When you have plenty of cats, it’s good to have a big window

We’re lucky we live in a house that has a big lounge, because with six cats, you need a big window when they want to look out. Not that it overlooks anything particularly interesting, apart from a fence, and some still-flowering rose bushes (not a bad effort three weeks into autumn). In reality, though, they often use the opening side windows to come in and out, especially Molly, in the centre, and Daisy, on the right, who still haven’t mastered our cat flap. Of course, they sometimes block those windows making up their minds about whether or not to go outside, especially when the weather’s bad. Hence Molly ran out of patience after the shots I inexpertly merged here were taken, leaving her mum, Malcolm, on the left, and Daisy to sit at either end and stare at each other.

On guard, but I’m not as hard as you might have heard

Don’t I look good sitting up there? Stella the sentry you can call me.

I was sitting on the roof of the carport when my human parents went out for some Saturday morning shopping, and when they got back, I’d really taken up residence, making sure nobody came near the house who wasn’t allowed to. A veritable watch cat.

I’d have been good and ready if anyone had come wandering onto the property. I’ve got a bit of a reputation around this place as a tough nut. Some of my younger semi-siblings – we’ve got the same cat mum, Malcolm – seem to be a bit scared of me, although I helped look after the three of them when they were kittens.

When we get called in for food, Molly and Daisy steer clear of me, as if they think I’m going to give them a hard time, which is probably because I sometimes do; Bryan as well, that boy who thinks he’s the boss around here. We’ve had a couple of impromptu boxing bouts in the kitchen when there are tidbits being handed out.

Stella yawn

Stella the sentry2

But I mean, really, when you look at those two pictures just above this line, can you honestly believe I’m that grumpy? I’m actually the most talkative of all the Seaview 6, with a really high-pitched, feminine meow. Sometimes my Mum – the human one – will say “Sing, Stella, sing us the song of your people”. I bet you don’t know too many cats who can do that. Misunderstood, that’s me.

I’m pretty outgoing too. I’ve been to visit quite a few of the neighbours around here, and one morning, when Dad went for a walk, I went with him. We went all the way around the block, with me walking alongside him. For some reason he kept saying “Stella, you need to go home. Come on!”. But I was enjoying it too much.

When some people came out of one of the nearby houses, the woman said to Dad “are you trying to go for a walk?” and he made some lame comment that suggested he might prefer to be walking on his own. Why on earth would he want to do that?

Anyway, if you happen to pop around at any time, I’m likely to be the one on top of the gatepost, or the carport. But don’t worry, I’m really friendly. You shouldn’t believe everything you hear about me.

We’re still here, everyone

We’ve been a bit quiet here in Seaview for a while. Dad says that’s not actually true. He’s just been really busy at work and at home and hasn’t managed to write too much about us in the last week or so.

But he thought he should post a couple of pictures of us here to show that we’re still around, and doing our thing. So here are some showing us in frenetic action: sleeping! Or at least waking up.

That’s Molly at the top, on the carpet next to the rug.

And here’s Bryan:

Bryansleep

And here, waking up and having a stretch, is Moo:

Moostretch

That’s just to prove to you how active we are, and how adventurous…

At least you can’t accuse us of not being good photographic models.

See you soon.

When your pets bring you ