George’s Big Adventure

George discovered the cat flap on Sunday night. He’s had the run of the house, but despite the fact we’d left the cat flap unlocked (so Ming and Saffy could come and go), we didn’t think he’d be able to get out because his previous owner told us he’d never had a cat flap so wouldn’t know how they worked. Of course, we didn’t think about the fact that he’s now had a couple of weeks of watching Ming and Saffy demonstrate its use… Anyway, on Sunday night we realised we hadn’t seen George around for a while, and quickly discovered he wasn’t in any of his usual spots – in fact, he didn’t seem to be anywhere in the house at all. Thinking maybe he’d got out when H went out to get some wood from the shed (he’s followed H outside a few times now, but has never strayed far from his side), I switched on the outside light and had a look out the back door. There was no sign of him until I called his name, when suddenly two bright yellow glowing eyes appeared in the middle of the lawn right in front of me – it was George, looking very pleased with himself (he’d been totally invisible until he’d turned his head so I could see his eyes – it’s amazing how well a fluffy black coat blends into the shadows. Ming’s black too (mostly – he’s got a few white patches), but you can still see him easily enough unless it’s really dark – his coat is shiny enough to reflect some light. But with George the light just seems to be sucked into him). He came back inside happily enough, but half an hour later went back out again (and this time we saw him go through the cat flap – which was really funny – he’s got so much fur that he almost got stuck half-way through, and was left with his back legs waving in the air for a few seconds! He’s actually much lighter than Ming and Saffy (who are both a bit overweight), but all that fur really bulks him up), and this time he was off across the fence to check out the neighbours… so much for him being a timid cat that hates the outdoors! He came back on his own, so at least we know now that he knows where home is, so we don’t have to worry about him when he goes walkabout.

Had our usual last-Sunday-of-the-month breakfast meetup on Sunday – me, lytteltonwitch, awhina and meerkitten were there of course, plus a friend of awhina’s and her daughter, and later a new member, Bookswild, turned up. For a change, I managed to not pick up any books, but I contributed a few to the OCZ: White Teeth by Zadie Smith; Starplex by Robert J Sawyer; Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod; The Artist’s Widow by Shena Mackay. After the meetup, lytteltonwitch and I took the kitten to a talk on astronomy at Shirley Library. It had sounded really interesting in the advert (it was about what amateur astronomers can achieve), but unfortunately the speaker had an incredibly dull way of speaking and had pitched his talk at way too high a level (even though he said at the start he would keep it simple because there were a few children in the audience) – if he’d had some pretty pictures of planets and things to enliven his talk it might have helped, but all he had were a couple of small charts (even though part of his talk was on how you can photograph the night sky!). I found a few things to interest me in the talk because I already knew enough about astronomy to understand what he was talking about, but the kitten was completely lost and obviously bored. Luckily she had a book with her, so I whispered to her that it was ok to sit and quietly read it if she wanted (which she did!). They were supposed to have a telescope set up on the roof of the parking building next door after the talk, so that we could look at sunspots, but after wandering around up there for a while we didn’t manage to find them (and it’s not *that* big a roof!), so we just went and had afternoon tea in the mall instead – I think the kitten appreciated her hot chocolate a lot more than she had the talk!

Currently reading: Don’t Postpone Joy by Peter Taylor

George

We have a new addition to our household: a gorgeous fluffy black cat called George.

Acquiring George was a bit of an impulsive decision – on Wednesday a friend forwarded this email to me that she’d just been sent:

Can anyone in Christchurch offer a home to a beautiful, black, long-haired cat named George? George is around 4 years old, neutered and quite timid. He has always been an only cat.

George belongs to my sister-in-law and has not had a very nice life. His treatment at the hands of my step-nephew can best be described as “boisterous”. My sister-in-law has never liked George, although she has never actively treated him badly. My brother doesn’t like George and subjects him to constant verbal abuse which even my sister-in-law finds upsetting. George has moved house three times in the last two years, which has unnerved him quite a lot. Last winter George had to sleep outside in a cardboard box every night. My brother refuses to allow him a cat flap. Protests from the rest of our family have sadly fallen on deaf ears.

I would take George myself without hesitation, but my fiance won’t allow it. He may be right as we already have three cats and I expect they would be too intimidating for George.

