Magic (aged two years) is the most adventurous of our cats, sometimes to be found roaming far from home up on the mountain behind our house. She is also the only serious hunter in our feline family, being capable of catching large rats despite her delicate build. Magic’s small size is perhaps the legacy of a difficult start in life; she was brought into Auckland SPCA as a kitten, having been found cold and starving under a hedge beside her dead litter mates, and soon afterwards she became sick with cat flu and an eye infection. But she survived these traumas and has grown into a strong and healthy cat, with a ravenous appetite and a passion for raw chicken necks.
Every cat is unique in appearance, personality and behaviour. Our black and white Magic is addicted to raw chicken necks; Leo the tabby likes to relax in the letterbox; and tortoiseshell Daisy is interested in music. My attempts to practice the piano are often interrupted when she jumps up on the keys and plays a loud accompaniment. Here is a short video of Daisy’s latest composition.
Daisy may not be so skilled as the famous American piano cat called Nora but then, like me, she only started learning to play in later life.
P.S. A reminder that my short novel Blue Moon for Bombers is free from Smashwords until the end of November. To download a copy click here.
The adventures of the white-and-black cat described in my recent post Homer’s story still continue.
After my mother died Homer never gave up his attachment to her house, and although he did move in with us part-time, he started visiting the young couple who were renting next door to my mother. They became very fond of him, and when they bought a house of their own in Bayswater we agreed to a trial adoption.
We had Homer microchipped in case he went wandering again, although considering that six years had passed since he made his repeated journeys from Bayswater to Devonport, we hoped he would have outgrown his wanderlust.
I visited Homer and his new owners every week and we did everything we could to help him settle into his new home. All went well for a month, but on the first night after a cat door was fitted, he exited through it and turned up in Devonport – over 3 km away – next morning. After some tearful discussions we agreed that Homer had should be allowed to stay in the area he loves so much.
Fortunately, the new couple who are renting next door have also become fond of Homer, and are giving him food. He still likes to spend time around my mother’s vacant house, lying on the doormat as illustrated below. Last week he became obviously distressed when her furniture was being cleared out. But the new owners move in next week and I understand they are cat-lovers too, so I hope Homer will get on well with their two kittens, and that having meals available from three different houses won’t make him get too fat.
Nine months have passed since the last time I walked on Takapuna beach with my mother and Khymer. After both of them died I had good intentions of continuing the regular walks, in their memory, and for the health benefits of “earthing” barefoot on the sand. It wasn’t so much fun on my own and I soon gave up doing it.
But now Khymer’s family have a new puppy. Bonnie is a rescue dog, pedigree unknown, though pointer is certainly part of the mix. She is affectionate and intelligent and already, at about five months old, has learned to obey several commands.
Accompanied by our niece Libby, I walked Bonnie for the first time today. She enjoyed chasing seagulls, retrieving her ball, playing with other dogs and splashing about in the waves. No dog can replace Khymer, but the circle of life continues and the bond with Bonnie will grow. I hope to be walking her for many years to come.
We have a fourth cat now, a companion for Magic, Leo and Daisy.
Some years ago a large white and black cat started making occasional visits to our garden, wailing like a lost soul. He was frightened and hungry, and after devouring any food I put out for him he would disappear over the fence and not come back for several days.
His distinctively marked tail, black with a white tip, helped neighbours and the local vet to identify him. Apparently he had been born and brought up in the street next to ours. When his owners moved to another suburb about 3 km away he did not settle, and made his own way back along busy roads to his original home.
I contacted his owners, who were pleased to take him back. They kept him indoors for three weeks. But as soon as he was released, he came back here. This scenario was repeated a number of times until I offered to adopt him and they agreed. I renamed him Homer.
Homer stayed at our house for a while, but still did not seem entirely happy. Then one day he followed us on a visit to my mother who lived nearby. He immediately curled up on her sofa and went to sleep. My mother did not particularly want a cat, but Homer refused to leave, and before long she became very fond of him.
So did Leo, a later adoptee, who loved going to visit Homer and seemed to regard him as a role model.
All was well until last year, when my mother went into hospital and eventually died there. Homer was distraught. He had to come back to our house for food, but was reluctant to stay, and could often be heard wailing outside at night. Three days before my mother’s funeral he went missing. After the service I went to check her house and found him lying semi-conscious on the doorstep with a swollen neck. I took him straight to the vet, and next day he underwent surgery for a large abscess.
Since recovering from that operation, Homer has at last become content to be part of our household. He gets on well with all the other three cats. He even jumps up on my lap to be cuddled now and then, and enjoys sleeping on flower pots.
I had forgotten that today, 1st September, was the estimated date of birth of the two kittens I fostered last year. Here is a picture of them at about nine weeks old; the dark mackerel tabby is Marco (male), and Polo (female) is the tabby and white.
It was a lovely surprise this morning to receive birthday messages and photos from both their respective “forever homes”. I had been overwhelmed with applications to adopt them as soon as their details went up on the Lonely Miaow website, and it was up to me to select the most suitable ones – a big responsibility. Fortunately I chose well, for they quickly settled in with their new families and are greatly loved.
Fostering has both ups and downs. It was a lot of work looking after the two lively little kittens and they caused a fair amount of damage around the house. But we became very fond of them and could hardly bear to see them go. Fortunately I was able to keep in touch and visit them both now and then.
While kittens usually enjoy playing together, many adult cats shun the company of their own kind. Our Daisy, now aged about 13, does not like other cats at all. Although Felix was already well established in our household before Daisy arrived, she always resented his presence, and the two of them never became friends during all the years they lived together. Daisy prefers having contact with humans. She also enjoys lying on her back in the sun.
When I adopted Magic as a tiny rescue kitten, I had vague hopes that Daisy’s maternal instincts would be revived – after all, when Daisy first came to us, she had three tiny kittens of her own and was a most devoted mother. However, I was prepared for the likelihood that she would not welcome a new arrival, and this proved to be the case. I carefully followed the advice from SPCA Auckland about introducing a new cat – but with limited success. For several months, Daisy growled and spit whenever she saw Magic, and sometimes hit out in attack though never seriously hurt her. Daisy was equally hostile to Leo when he joined our household. This hostility continued as the kittens grew bigger. Fortunately neither of them seemed to mind it very much.
Last month I went to England on holiday (and took in a Thames cruise in aid of International Cat Care). All our three cats went into a boarding establishment while I was away – Magic and Leo were in shared accommodation but I invested in a private unit for Daisy. When I came to pick them up, the staff commented that Daisy had been an absolute delight. She had obviously relished the time in her own space with a view over the fields. And since they came back home, relations have been much more cordial. All three will now eat side by side, and even choose to sleep on (or in) the same bed.
Update January 2017
Daisy and Leo are now the best of friends as you can see.
“What breed is he?” People often asked when they saw Khymer out with my mother and me on Takapuna beach. Suggestions included blue heeler, collie, German Shepherd, Staffordshire terrier, and even Dutch barge dog. But we never knew the details of his ancestry, exactly how old he was, or how he got his name. A member of our New Zealand family had rescued him from an abusive situation when he was young. He grew up into a fine dog; friendly, strong and handsome.
I had the privilege of walking Khymer almost every week since I met him nine years ago. He loved these walks, whatever the weather. He would bark at the top of his voice when I arrived to pick him up, pull me along the road at top speed until we got to the beach, then bark again until I started throwing the ball for him to retrieve. His favourite trick was swimming out to sea, dropping the ball, and waiting for me to wade in waist-deep and get it, so I had to wear special clothing when going out with Khymer.
We had many adventures in our early years together, but he gradually became more sedate. His eyesight and hearing were not so good, and he developed arthritis. He stopped swimming in the sea. But he loved his walks as much as always, even up to last week when I had to bring him home early because he seemed so tired. As if suspecting what was to come, I took a photo of him before I left.
A few days later I got the message – he had been bleeding from the bowel, was weak and in pain, and the decision to euthanise him that morning had been made. Given his age – at least sixteen, maybe more – everyone agreed that it would be pointless and unkind to do anything else. I arrived at the house just in time to join the tearful family gathered round his bed. When he saw me he barked and wagged his tail. I did not go with him to the vet, but have been told that his last minutes were very peaceful. Though thankful that his suffering is over, I shall miss our weekly walks so much. This is how I will remember Khymer:
This is Magic looking wary and subdued after being rescued from 48 hours’ imprisonment in a neighbour’s basement.
And here is “little Leo” pictured three months ago as a new rescue foster kitten. He disappeared for several hours on his second day here, prompting a frantic search of the house and neighbourhood until he was found still in his own room – hiding up the chimney.
Magic and Leo both went outside last Saturday evening. When I called them back at bedtime, Leo came in but Magic did not. I lay awake most of the night, listening for any sound of her presence, and getting up several times to look around the garden and the street without success. There followed two days of intensive searching. Although I did not have the same intuitive feeling which told me that Felix had died, after a second night had passed I had to face the fact that I might never see her again or know what had happened. Many friends and neighbours gave practical help and sent messages of support. And then came a phone call telling me she had been found locked up in the basement of a nearby house! She is now safely home – very hungry, in good shape physically, but emotionally less confident and more clingy than before. Leo was delighted to see her.
I think I did most of the right things, but I’ve now drawn up a checklist for what to do if a cat goes missing:
1. Be prepared in advance. Have your cat microchipped (yes, I’d done that) – consider a collar with a name tag (I’m thinking about that one) – take a series of photos of her from different angles, and update them as she grows up (this is very important, but I realised I had not taken any recent photos of Magic on her own since she was a young kitten).
2. Check your own property thoroughly, both inside and out – cats can easily get shut into cupboards or outbuildings – and check surrounding streets.
3. Contact your immediate neighbours to ask if the cat is trapped somewhere on their property – this is a very common scenario, as in Magic’s case.
4. Make up a flyer which includes the best photo, your address and phone number, a description of the cat and the date she was lost. Display copies outside your own house and in nearby streets, and at your local veterinary clinic, and consider a mailbox drop.
5. Alert all your other neighbours by text or email, including the photo, or calling at their houses. Ask them to look in their garages or sheds.
6. Post an online appeal: Facebook, local animal registers (here in New Zealand Petsonthenet), neighbourhood websites.
7. Phone local agencies: SPCA, Animal Control, veterinary clinics.
8. Worry won’t help so do your best to keep calm and look after yourself. Visualise your cat being well looked after somewhere and coming back home in good shape.
9. If and when your cat returns or you discover what has happened to her, remember to take down the flyers, inform all the above agencies and individuals what the outcome has been, and thank the people who have helped in the search.