Love perseveres

There was a time I was absolutely convinced Loca disliked me. He demonstrated it through almost everything; not just through what he did, but also through what he didn’t. Initially, he displayed some curiosity for this new sitter. He sniffed at my hand, but then continued his way with a disdainful look on his face. It made me feel weighed and found wanting… Cats with no interest in lap sitting was not a novelty to me, but no fuss at all? That never happened to me before Loca!

The second time around, for a month-long sit, I was adamant to steal his heart. With the exception of daily playing and brushing, I had no pre-defined plan. A lot of love for cats and perseverance, that was all I had.  

The daily brushing went fine from day one. As soon as I started to work at Loca’s thick fur, he immediately began to writhe with delight. Sometimes his rear went up and he would always be purring to his heart’s content. Within days, I assumed I had succeeded and won him over. Wrong!
On the third day of the sit I came home around midnight. As I had an early start that next morning, I was looking forward to a nice warm bed. As soon as the light in the bedroom went on, I spotted what was wrong. There it was, a big turd on the duvet… Luckily there was an extra sheet against the cat hairs placed on top. It was only a matter of getting rid of the turd and throwing the cover in the washing machine. 

It did provide me with some extra concern: what does this cat miss? The answer evidently being: his owner. And to be fair: I wasn’t sure what else I could do to steal his heart. I ended up doing the only thing I could think of: to persist. I kept on brushing him every day. Now this was an easy success, as the treatment was greeted every single day with the same amount of enthusiasm! The playing didn’t really get off the ground, but as the sit progressed, the cats started to move more of their own accord. Perhaps they just needed to get used to me as well?

Loca and his new favourite toy

Finally, I did it! There is no real proof to back this, but I am convinced I owe it all to a present I got for Loca and his friend Izzy. It was a bull’s eye, even though it was no more than a patch of hare fur with a couple of pheasant feathers attached to it and some valerian inside. At the end of the sit, about a month later, both cats were still rolling around enthusiastically with it. And over time, I noticed Loca started to come around. He looked at me with an open expression, I was now allowed to stroke him and he saw no objections in settling down at my feet in the evening. The biggest proof of all was, that at night I started waking up from a heavy weight on top of my feet: Loca’s. 

It is true after all: love persists. Love for cats isn’t any different in that. 

Bed time

Izzy is an elegant beauty, who’s often coming across as a bit skittish. At the very first acquaintance, she had hidden underneath her owners’ duvet. After having had to deal with the hoover, and then the doorbell that announced my arrival, she had decided that enough is enough! 
It took her a while to open up to me on the first sit: I was allowed to stroke her once or twice but no more than that. Izzy is not a lap cat. Sitting on the couch together was as far as it went. 
Fast-forward one year, and I’m looking after Izzy and housemate Loca again. Much has changed for the better! Both cats are much more accessible, each in their own way. Izzy is still a bit of a scaredy cat. When I open the front door upon arrival, I often look straight into her startled eyes. Then she speeds off like a bat out of hell, usually in the direction of the bedroom, which is an excellent place to hide! As soon as I enter the apartment, I always greet both cats by calling their names and checking up on them. I mostly find Izzy staring at me from behind the bed, table or couch. The first thing I see, are her cute white, pointy ears. She’s a quiet little feline, you could actually forget about her presence at all…

Izzy settling in for the night

Until late in the evening! Usually she sleeps for the largest part of the day in one of her favourite spots: in a corner of the couch or at the foot end of the bed. But as soon as I get up late at night with the purpose of going to bed, it starts: Izzy is getting wild! She jumps up and starts to shoot across the flat like a rocket, meowing all the while. It seems as if she knows it’s sleeping time. When I enter the bedroom having prepared for the night I find her there, as if waiting for me. To reassure her, I speak to her in an encouraging tone of voice: “Hey girl, time for some shut-eye, right? Why don’t you get comfortable, I’ll be right with you!”
She only responds to my suggestion by doing the exact opposite. She runs back and forth across the duvet, routinely avoiding my hand when I try to stroke her. Reading a bit before turning off the light is not easy to accomplish: as soon as I’ve settled down, she starts to literally walk all over me. It feels a bit confusing, because it comes across as if she actually wants to sit on my lap. Which never happens…
Upon her owners’ advice, I try to play with her for a bit to see if that calms her down. They use a long piece of lace to entertain her with, but it looks as if she doesn’t even see it! Luckily, I found out quickly how to get Izzy to settle down: by setting the example. Whenever I just turn out the light and lie down, it won’t take her long to do the same. In the dark I can see her stare at me for a little bit, or even walk past my face once or twice, as if she’s checking if I’m going to sleep for real. Then she disappears to her own corner of the bed. 

