘cat family’ is like the cast of a play I can watch forever! Come to think of it, one of the things I definitely want to do in this lifetime, is volunteer in a cat colony… 

So, each time I have the opportunity to look after more than two cats at once, my heart beats a little bit faster.  Toga, Cheetara and Vitorio are Brazilian cats, who moved to the Netherlands with their owners. Entering their home is like entering the home of a cat family: baskets and pillows everywhere for the cats to linger on. On the window sill and on chairs as well as on top of cupboard from where they can overlook the whole space. But also places where they can withdraw if need be. 
Upon arrival, Vitorio watches me with curiosity from his viewpoint. In an instant I have made a new friend. He enthusiastically smells me hand en demands fuss by pushing his head against it. 
Unexpectedly, making a connection with Toga takes place rather effortlessly. He is an elderly gentleman, walking quite stiffly and looking at me with a grumpy expression on his face. Nevertheless, when I am quietly sitting on the sofa in the evening with my new pal Vitorio on my lap, he approaches as well to check out what’s going on. It seems like he would have liked to sit on my lap, but that spot is already taken! Instead, he takes place right next to me: on the armrest of the sofa. My cat lady heart is beating happily!

In good company: with Vitorio and Toga

Cheetara is a whole different story. Owner Louise has told me straight away she’s extremely shy and that it normally takes days before she even shows herself when confronted with the presence of new people. This is only a four day sit, so I’m not counting on anything. Cheetara’s domain is her owners atelier on the top floor of the house. This I know, because I asked her owner anxiously where she could be: after a full day I hadn’t seen her at all! The attic has plenty of nooks and crannies to hide indeed. When I decide to spend the evening there reading, I I take her bowl filled with wet food with me. I place it so that I can’t see it from the sofa but I can definitely here her munching away! Not much later I get up, to notice it hasn’t been cleared out thoroughly! 
At the last evening it happens. While I am sitting in the living room, a flash goes by: it’s Cheetara, apparently searching for a yummy snack. As soon as I move however, she’s gone: out of the room and up the stairs. I check the bowls, but there are plenty of biscuits in there so I decide it’s best to keep quiet. She does come back and starts to communicate with me while pacing up and down. She keeps a close watch on me and doesn’t stop meowing. Unsure what it is she wants, I just talk back to her, in a calm and pleasant tone of voice. 
It doesn’t take much longer for her to jump next to me, on the sofa. Cautiously she sniffs my outstretched hand, but doesn’t come close enough for me to be able to stroke her. At least, not right away! After a short game of a approach and withdraw she allows me to touch her… and enjoys it. In the end, I go to bed much later than intended, as Cheetara stays next to me for a considerable amount of time, enjoying some fuss. 

Cheetara’s surrender

Her owner is impressed when I send her the picture: “That is really fast! You must be a cat whisperer!” 
In all honesty: that’s something I’ve always wanted to be! 

New Year’s Eve

“Please make sure Penny is inside by ten; if she is still out at midnight she might run away in panic when the fireworks erupt!” What her owner had not taken into account, was that the local youngster had decided that seven was a much more suitable timing to start with their annual hobby. Perhaps I could have predicted this, considering the ban on fireworks at the end of 2020: you set it off while you can. 

Only where is Penny at this point in time? Straight away I started looking for her at her usual spots. The small basket in the bathroom next to the radiator was empty. She is not on the master bed either, half hidden behind a pillow, nor on the desk chair in the study. So, I put my shoes on, wrapped a warm shawl around my neck against the cold to look for her outside. Thanks to the garden lightning I could straight away see she was not there. The alley behind the block was a different matter; it was pitch dark. With the aid of the flashlight on my mobile phone I was able to look around me. I called her name a few times. There was absolutely nothing and no one to see, not even a cat. About two streets away, the blasting of fireworks started again. Where could Penny be?

Favourite spot

It reminded me of a friend’s cat, who turned out to be extremely popular when his owner joined the neighbourhood app-group.  He was known, among others, as “the best tomcat ever”. Only Penny was not the amical type. Nevertheless friendly, but also reserved. Not for a second I could imagine she would be celebrating New Year at the neighbours! 

Feeling quite concerned, I went back inside the house. I intended to let go. Penny would surely return if things remained quiet, or if she got hungry. Or so I hoped. Oftentimes, when I was busy in the kitchen she would come and keep me company, in the hope she would get a treat. She would swirl around my feet, rubbing her little head against my ankles. 
So I busied myself tidying up and cleaning the countertop. But she didn’t come home and I couldn’t let go of a sense of restlessness. I had to do something, so I put my shoes back on and wrapped my shawl around my neck again and stepped outside. 
Still no motion in the garden and no one or nothing to be seen in the alley behind it. Unsure where else I could look, I walked up and down a few times, shining my flashlight in all directions. My heart skipped a beat when I suddenly spotted her, sitting on the wall, hidden between branches. When I talked to her in a smoothing tone, she remained motionless. “Frozen by fear,” I thought. Time for action; in the not-so-far distance the blasting continued. Gently, I picked her up and held her against me, surprised she did not resist. Instead of scratching and running away, she allowed me to carry her inside the house. Once inside, she fled into the windowless hall next to the lavatory. My heart sank as I watched her crawl across the floor, her body as close to the ground as possible. Just to be on the safe side, I locked her cat flap. Inside was best, for the night. 

One hour later, she still sat crouched on the very same spot, but later that evening I couldn’t find her again! Reassured by the knowledge she was at least inside the house this time, I went on a quest. After a while, I found her hidden in the narrow space behind the printer table in the study; an almost enclosed room. After that I left her alone, giving her time and space to recuperate.  

Getting up at night for a drink of water, I run into her. By then, tranquillity has returned in town.