Teenage Travesties

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Teenage selfie!Recently an email unexpectedly landed with a thud in my inbox. The title made me raise an eyebrow: “Having tricky times now that Gloria is a teenager?

Tricky times? Seriously? Has the sender been secretly watching me through my front room window? Or maybe they’ve been reading this blog…Angel wings

The email merrily continued with the heading “Keeping your kitten in line“. Ha. Ha. Ha. Are you kidding me? Clearly these people have never met Gloria Chufflepuff. I have more success in keeping my 3 boys in line than I do this rambunctious explosion of fluff. Don’t let those ‘angel wing’ markings on her back fool you.

An endless supply of dental floss for GloriaShe may have a few bad habits…” You don’t say!  Are we talking about swinging from curtains, toppling scratching posts and pulling towels from rails to throw around the room? Or maybe partying in the litter tray at all hours of the night. Do we also include sitting in front of the television screen so that nobody can watch it? Half-eaten remains...with cat teeth marksOr eating freshly baked goods meant for a cake sale at school? Hmmm. What about wearing the standard lampshade as a hat and using the tassels as dental floss? Riiight.

Does she ignore you, hide or clash with other pets?” Tick, tick and, oh yes, tick. Although it’s not so much ignoring you as answering back. You see, Gloria just loves to have the last word, no matter what the debate. She is particularly gobby, albeit in a cute, cuddly way of course.
Not the best camouflage gear, but a great colour match for the eyes...Hiding? Are we talking about trying to camouflage herself by sitting in the recycling bin with a baked bean can wrapper on her head? That’s just one way to try and ambush an unsuspecting human. (There are many more, believe me…) I think the picture says it all, eh?
Clashing with other pets: maybe we should just head down to the chicken coop to answer that one. Or read my last blog post here:  Friend Not Food!

AttitudeMake the Rules” read the next heading. Oh do come on! Really? “Now is the time to nip any behavioural problems in the bud…” continued the email. I smiled in a self-satisfied way. You see, some progress has been made in this department.
Popping balloons and gagging on the soggy remains = tie balloons up high out of the reach of pole-vaulting cats.
Eating flowers and poisoning herself =  keep your house boring and drab by refusing all offers of cut flowers and house plants.
Turning on kitchen taps = turn off water supply to house. Oh no. Wait. That won’t do. Remove taps? No. Redesign kitchen? No! Oh.
Repeatedly trapping herself in bathroom at night = remove bathroom door. No! *sigh*
OK so maybe we haven’t made much progress on that either.

Let’s go back to the email. Next heading: “Manipulative Moggies“. Ah. Right. “Do you feel controlled by your cat?” Now you’re talking. I mean, how do you deal with a cat who sits in the middle of the kitchen floor shouting, “HAM!” each time you make a sandwich? The advice is usually to ignore such behaviour, yet how can you ignore an elite fluffy ninja who can give an ankle a friendly nip, climb up human legs using claws alone or somersault onto the kitchen worktop at lightning speed? Controlled by our cat? Tick.

The TeenagerSo there you have it. All boxes ticked on the email. Yes, we have definitely hit Gloria’s teenage years.

The action plan?

Absolutely nothing.

Hunting

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I spy...

I spy…

I spy a FLY!

I spy a FLY!

I’m on a fly hunt.
I’m going to catch this one.
I’ll prance and I’ll pounce,
I’ll frisk and I’ll flounce.
Trill, trill, chirrup, chirrup.
‘Till it flutters and soars
and I fall on the floor.

Oh Gloria.

I spy a SQUIRREL!

I spy a SQUIRREL!

I’m on a squirrel hunt.
I’m going to catch this one.
With it’s big, bushy tail
I really can’t fail.
Trill, trill, chirrup, chirrup.
So I cavort on the floor
then head butt the door.

Oh Gloria.

I spy a CHICKEN!

I spy a CHICKEN!

I’m on a chicken hunt.
I’m going to catch this one.
I’ll stalk her and seek her,
like ‘follow my leader’.
Trill, trill, chirrup, chirrup.

Follow my leader

Follow my leader

‘Till she squawks in my face
and puts me in my place.

Gloooorrrriiiiaaaaa!!!

All this hunting is hard work...

All this hunting is hard work…

New Discoveries

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Tufty Toes!The life of a kitten is a busy one. There is always something new to learn, something dangerously exciting to discover. Not to mention the concentration involved in growing a fabulously fluffy undercarriage and tremendously tufty toes. Yes, it’s been a busy few weeks for Gloria Chufflepuff. Here are some highlights:

Kitchen floors are ridiculously good fun.
It is possible to power slide in circles on a wooden floor and, with a little practice, you can even avoid smashing head first into the kitchen bin.