I believe that with lots of love George could blossom and become a very happy cat.

If I can’t find a home for George he will end up at the Cats’ Protection League.

Please contact me at the email address or phone numbers below if you can help.

My immediate thought was “Poor George! I want to help but getting a third cat probably isn’t a sensible idea.” But I rang MrPloppy anyway, expecting him to confirm that we really couldn’t cope with three cats. Of course, he’s just as big a softy as I am, so before we knew it the discussion had shifted round from “we really can’t manage a third cat” to “how can we manage a third cat?”… and by the end of the afternoon I’d replied to the email and offered to take George. I wasn’t sure if our offer would be accepted, because I’d pointed out we already had two cats so it might not be the ideal situation for him, but the person who’d sent the original email said she hadn’t had any other replies, and she was desperate to get George rehoused as soon as possible, so she’d contact her sister-in-law and arrange for them to drop him off at the weekend!!!

I’ve read all the theory on introducing a new cat into an existing cat’s home, but theory is quite often different to the practice in these situations, so now that we were actually committed to taking George, we were in a bit of a panic. We decided we’d isolate him in the spare room for the first few weeks, and gradually introduce him to Ming and Saffy once they’d had a while to get used to the smell of each other. So first step was to turn the room (which we’d been using as an extra office/junk storage room) into somewhere I wouldn’t feel too bad about imprisoning a cat in – which of course meant spending vast amounts of money on odourless cat litter, a litter tray (Ming and Saffy have never had one, because they go outside), and extra food and water dishes; sacrificing our biggest, fluffiest towel to make a comfy bed for him to sleep in; rounding up all the cat toys that Ming and Saffy have never been interested in playing with (Saffy’s preferred toy is any pen or pencil she can bat off the desk onto the floor, and Ming likes those plastic rings off the top of milk bottles – balls and catnip-filled mice can never compete!); and arranging the room to maximise the number of sunny spots during the day. I think we put more effort into setting up that room than we ever have for human guests!

Anyway, Saturday finally arrived, and so did George. His old owners dropped him off, and while they seemed perfectly nice, it was obvious they just weren’t really cat people – there just didn’t seem to be any empathy with him at all. Which seems impossible to beleive, because he’s the most affectionate cat I’ve ever met. We let him out of his box and I sat and patted him while I talked to his owners about the practical stuff (what food he was used to, vaccinations, when he’d last been wormed, etc), and after a few moments’ nervousness he quickly settled down and was purring away loudly. I thought it was just relief at being out of the car, but all weekend whenever either of us went into his room he’d start purring, and run over to rub against our legs – I think he’s just been really lonely in his previous home and is starved for attention. Otherwise, he seems pretty healthy (we’ll probably take him to the vet for a general check-up in a few weeks, but I want him to get settled in first – a stressful vet visit is probably not what he needs right now), and is incredibly well-adjusted for a cat that hasn’t been in a loving environment – he’s nowhere near as timid as I expected him to be, and hasn’t been at all agressive (even playing with him he keeps his claws pretty much sheathed, which is something Ming and Saffy have never learnt!). We shut Ming and Saffy in the kitchen on Saturday evening and left George’s door open so he could come out and explore the rest of the house a bit, and after a bit of cautious sniffing he seemed pretty happy (well, apart from a bit of a fright when he spotted Saffy through the glass door into the kitchen – there was some hissing and spitting on each side, but nowhere near as bad as I’d feared), and when we repeated of the exercise last night he was much more confident, and wandered around happily investigating odd corners – and best sign of all, when he saw Ming and Saffy through the glass door, there was no hissing on either side, just a bit of intense staring. We’re going to attempt a short closely supervised meeting between George and Ming tonight (Saffy’s a bit more territorial, so we’ll give her a few more days to get used to having his smell around the place before she meets him face to face) and see how things go… all the books say you should leave it a week or so before introducing them, but Ming seems pretty relaxed about it all – he’s sniffed round the door to George’s room a bit, but seems more curious than annoyed, so we thought it’s worth a try (we won’t force them together or anything, of course, just leave George’s door open while Ming’s in the lounge and let George wander out and say hello if he wants to). Wish us luck!

Currently reading: Cosmonaut Keep by Ken MacLeod