Delilah

From the movie Bohemian Rhapsody I mostly learned that Freddie Mercury and I have something in common: a big love for all cats. The song Delilah, named after his favourite, may not be the most brilliant created by Queen, as a cat enthusiast I cannot but like the lyrics to this song. It doesn’t matter what the feline does, we will love her no matter what. The fact that the member of what I consider to be the best band ever meow in unison toward the end of the song is definitely an added bonus!

Whomever watched Bohemian Rhapsody, knows the discussion the band members had about contribution of songs for their albums. It should therefore not be surprise to find the following dialogue between the guys among the reactions under the video:
Freddie: Hey guys I wrote a song about my cat. Can we put it on the album?
Roger: No
Brian: Says the man who wrote a song called I’m In Love With My Car.
John: Let the man have his song about his damn cat, Roger.

And so he did.

Is enough ever enough?

Anyone who’s got a soft spot for cats, is quite vulnerable in an environment with a lot of street cats present. On the one hand, it can bring about beautiful pictures, but whomever is looking further than the end of his own nose, there is also a flip side to the coin: hunger and disease among the animals. 
During a cat sit on Buyukada, a five square kilometer island in the Marmara Sea, (close to Istanbul) I witnessed this every single day. Traditionally, the island is a refuge for wealthy Istanbulites during hot summers. These days, it’s filled to the brim with day-trippers, mostly Turks and Gulf Arabs. During my stay they were riding around the island on bikes decorated with flowers, or horse carriages called ‘fayton’. The latter have meanwhile been abolished and replaced with an electronica variety. The phenomenon had been criticized for the longest while due to the allover bad condition of the horses, but was no longer tenable after an outbreak of the horse plague.

The Front Garden Posse at feeding time

However, with the exception of the odd little bully in the making, I mostly witnessed empathy. One of the images that stuck with me, is that of a girl sitting on a wall drinking from a bottle of water. As soon as she incidentally made eye-contact with a cat sitting next to her, she started pouring water into the cap. There were signs of compassion everywhere: in most streets there were bowls of food and water to be found. Host Tugba did her rounds on the island on a daily basis. She knew exactly where all the cats lived, and gave every single one of them a portion. Occasionally we were kindly asked not to feed the cats: they were already taken care of. Obviously, she also fed the cats living in her garden: I renamed them the Front and Back Garden Posse. Around feeding time, things could get quite heated, as twice a day the inhabitants made a ravenous impression! 
Driven by compassion, Tugba ended up with nine house cats. She had moved to the island with only two. Taking care of her household was quite easy during summer, as the cats lived mostly outside. I can only imagine the amount of work all cats using the litter and sleeping on the furniture all day long brings about! There’s no surprise that the last cat was named ‘Yeter’, the Turkish word for ‘enough’. If she’s succeeding in sticking to her intention, only the future can tell. 

Who can ever have enough of this?

The love has grown

Cooper was an only cat for a while, but in the end his owner decided she wanted to have a kitten as well. He was after all not a very affectionate cat. He would never sit on your lap and after having sniffed your hand twice he’d be gone with the wind. So, little Morris came along and that was a hard pill to swallow for him!
Once in sudden there was this tiny, orange thing that everybody loved. The cutest thing since sliced bread and he did everything Cooper wouldn’t do: sit on your lap, play and cuddle. And for some reason I felt sorry for Cooper. Cats can have valid reasons to be what they are without being able to help it. Perhaps he was even a bit jealous; as he was not always very kind with the little one…
Cats can definitely feel emotions. They generally have to do with feeling threatened in being catered in the basic needs. Will I get enough food? Shall I be able to lie in my favorite spot? Scientists are however doubting if cats can experience emotions such as jealousy. 

Meanwhile, we’re a year down the line and little Morris has grown up. Both cats have gotten accustomed to one another. That little one has definitely brought life to the party, that much is clear. Every now and again he’s kicking his roommate around the block, either the easy way or the hard way.

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But the love… has grown.

The cat who meowed at night

Sylvester is the cat with the loudest meow I’ve ever heard. Not surprising, as he’s deaf after all. At the first acquaintance I notice straight away he’s not a very social cat. As I usually do, I kneel down right next to him and stick out my hand cautiously. Owner Jari warns me, for Sylvester is known to lash out unexpectedly at occasions. Being careful as I usually am, I do not expect it to happen to me, but it does! Distracted by owner Elena, I get a warning swipe of the paw on my hand. Not painful, yet venomous: a clear warning. It’s not clear to me what for, especially as he looks as if nothing particular has happened. 

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Sylvester notices me!