Did someone just touch my food bowl?Balloons are one of the best toys ever invented.
If you wallop them hard enough, they bounce all along the furniture. You can then hurtle off in hot pursuit, using your razor sharp claws as grappling hooks on the soft furnishings. Best of all, if you stick out your claws you can <pop> the balloon and then carry the soggy remains about in your mouth. Until your human staff member screams and wrestles it from your chops that is.

I love my feather dusterFeather dusters make splendid friends.
Even if they are bigger than you, it is still possible to transport them about the house by clamping one end in your mouth and dragging the rest along the floor between your legs. Beware the feather duster that fights back though. Whilst it seems like a soft target, it can deliver a swift kick back when you least expect it.

A puzzling puzzle...Train your human staff members.
If you want to play ‘fetch’ and there is no human around to oblige, you need to collect all the toys you can find and place them in a pile on your human’s favourite chair. The harder the toy, the better. You then need to knock over a cushion to keep the toys safe and hide them from view. The next time your human lowers themself to sit down in the chair, they will be delighted to discover your stash of carefully deposited items. So delighted in fact that they will throw each and every item all at once for you to retrieve.
Such training is vital and should be carried out on a regular basis. Humans are often slow to catch on.

"It wasnt me!"Cat furniture is never robust enough
You were in no way responsible for this cat-astrophe…and now you have nowhere to sleep. The world is going to end. Until your human staff member retrieves a hammer and some extra heavy duty fittings that is.

Delight can be short-lived.
Remember your excitement on the day you realised your tail had grown long enough to reach your mouth?
Remember how you swished your tail proudly to and fro, and each time you caught it in your mouth you chuckled away to yourself?
Remember how good it felt to have something new to play with?
Hmmm.
Then remember how you got a little too carried away and enthusiastically chomped down on it as if it was a furry kebab. OUCH!

My "coy" side - yes it says "coy" on my side.

 

Ten Differences Between a 4 month old Baby and a 4 month old Kitten

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Butter Wouldn't Melt...

Heh heh1 A baby won’t sit in the middle of your dining room table and lick its bum

2 Share your bed with a baby and it will lay next to you and coo at your face; share your bed with a kitten and it will be found having a loud party with your feet, under the duvet at the bottom of the bed

Ambush Mode3 A baby won’t hide behind the sofa and ambush unsuspecting humans as they nonchalantly amble past

4 A baby won’t take one sip of milk and then complain that the bottle is empty

Take enough photos and your kitten will learn to smile on cue5 Whilst a baby might cry when it is hungry, it won’t sit in the middle of the kitchen floor and shout, “HAM!” at the top of its voice each time you try to make a sandwich

6 A baby won’t sit directly in front of the television screen and slap the footballers on the head when ‘Match of the Day’ is playing

Feeling Hungry7 A baby might like to watch the raindrops as they meander down the window; a kitten will only watch for so long before jumping up and down on the windowsill and crash landing in your favourite plant pot

8 A baby won’t swipe a freshly baked bun off your plate

9 Place a small baby on the floor and chances are it will stay there; place a kitten on the floor and it will skedaddle in search of mischief. Or food

Never leave your kitten alone with your phone10 A baby won’t take selfies on your phone when you’re not looking

Things Gloria has discovered this week

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1 If you push hard on the side of your water bowl, it is possible to flip the bowl up, give yourself a bath and wear the bowl as a hat.

And stretch!2 The shoulder of a human is a great place upon which to sit. Unless you fall off, in which case you can just dig your acutely sharp claws into their neck and hoist yourself back up. They will be so pleased to see this milestone in your development, that they will howl with pleasure.

3 If you insist on sleeping in your poo box, your cuddle quota may be reduced alarmingly.

Guzzling Gloria4 Too small to drink from the flower vase? No problem. If you place your little chunky paws either side of the vase, it is possible to rock said vase to and fro until it topples over. You may then lap up some of the water unimpeded, and dance in the puddle afterwards. Bonus!

5 Never underestimate the importance of sharing. To keep your human busy, drop a toy at their feet. They will pick up the toy, shout “Fetch!” and throw it across the room. This means that they want the toy back – humans are a bit dense at times. If you run after the toy, pick it up in your teeth to carry it back to them and deposit it at their feet/on their lap, it will make them really happy. In fact, they will keep throwing the toy for as long as you keep bringing it back. After such a burst of activity they will then need a nap.

