Friday, 28 October 2011

The Kitten Diaries - Spook Locating


Hebe and Spook

It's been a year since I last wrote a Kitten Diaries blog. Shortly after posting my last one I met a lovely lady GardenLife at Rob's shoppiwop who told me she was such a great fan of my kittens she had adopted a couple herself!  I hope she is still as enamoured of them one year on - mine have quite literally driven me crazy!  More of that later. First I must establish my cat credentials and tell you about our first ones, Binki and Wumpuss, just to show that I haven't always been such a neurotic.


Never, ever get your partner a surprise cat!

The Bedsock knew I was from a cat loving family and eventually wanted one of my own. Shortly after we moved into our house together I arrived home, tired and stressed from work, to find a gangly, black and white kitten with chewed ears, waiting for me.  I felt like one of those poor teenage girls who think they have put on a few pounds and then go to the toilet and give birth! This wasn't just a kitten, this was a new dependant to curtail our freedom! Another mouth to feed and worry over, to take to the vets with their expensive bills, ruin the furniture, fill the house with moulted fur and mean I would never be able to just 'wash and go' on holiday again.  The Bedsock saw a kitten, I saw a lifetime of responsibilities! Worse than that it looked a bit scruffy, a far cry from the plush, pedigree, pampered, puss cat that I had imagined. I told the Bedsock it had to go and stomped off round to a friends house to drown my sorrows.

Despite the Bedsock's promise to take it round to the friend who had said she would have it in the 'unlikely' event I wasn't won over - the cat was still there the next evening having spent the day bonding with the Bedsock in his study. The friend was 'apparently' away so the cat was reprieved but I was adamant it must go as soon as possible.  Next day, whilst I was at work, the kitten and Bedsock hatched a plan.  When I arrived home I found the kitten in the kitchen curled up sweetly in the wok, waking up to cast its eyes beseechingly at me..

We came to love Binki's bitten down ears which may have been snipped off by someone or nibbled by his mother.  They made him look like a teddy bear.  Binki was a 'proper' cat allowed complete freedom to roam around outside and come and go through the cat-flap.  However, he was very sociable and liked to be around people although some of his games were a bit on the rough side.  He was always totally bonded with the Bedsock whom he loved with a fierce loyalty, sitting next to him in his chair with an attitude that declared his ownership - boys together.

Binki was adored by us for sixteen years and I will never forget how when my father died and I was sitting in the garden grieving, he wandered over and laid his head on my knee in a loving gesture of support.


Wumpuss was a different animal altogether.  A soft little pedigree British Blue and Cream Shorthair she was more my idea of a cuddle cat.  Named after one of the earliest computer games 'Hunt the Wumpuss' (a text based program in which you moved through dark tunnels pursuing the hairy monster with the option to shoot bent arrows when the caption 'I smell a Wumpuss' came up) she was a very pretty and affectionate indoor cat.  Wumpuss only braved the garden in the summer warmth and would huddle horrified against the patio doors if she was forced to endure the slightest breeze or rain.  She combined an anxious and nervy personality with being a right little madam intent on always having her own way- which obviously she got. Wumpuss disliked strangers in her house and once when OldMaSock was visiting emerged from her hiding place and stood outside OldmaSock's bedroom  bellowing loudly in protest for the entire night (a sentiment I could easily forgive her for!).

Wumpuss would follow me down the stairs first thing in the morning, holding the hem of my dressing gown between her teeth, a little furry bridesmaid.  Every time I showered she would appear outside of the bathroom ready to jump into my arms, absorb my warmth and re-imprint her soft, musky, smell on me.


After Wumpuss died also at the age of sixteen we adopted Silver 'Spottie' Shorthairs brother and sister Hebe and Luka.   Luka - how I absolutely and completely adored him. All our cats have been much loved but for me Luka was special. I am still not over his tragic death on the road two years ago and it is this which colours much of my life and growing neuroticism.  I think about him every day and how every time I looked at his sweet, gentle, face it filled me with love and happiness.  But life must go on and the gaping void he left was filled with the irrepressible Spook.



Before we get to Spook and his many misdemeanours (even as I write he is in the third disgrace of the last twenty four hours and just now got himself stung by a bee) you must know about sweet HebeBeeble.  More reticent and wary than her brother Luka she is permanently in 'alert mode', ready to spring into the air with alarm at nothing, scrabbling at anything within reach. She practices her panic reactions daily, just so she knows what to do should a real crisis set in. She will suddenly charge in from the garden, hurtling down the hallway her claws scratching along the expensive cherrywood flooring, then bounce off the walls in the living room like something out of The Matrix. If the 'alert button' goes off when you are cuddling her some injury will be incurred - otherwise its just the furniture ruined as her sudden actions usually sets Spook off into the same frenzied panic.