A week is a relatively short time for a sit, with which I mean that this is generally not long enough to bond with a cat. Due to his deafness, he often wouldn’t even notice my arrival at the house. Also, the sound of cat biscuits clattering into a metal bowl went unheard. It caused for me to feel obliged to clearly demonstrate him I was preparing his diner! Another possibility was, that he wasn’t that interested in food. In spite of being on a diet – I was asked to feed him measured amounts of biscuits, no wet food – he never seemed hungry when his meal was put in front of him. 

However, the only moment that he explicitly asked for my attention was in the dead of night! His owners had forewarned me, but only in a noiseless world I noticed how loud Sylvester’s meow was! To prevent him from feeling lonely, I kept the bedroom door open. 
Another reason could be boredom: because of his deafness, under no circumstances Sylvester was allowed to go outside. The only exception being to lure him in his bench, so he could spend some time in the garden in his mini prison. I never succeeded in doing so. What owner Jari pointed out to me, was that he would sometimes sniff at the narrow gap at the bottom of the door. As if he was smelling freedom behind it!

Much later on, I thought of another reason for the nightly noisiness: hunger. Sleeping on an empty stomach is one of the hardest things to do.

Life is a game!

The cats I sit are often a little older. It makes the job a relaxed affair: they’re mostly contented with food, drink and a warm spot to sit. This wasn’t enough for Rumela; she was one of the few cats the least interested in food. What she wanted, was to play, very often and then a bit more! It quite fits the picture of a eight months old kitten, but not long after the start of the sit I noticed it was also in my own interest. Born on the street, she was an inside cat due to circumstances. She still had tons of energy and the playing was also necessary to make sure I’d get a good night sleep!

Playing hide-and-seek.

Her owner warned me upfront this was part of Rumela’s evening program and during the first night I understood why. In the dead of night, the rummaging started: she balanced on the head board, inspected everything I put on the cabinet whilst pushing random items on the floor, jumped on the bed with her full weight and a few times she went as far as to flick my face with her paw. Her favourite toy, a rod with a little fish attached to it – according to her owner it was filled with cat nip – had been subtly put next to me on the bed.

From that moment on, the evenings were dedicated to playing with Rumela, who clearly enjoyed the attention. In all honesty, so did I. Swinging back and forth of the little fish on the rod led to the highest jumps I ever saw a cat make. She would fetch a simple hair tie thrown across the room for me. Sometimes I wondered if she was a puppy in a kitten’s body! 
After a couple of days, I started to feel a little bit bored: that rod again! So, I took it upon me to read about playing with cats, an easy job with all the information to be found on the internet. All the more because I regularly look after cats that don’t seem to be keen to play at all. I quickly learned that play for cats is a matter of habit: a little bit of action at the same time every day is a first step. 
It caused for me to look at playing with cats from a different perspective and to put a bit more fantasy into it. Rumela sure did appreciate; it turned out she found hide-and-seek games fantastic. After I put her beloved rod under the carpet, it didn’t take her long to find out something was hidden there. But what was it? And how to get it from underneath? It led to a game full of exploration and catching. After getting her prey she came to me with the little fish in her mouth and offered it to me.

Again!!

Subsequently, the game would start again.

He loves me, he loves me not

If Loca loves me or not is unclear to me!
He sure isn’t shy, at the first acquaintance he sniffed my hand without reservations, only to walk on, taking his sweet time. His attitude was exactly the opposite of housemate Izzy’s. Upon my arrival, she had already hidden under her owners’ duvet, startled by the awful sound of the doorbell ringing. In spite of showing herself once or twice before, she wouldn’t come near to me within the first couple of days of the sit. After that, she turned out to be one of the cuddliest cats since ages! 

Loca would never ask for attention, although his owners claimed he was at least as big a cuddle bug as Izzy! Except for the early morning, when he knew he’d be getting his wet food. Initially, I was woken up by his shrill meowing right next to my ear at the crack of dawn, which caused me to keep the bedroom door closed after that experience. But as soon as I opened the door, I was getting the warmest welcome of the day. 
Seldom did I hear a cat purr as loudly as Loca! The sound continued as I scooped the ‘soups’ they were served for breakfast into their bowls. It only stopped after he had eaten the last bit of the mixture. I have no evidence of this, as I left the cats alone while they ate, but I suspect he also ate what his girlfriend Izzy left in her bowl.

After breakfast however, the love was gone, up until the end of the day: at diner time it was back again! Unfortunately, it seemed as if he didn’t care for me that much. Outside of feeding hours, he didn’t even seem to be able to stand my presence! 
He never asked for attention. Stroking him twice was a record! His fur felt rough under my fingers, as if he wanted to discourage the mere thought of stroking him. And sometimes, he would even jump up as if stung by a bee! He’d leave me behind, granting me nothing but a scornful look!


I should have known better: what the cat doesn’t want, he doesn’t want. Love cannot be forced!