How to sleep when your feet have had a growth spurt

Introducing Gloria!

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Gloria!Last week we had the absolute delight of welcoming this beautiful little bundle of fluff into our family. At the tender age of 12 weeks, she bounded into our lives and completely captivated us all. Gloria's bodyart - "Yo"She has incredibly soft silver and white fur, with tasteful black accessories – classic black eyeliner, alternating black pads on her little paws and an exquisite black heart on the very end of her nose, a heart that merits a kiss each time you cuddle her. Just to add a touch more character, she also has white markings on her body, one side of which reads ‘YO’, the other which reads ‘OY’. Perfect.

The boys were given the important task of naming her… and all agreed on the name Gloria – a fitting name for a gorgeous yet very cheeky little lady. Her motto in life appears to be ‘if it moves, chase it; if it doesn’t move, eat it’.

A spot of ninja trainingShe has quickly found her place in the family as trainee fluffy ninja and chief ankle biter. Once home, she very quickly established her office HQ behind the settee in the lounge: the nerve centre for mischief and mayhem. Having appointed her two chief advisors – TB (Tinkly Ball) and FC (Finger Chicken) – she was ready for action.

Hide and seekKeen to impress, her first mission that evening was ‘hide and seek’. We searched everywhere for her, but she had clearly already been expertly trained in the art of invisibility. The major panic was over (after a very long hour!) when son no 1 managed to locate her underneath a bookcase. Yes, UNDERNEATH a bookcase, in a 3 inch gap. (Did I mention she was small??).

After a snooze underneath the bookcase, she felt ready for more action and swiftly made good friends with a conker. Oh what fun they had together, and by the end of the evening they were inseparable… until she discovered a feathered toy on a spring that desperately needed decapitating.

By the next day, Gloria decided that her new family needed some extra special attention. Cue lots of headbutting, purring and wrapping her little body round your legs whenever you tried to walk anywhere. Then her attention turned to the boys’ faces which were obviously filthy, so she took it upon herself to clean them with her little raspy tongue. In return, the boys played with her incessantly, watching with glee as she charged about the lounge and jumped on them with a high pitched <chirrup>.

The art of camouflageYou see, she hasn’t been able to leave us alone since she arrived, and of course the feeling is mutual. As I type this, she is sitting on my feet, a little pile of purring fluff. Every so often, she looks up at me and gives a plaintive <mew> a noise that breaks my heart, meaning I have to pick her up for a snuggle. She then parades about on my knee, slaps me round the face with her little tail and decides to help me with my typing. We don’t get much done. She then jumps down and leads me to her food bowl. Eating is one of her many hobbies, along with chewing inanimate objects, jumping and galloping about on the furniture. Our standard lamp will never be the same again, having had a kitten swinging from it at regular intervals.

It’s amazing how a small heap of fluffy mischief can bring such joy to a home. From the sound of the boys’ chuckles as they play with her, to her enthusiastic throaty purr, to the crash, bang, wallop as she hurtles about the house practising her kick boxing moves, it all fills me with delight. And it’s all down to our newest family member. Welcome, Gloria. Here’s to all the fun we will have together.

Sweet dreams baby girl

Murdoch

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My parents have recently adopted a cat. Not just any cat of course: no, this cat is a huge 4 year old silver blue Maine Coon boy. Never having been owned by a Maine Coon before, it’s been a bit of a steep learning curve for them.

Murdoch selfie with his new toy

They named him Murdoch, looking at his regal stance and proud lion shaped nose. One week later, and this name has been reduced to Murdy Turdy or Humperdink, depending upon his daily activities.

This is what they have learnt so far about Maine Coon ownership:

Who needs a coffee table when you have Murdoch?1 All of the furniture in the house now belongs to Murdoch, from the armchairs to the coffee table to the dining room table. If you are in the way, Murdoch will move you. As my dad told me: “Murdoch goes and sits on your mum, and moves her about until she’s in the right position for him.” You see, my mum is barely 5 foot tall and rather petite, whereas Murdoch is particularly large and most insistent. My mum can’t lift Murdoch but clearly he can pummel her into a suitable shape to fit the position in which he wants to sleep, much to my parents’ bemusement.

2 You will never have a bath alone. Ever. The day after they adopted Murdoch, my mum ran herself a bath. In her words: “As soon as I squirted the bubble bath, fluffy boy jumped straight in!” By ‘fluffy boy’ she was referring to Murdoch, not my dad. She was relieved to see that, upon her somewhat harassed cry of “OUT!”,  the cheeky feline quickly exited the bath. What she didn’t realise is that he most likely ran off to wipe his wet, fluffy trousers on her nice, pretty curtains.