Hebe in the knicker drawer

Hebe likes to hide.  She hides at the back of my wardrobe rubbing her fur over the hems of my hanging winter coats. Most of all she likes to make a nest in my knicker drawer ensuring that if I forget to entirely close the drawer I will be wearing hairy pants for the next week.

Hebe likes to sleep next to me but before she curls up on top of the duvet, against my tummy or the small of my back, she has to perform a few incantations.  First she twists her body around in a circle two times clockwise, then anti-clockwise until she is sure she has fended away the bad spirits. Then she grabs my wrist in her paws and pulls my hand underneath her.. because the best thing in the whole world for Hebe is to sleep on the hand.  This is both incredibly endearing and horribly uncomfortable. I let her have the hand for as long as I can stand it, wait until she is snoring loudly and then gently slide it out from under her only to wake-up later and find that I have not been paralysed in my sleep, it is just Hebebeebie on the hand again.


Spook a picture of innocence  (don't be fooled) in the snow

And so we come to little Spookywookums. In fact he is now slightly bigger then Hebe but still seems like an incredibly naughty child.  All Spook wants out of life is to eat as much as possible, to 'spook' Hebe by jumping out on her from his hiding places and various other forms of slightly violent play activities, or to be outside away from my ever watchful eye.  Whilst Hebe is happy to stay close to home, Spook is off, over the wall and up the gardens... and this is where my problems start.

A normal day in Spook's life starts when I open the bedroom door (which he has been leaning against for the last hour in anticipation) and he topples onto my feet.  Spook is at his sweetest now - although it has to be said the reason he is on the outside of the bedroom door is that he would otherwise spend the night attacking my feet and trying to push Hebe off the bed.  I pick up him up and we have our first (and possibly only) cuddle of the day.  He sits on my lap, totally floppy with his soft, silky back against me, my arm around his tummy and he lifts his head up to nuzzle under my chin which he then gives a nip with his little sharp teeth.  This is Spooklove.

Spook enjoying a stretch on the rockery

Spooklove doesn't last long as the need for breakfast occupies him pestering for the next thirty minutes and jumping up into the fridge when I reach in to get the milk for my first tea of the day. When he has scoffed all his own and half of Hebe's breakfast Spook wants to be outside and this is where my problems start. Every time he is out of sight I imagine that he is wandering down the side passage of the semi-detached terraced houses behind us and onto the road where Luka died. To find out whether he is not straying too far from home Spook wears a little transmitter on his collar. When I turn the base unit on and press "Locate" it starts to beep when it has found the signal and gives an idea of the direction and distance he is from home.  This reassures me that he is close by but it only works for a few hundred yards.

Spook locator

As soon as Spook goes 'off radar' I start to get panicky and obsessively check the locator every few minutes.  Gone for longer than an hour and I will go out and check the next road re-living the moment I found Luka's body there.  I go into a state of extreme anxiety screeching his name up the gardens and clanking his food bowls together in the hope he is tempted back for a treat.  Spook gets lots of treats this way.  Whilst he is gone I am terrified the phone will ring with a message of bad news - I am now phone phobic.   I know this behaviour is ridiculous and I can't go on with it but I don't know how to stop.  The situation isn't fair on either me or Spook.  He is never allowed out at night so is always desperate to go out to play in the daytime, even in the rain.  He will mope endlessly by the patio doors waiting to go out or show his dissatisfaction at being trapped indoors by annoying Hebe, or worse, pissing somewhere inappropriate despite having a clean litter tray. But the only way I can feel relaxed and get on with stuff is if he stays in where I know he is safe.  My neuroticism hasn't been helped this year by the two families of foxes living in close vicinity. Whilst so far they don't seem to bother Spook who could easily outrun one, I worry what might happen if several hungry foxes cornered him.   Then there is the building work on the house behind me where the lovely mature garden, with borders and shrubs providing perfect play cover for the cats, has been entirely ripped out by the new owner and the side-passage gate left permanently ajar, an open enticement for Spook to wander straight out towards the road.  I know I can't control his outdoor environment and his natural cat curiousity but I wish there weren't so many temptations open to him.