"I think you'll find this is MY chair!"3 Water bowls have many uses. Murdoch looks at the water in the bowl and dips in his right paw. He then looks at his paw and shakes it vigorously. Next, his left paw is immersed in the water before being shaken, with the clear intention of redecorating the kitchen. Only once both paws are soggy and there is more water on the floor than in the bowl, will he deign to have a drink. By that time, the bowl will have been dragged across the floor to maximise the puddle factor.

4 You need to change your bathroom habits. I received the following text from my dad the other day: “We weren’t out long but when we came back home, the toilet floor was awash with water and there were big fluffy boy footprints everywhere. Need to close the toilet lid in future. Sod.

"I'm here. Love me."5 A comfort blanket might not be used as you would expect. The adoption centre insisted that Murdoch’s ‘comfort blanket’ needed to go with him to his new home. ‘That’s nice,’ thought my parents, ‘he has a soft blanket to sleep on.’ Erm, no. The day after they adopted Murdoch, my parents were having a nice civilised breakfast when along came Murdoch, one end of his blanket in his teeth, the rest trailing between his legs. What followed next certainly raised a few eyebrows. I mean, it tends to put you right off your food when your cat insists on humping away at his blanket right under your nose. It transpires that he engages in this lewd behaviour every time they sit down to eat. How unfortunate. According to my mum, “If you chuck him a toy, he does stop eventually.” Dinner and an x-rated show. Marvellous.

6 The house will never be quiet again. As a typical Maine Coon, Murdoch announces his arrival each time he enters a room. He also announces the arrival of any extra guests too, usually with a loud <miaow>, sometimes with a happy trill, occasionally with a growl: yes, he likes to growl at strangers (particularly at the poor man mending their neighbour’s roof). This rather surprised my parents, who are now wondering if they have inadvertently adopted a dog in disguise.

Whiskery kisses from Murdoch7 There will never be a love stronger than that between a Maine Coon and his staff. This beautiful big fluffy boy has stolen the hearts of my parents. They have never known a cat to saunter in, sit down, look at them with huge amber eyes and declare, “I am here. Love me.” Yet that is exactly what he did. The latest email from my dad reads: “Big fluffy boy has really settled in. He comes up to bed and snuggles up to me all night. He will probably want to read the sports section of the Times and join me in the pub. I will however, draw the line at him driving my car“. It’s good to see some boundaries being set then.

So welcome to the family, Murdoch ‘Murdy Turdy’ you big humping heap of fluff and love. And good luck to my parents who have unwittingly accepted a life filled with boisterous exploits, cheeky chuckles and fetid comfort blankets.

Time for a nap

Remembering Ethelbert, the original chuffin cat

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This post is written with the help of my boys, to mark what would have been Ethelbert’s 10th birthday. I wanted a page bursting with happy memories, for them to visit as and when they need to. She was a massive cat, in both size and in attitude. Here we remember all the fun she brought us.

Her Chuffness

We remember:

Chuffin cat on a slideThe fun she used to have on the slide in the garden. From the wriggle of her fat rump as she lay at the bottom of the slide, to the mad, scrabbling dash as she suddenly tore up to the top, her bushy tail swishing as if clearing the way behind her. She would then sit at the top, almost whistling nonchalantly, eyeing up the birds, before hurtling head first back down the slope, her rear feet skidding to a halt at the end. Whilst she was playing, nobody else got a turn: no sharing, it was her slide during that time, and all the other children had to stand and wait… and laugh.

Chuffin cat stuck up a treeThe way she could sprint up a tree at full pelt; it was amazing how she could run along the ground, reach a tree, change direction by 90 degrees and carry on running up it. She never changed speed, even when running from a horizontal position to a vertical one. Of course once up a tree, she would sit on a branch and sing. Loudly. Maybe she wanted some attention from the local firemen… perhaps I missed a trick there! For as long as you stood at the bottom of the tree, she would sing and swear at you, yet the moment you walked away she would grumble and climb down noisily, claws splintering on the bark. You would not believe the noise that can be made just by a cat extricating herself from a tree.

Sashaying up the pathThe way she would accompany us on the school run as we walked up the tow path. She never strayed far, stopping en route 4 doors down to hide in a neighbour’s fir tree. On the way home, you would be greeted by a howling tree, which if you looked closely enough, had a pair of reflective eyes deep in the foliage. With a little encouragement, and a lot of noise (see above!) she would appear at the foot of the tree and skip along in front of you, leading the way home in case you got lost on the last 50 yards or so. She insisted on being let into the house first, no doubt needing to check on the status of her food bowl which had been neglected for at least 30 minutes.

HungryThe way she loved to help cook family meals in the kitchen, singing along to your music together and tripping you up as she insisted on laying stretched out on the floor between the cooker and the sink. That’s if she wasn’t sitting up, pawing at the laminate floor, alternating from one paw to another and salivating at the aroma coming from the oven. How many times did you have to wipe up cat dribble from the floor once the food had been dished out? Hungry - action shotTalking of dishing out: the way she used to stand on her hind legs which made her tall enough to swipe food off the kitchen worktop with ruthless efficiency. The way she always preferred roast potatoes to the lovely, tender morsels of beef that you loving carved for her.

20141110-210530-75930159.jpgThe way she loved cake. Particularly bun cases, which she would kidnap from the recycling bin, take into a corner somewhere and suck noisily. Freshly baked cakes were never safe. You would place a beautifully iced cake on the table, leaving the topping to set, and when you came back you would find teeth marks around the edge, or raspy tongue marks across the top. You lost count of how many cakes were thrown out thanks to her greedy nature.

20141110-210300-75780580.jpgThe way she always drank out of your flower vases, regardless of how fresh the water was in her bowl. You would walk into the lounge and hear the <slurp> <slurp> <gulp> as she helped herself and left the flowers to wither away. All the flowers in the house had a light coating of cat fur within hours of being placed in a vase.

Sherbet fetishThe way she had a fetish for Sherbet Fountains. She would hear you opening one even if she was at the bottom of the garden. Then she would sit beside you, clawing at your leg, bullying you for a taste of sherbet. Even though it made her sneeze, she still insisted on a taste.

You expect ME to use a cat flap?The way that she hated her electronic cat flap. She would sit and head butt it repeatedly, listening to the loud beep it emitted each time the chip in her neck activated it. Yet she didn’t squeeze her portly body through it that often. No, she would sit and miaow at the patio door instead, some 3 feet away from the cat flap. Fools that we were, there was always one of us willing to let her in or out. To be honest, although the cat flap was the biggest we could find, and in theory it was of an adequate size, she always found it hard work to hoist her body through it; she would stop half way, with her head and front legs outside, leaving her back legs stretched out behind her horizontally. Then she would heave her legs through slowly as we laughed uncontrollably inside. I wish I’d videoed her now, it was just too comical.

A special relationshipThe way she would sit on the back of the settee, waiting for Son no 3 to come out of his bedroom. As he appeared, she would slap him across the back of the head with her paw. Many a time the cry would be heard, “Mum! I can’t get out of my room! The cat won’t let me!” – one of the joys of living in a bungalow. How she loved beating him up, particularly if he was sitting on the floor. She would rugby tackle him and claw up the jigsaws he so enjoyed doing when he was smaller. Whiskery kissesThey had a particularly special bond, as we adopted Ethel when Son no 3 was 6 months old. If he cried when he was a toddler, she would come up to him and place her paws either side of his face, before licking his head. She was incredibly responsive to his cry, and boy it was a loud cry! Yet she would come running, and if he didn’t calm quickly she would walk up and down beside him, miaowing loudly in concern.

Hobnobbing with Doris DooDahThe way she had a fear of the chickens (Cobweb Gladys rules the roost, and the garden!) yet she would fight off the foxes in the garden at night. It amazed us how, for such a prolific hunter, she never once tried to maul the chickens, even when they were cute, fluffy chicks.

Chuffin cat on the prowlThe way the vet always called her a ‘big girl’ and struggled to feel her tummy through her ‘fat fur’. That fur was thick and luxurious underneath, with a soft, silky coat on top. You could see her whole coat move as she bounded round the garden. When she came indoors, you almost expected her take it off and hang it on a chair.

033The way she abjectly refused to budge if she was sitting somewhere she shouldn’t have been. You would say sternly, “Ethelbert OFF!” and she would chatter her teeth, flutter her whiskers and look away indignantly. If you repeated the command, she would yawn as if to say, “Oh do stop wasting your breath, human slave. Go and fill my food bowl, then I might think about moving.” She understood the command ‘off’ from quite an early age, yet only obeyed it when it suited her.

Sunbathing in a hanging basketThe way she used to slink off to a neighbours’ house, where she would climb into the conservatory and sunbathe on her very own chair. The day that your neighbours left her in the conservatory whilst they went out, and returned in a blind panic, having realised that they had left a batch of newly-hatched chicks in the conservatory with her… only to discover her snoring away, with the chicks noisily cheeping away in their box in the corner.