Spook about to push Hebe in the pondlet

Three days ago Spook disappeared off radar for the entire afternoon.  I know most of you cat-owners are thinking "so what" but this was unusual behaviour by Spook-standards.  After several hours of anxiety I finally walked up the front of our terraced row with the Spook locator on.  Four houses up it picked up a strong signal appearing to come from inside the house.  I went to ring the doorbell and as I looked through the glassed door there was Spook dancing around in their hallway! As my finger hit the door bell he stared at me with an even more astonished expression than usual then scarpered out the back of their house, rocketing down our back garden a few moments later.   The next day when he went off radar almost immediately after he was let out I went straight around with the locator.  Sure enough, there he was, playing about in their living room happy as Larry until he caught sight of me glaring through the door then he gave a guilty start and shot off out of their cat-flap again!  Exactly the same thing the next day. The owners seem to be away so I can't warn them that Spook is in there no doubt scoffing their timid cats food which goes some way to explain why Spook is getting so porky.  Maybe I should be grateful he is safe enough in there but I feel that if he is not spending his time outside he should be in our house not theirs.

Perhaps Spook needs a cat-whisperer, perhaps I need a Sock-whisperer..  whatever.. this situation can't go on but at the moment I can't see a way out of it that keeps all of us happy.


Helen/patientgardener said...

oh dear your Spook is a very naughty cat - but it is hard not to laugh at his cheek. I love the picture of him in the rockery. I think Maisie has a similar character and loves being outside. I u'stand your worry and I suppose it is easier for me as I am at work whilst you are at home. I think you should try turning the locator off longer periods of time and wheen yourself off it.

VP said...

Um - can a Sock have hairy knickers?

Love the picture of Hebe in your drawers!

WV says frier - I suggest that is NOT the answer for naughty Spook ;)

Helle (Helen) said...

Yup, Spook in the rockery made my day and made me laugh for the first time since my beloved cat of 13 years died 10 days ago. I can understand your worries, especially after having lost one cat to cars. I couldn't live with the stress of my cats being out and about, but also do not want to restrict them to the house, so we decided on a compromise and have fenced and netted half of the garden in. There they can chase birds, mice and butterflies - catch my husband's beloved dragon flies, sigh - but I am happy knowing they are not out on the train line we live next to, or up on the closest road where several neighbour cats have been run over. The neighbours think we are whacky, but what do I care :-)

janerowena said...

A little girl who came to see my dog's newborn puppies informed me that she had been feeding my first cat with her cooked breakfast every morning for the past couple of years, letting her in through the window when her mother was upstairs getting dressed, and shoving her out as she heard footsteps on the stairs. I asked her not to do it any longer, for various reasons including not liking my cat eating all that salty bacon, but promised not to tell her mother.

It all backfired horribly a week or so later when an expensive ornament was knocked off the windowsill and of course the wretched child was then only too happy to blame our cat... Those breakfasts cost me £90!

Arabella Sock said...

Helle I am so sorry to hear about your cat - it is so devastating to lose them even if you know it is on the cards. I've looked at the possiblity of fencing our garden in but they way it is set up with the neighbours it just isn't possible to do it completely.

Since I wrote this I have been to see the neighbour whose house Spook is invading and they knew all about it! Oh yes, he is often in there eating they're cats food. Which begs the questions - why didn't they tell me because they must be able to hear me shouting for him all the time and I have told them before how worried I get about him. He was in there AGAIN today but if they won't do anything about it I don't see what I can do.

JaneRowena that made me laugh. Outrageous that you should fork up £90 - if Spook trashes these neighbour's house it will be their own fault.

Patientgardener, I am trying to train myself off the locator but I usually find some reason to justify why I have to use it.

James A-S said...

Spook may be a pain and may be responsible for turning you from cashmere to jelly but, and this is unarguable, he is extraordinarily beautiful.

Which counts for a lot if you are a cat. Imagine how much worse it would be if he was bald and snaggle toothed?

Victoria Summerley said...

I read this post the other day and enjoyed it so much I forgot to leave a comment!
I sympathise with your locator dilemma. I tried taking Luigi out in the garden with me when we first got him, but gave up in the end. I kept having to stop every five minutes and look to see where he was.
I'm going to try letting my two out in the spring, when they're a bit older.

Anonymous said...

Hi, What beautiful (and mischievous) cats you have! I also love the picture of Spook in the rockery! Ah tracking cats... we have had our two for almost a year now, and they have been outdoor cats since their injections were complete in the spring, and how they love it! I do worry sometimes though. We are in the country but one of the lanes is driven quite fast, and it is my worst fear for them, especially when I see a flash of black and white disappearing into the hedge opposite as I pull up at our house and know they are off into the field and could pop out the other side onto that lane. I have to not think about it when they are out or I would go mad, but that is not easy sometimes.

great big bloomers said...

Oh dear oh dear ...
Maybe Spook needs to go back behind bars...Or was it the bedsock ??