Balloon TennisThe way she loved balloons: she would hold them between her paws and lick them. Yes, really. Balloon tennis was a favourite sport of hers. She loved to bat a balloon to and fro with whoever would indulge her. I must post a video I have of her partaking in a game with Son no 1 (whilst she was nestled on a pile of clean washing… another of her favourite things!).

Snagging, chuffin cat styleThe way she would hide in cardboard boxes, waiting to ambush any unsuspecting human who happened to be passing. Not great when you have a heart defect! Hide and AmbushThen again, she didn’t actually need a box; any furniture would do. She would come flying through the air and land on the back of a chair just as you were passing, claws extended ready to catch in your clothing and prevent you from going any further. We all walked around with snagged clothing; it seemed to be a family trait when you had a chuffin cat.

chuffin snoringThe way she would like to join in family movie nights, laying the length of my lap and hanging over my knees. Then she would fall asleep half way through the film, snoring so loudly that we would have to turn up the volume on the television.

20140427-004102.jpgThe way that she would merrily sleep on her back with all 4 fluffy feet in the air, her tail often resting along her fat belly. You just wanted to thrust your hand into that furry belly, but you knew that if you did she would have curled round your hand and sunk her teeth lovingly into your wrist.

You don't need a torch in the attic when you have a chuffin catThe way she often got stuck in the attic, driving you mad as you could hear her singing but couldn’t work out where she was. Then you would open the loft hatch to be greeted by 2 fluorescent eyes beaming down at you. By the time you’d lowered the loft ladder she would have disappeared into the dark, causing mischief elsewhere. I have no idea how many hours that loft hatch was left open, yet she never came out that way. She preferred to use her secret entrance instead.

20141027-003902-2342716.jpgThe way she would sit on the windowsill when you went out, watching you mournfully with her nose pressed against the window, anxiously waiting for you to return. Yet when you came home, she would be there at the door greeting you with a look of total disdain, before shaking her head and leading you to her food bowl. Then she would insist you slap her rump whilst she crunched on her biscuits. If you stopped slapping, she stopped eating. So you would be there bent double until she’d eaten her fill.

Chuffin white van driverThe ApprenticeThe way she had a fascination with our vehicles, particularly Handsome Hubby’s van. As soon as he was parked in the drive, she would sit under the van. If he was tinkering on the engine, she would be beside him offering advice. The same went for Son no 1 – he spent much time mending his car with the chuffin cat sitting on the seat next to him, supervising. She loved our vehicles so much that she would run about with glee behind us as we reversed down the drive.

Chuffin cat in a Christmas hatThe way she loved to wear a soft felt Christmas hat, making the most of the festive season with the rest of her family. Don’t even mention the Christmas tree – a wonderful play centre for her, complete with shiny baubles and sparkly tinsel. It could be played with vertically or horizontally, depending upon her mood.

Catnip crazinessThe way she ran about like a larey packet at the first whiff of catnip. If you sprinkled it on the floor, she would roll over and over in it. Such a lot of her life was spent in a catnip haze. I had to hide the catnip sachet in the fridge one night as she just kept finding it and throwing it about the room.

Big smilesFinally, our favourite memory of all: the way she used to kiss each of the boys at bedtime every night. They would stand beside her, and the first boy in line would kiss the top her head; she would then turn her head and tenderly lick his cheek. This was repeated for all 3 boys, without fail, every single night. We always spoke of videoing this moving routine, but never did. A cherished memory of our wonderful, cheeky, mischievous chuffin cat.

Bad mood

 

Ethelbert’s Story

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This is the post I did not want to write. It has taken every ounce of my strength to type. Here it is: Ethelbert’s story.

Our beautiful Ethel

At about 11pm a week ago, I was alarmed to hear Ethel coughing. It was a strange cough, not one I’d heard before, almost as if she had something caught in her throat. Thinking she was going to throw up a giant furball, I grabbed some kitchen towel and knelt down beside her. She wasn’t sick. What came from her mouth was a small amount of what looked like white, frothy spit. She panted a couple of times, then looked up at me. Having reassured her, I cleaned it up and left her as she curled up again and dozed off.

Hey! I was using that pen!Feeling concerned that something wasn’t right, I made up my bed for the night on the settee so that I could keep a close eye on her. Yet I couldn’t sleep. The cough was strange, but Ethel had been fine during the day: eating, drinking and she had even executed a manic dash sideways round the lounge, bouncing on her paws whilst I made some Halloween party invitations. That had raised a chuckle, until she landed in the middle of my decorations and scattered them everywhere. A normal day then. So why was I worried?

At 3am I heard Ethel cough again, the same as before but for longer. My heart leapt into my mouth. I found her on the lounge floor, coughing and wheezing. Bubbles of white saliva had formed round her mouth. In a panic I rang the emergency vet, who advised me to bring her immediately to the veterinary hospital. I threw on some clothes, grabbed the carrier and went to gently lift my beautiful cat. She gave a low groan, a base animalistic noise I’d never heard before. She seemed to be in severe pain round her abdomen again.

I don’t remember much of the 10 minute drive to the hospital, only that Ethel was completely silent in her carrier. No serenading, no swearing, just silence. The vet unlocked the front door as we arrived and she ushered us inside. The bright lights in the consulting room made it look stark and clinical. I blinked hard several times, to try and adjust my eyes. The vet opened the front of the carrier and dragged Ethel out. It pleased me to see the fight in her, however small; her reluctance to exit the carrier gave me a flicker of hope. I bent down and cupped Ethel’s face in my hands, kissing her soft nose lightly and reassuring her, as the vet listened to her chest.

Suddenly the vet threw down her stethoscope and shouted to the nurse, “We need oxygen! Now!”

She scooped up my precious cat and swept out of the room. “I daren’t handle her any more otherwise we stand the risk of losing her. Her lungs are completely full; it might be pneumonia, I don’t know” she called to me, and with that she left.

I stood alone in the reception area, completely stunned. I could hear the blood pounding in my ears, in contrast to the deathly silence of the empty surgery. I have no idea how long the vet was gone, but when she returned her face was grave.

“We’ve put her in an oxygen unit. She is very poorly. I need to do an x-ray to see what’s happening inside, but I can’t give her a general anaesthetic right now as she won’t tolerate it. She’s really not in a good way. You need to go home and leave her with us. We will call you if anything happens. No news is good news.”

I was allowed to see her before I left, but I couldn’t touch her. She was in a sealed unit. I could hear the hiss of the oxygen being pumped in. Ethel was sitting facing the far corner, her head tilted upwards, eyes closed. Her body was heaving in and out with each breath that she struggled to take.

The vet looked at me and nodded slowly. “She’s trying hard.”

I drove home in a daze. It was like a bad dream from which I could not wake. I lay down on the settee in the lounge but didn’t sleep, my ‘phone clutched nervously in my hand.

The call came at 5.30am: “She stopped breathing, but we managed to bring her back. We had to breathe for her for a while – about half an hour – during which time she suffered some brain damage due to the lack of oxygen. We don’t know how bad the damage will be, but she’s now started moving a little.” I held my breath, unable to take it all in properly. The vet continued: “Whilst she was unconscious we drained both her lungs so she’s breathing a bit better. We also took the opportunity to x-ray her. She has a major internal rupture: her stomach has been forced up into her diaphragm. It’s consistent with being hit by a vehicle of some kind.”

“What…??..” I managed to stutter. I thought I was going to be sick.

“It’s not a recent injury. It wasn’t sustained during the last 24 hours. That complicates things. If it was recent, we could have operated and she’d have had a reasonable chance of recovery. Unfortunately the longer the stomach is out of place, the more the body tries to adapt and the stomach starts to stick to the other internal organs. That makes it a much more complicated operation. She’ll have to be sent away for probably 10-14 days to a specialist hospital. It will be harrowing for you, she’ll be touch and go for some while. It’s a particularly difficult recovery. That’s if she survives the night, and then of course the operation. But with the brain damage plus her breathing problems… she has everything against her. We can try, and the pet insurance will cover the costs but… you really need to make a decision: do you want us to try and continue treatment, or would you prefer us to put her to sleep? I’m so sorry…”

I couldn’t speak. Each time I opened my mouth, no sound came out.

“Would you like to have a think and ring us back?”

“Yes please,” I uttered in a choked voice.

I hung up the ‘phone and stared into the darkness. All I could hear was the impatient ticking of the clock. This really had to be a bad dream, a nightmare. I shook my head. No. No, not our beautiful Ethelbert. I went to find my husband, and told him the events so far. He just sat and looked at me.

“We have to make a decision,” I finished. “I know the right thing to do, but I don’t want to make the decision alone.”

He nodded despondently, his eyes never leaving mine. “I know. I agree.”

I drove back to the vet in silence. The roads were starting to come to life as people woke up and began their journeys to who knows where. The vet once again unlocked the door and let me in. Her face was stoic, sombre, resigned. She placed a sheet of paper before me that she asked me to sign. When she passed me the pen, my hand shook. Try as I might, I couldn’t place the pen on the paper. Several times I tried, each time I failed. Then the tears came, an avalanche, unstoppable. I started to sob uncontrollably, leaving the poor vet to grab a large box of tissues and console me.

I couldn’t read the writing on the page through the tears, but somehow I took a deep breath and signed it.  The vet ushered me to the operating room, where my special girl lay stricken on a table. I gasped in shock at the sight before me. She was laid flat on her tummy, all four legs splayed out at the sides. There was an IV line coming from her front paw and her little face, usually so proud and lion-like, was pushed into an oxygen mask. Her eyes were glazed but only half-open. But the worst thing was the noise: her breathing was coming out in loud rasps, every breath a complete struggle.

“Oh what on earth…?” I gasped. “What’s happened to you? Oh baby….” I sat down beside her, the tears again falling freely, this time in silence.

“She’s on a heat pad and has the blankets to keep her warm,” explained the vet quietly. “We had to shave her tummy to scan and x-ray her.”

The vet placed her hands under Ethel’s front legs and gently moved her over towards me. Ethel made a strange noise, not one I’d ever known before, one I felt rather than heard. I held her on my knee and nuzzled her head. I felt her warmth spread into my arms. “We all love you so very, very much,” I sobbed.

“Are you ready?” asked the vet.

It was then that I made the hardest decision of my entire life: a decision not for me, nor for our family or our boys. It was a decision just for Ethel, our beautiful, treasured cat. A decision made with love, pure and simple, but one that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

The vet placed the needle in Ethel’s front leg, and she slipped away so quickly but peacefully in my arms, my kisses easing her passage, tears dampening her head. “Sleep tight,” I whispered, squeezing my eyes shut in immense pain.

The vet left us and I sat with Ethel for some 30 minutes or so: alone, bereft, in disbelief. I hugged her and kissed her, smelled her. She didn’t smell like our Ethel, but smelled instead of antiseptic and medication. Still, I held on to her.

When the time came to leave, I looked at the vet and asked tearfully, “I did do the right thing, didn’t I? It was right?”

She nodded at me sympathetically. “The odds were completely against her.”

It broke my heart even further trying to explain to our boys what had happened. Best palsHow do you tell your children that their beloved cat has died not from old age or illness, but from being hit by a vehicle some 23 days ago? She must have been in unbearable pain for all that time. Our youngest son was inconsolable. We adopted Ethel when our boy was 6 months old, so they had grown together. She treated him like a fellow kitten, not a human. Their relationship was unique. When the sobs stopped wracking his body, he turned his head and looked up at me. I will never forget the hurt, misery and utter pain deep in his eyes.

A box for Ethelbert, decorated by our smallest boyWe buried Ethel in the garden next to Blodwen, the much-loved cat we had before her. Our youngest son decorated a cardboard box in which to bury his special furry pal. After a simple ceremony, we all stood round the grave, united in our grief, silent and heartbroken. We lit some tealights which we placed on the grave. Our youngest son kept a graveside vigil long after we’d all made our way back inside: a small boy trying to come to terms with the brutal loss of his first pet. Except that she wasn’t just a ‘pet’ – she was a member of our family, a little person in a fur coat, full of attitude and mischief. We miss her more than words could ever convey.

Speaking to our vet a few days later, it appears that Ethel was most likely hit by a cyclist. The major abdominal trauma yet lack of external injuries is a classic result of this kind of collision. How someone can hit a cat and just ride off leaving them stricken, I will never know. There are some heartless people out there in the world. Yet the worst feeling is that she could have been saved. Ethel on the track outside our houseHad that cyclist owned up to the collision, our precious cat would have had a good chance of still being here. She could have received the correct emergency treatment, rather than antibiotics and painkillers for some mystery virus. We live down a little dirt track along the towpath of a canal. There are only 5 houses down here, surrounded by woodland. Ethel was the only cat in our little neighbourhood: a huge cat with very distinctive markings. She was so well-known, almost a local celebrity. Yet none of that mattered to a speeding cyclist, too busy to stop and tell someone what they had done. We are all struggling to cope with this. I can’t eat, can’t sleep. Each time I close my eyes, I see her face and relive all the events of the morning she died. What an awful way to go.

Forget-me-not thoughts

A couple of days ago I received a card from the emergency team who tried to save Ethel’s life. Enclosed in the card was a packet of forget-me-not seeds to plant round her grave. Although upset, I was touched at such a lovely thought, and a very fitting one too. For we never will forget our beautiful Ethelbert, the original chuffin cat.

 

Ethels Grave

RIP our special girl xx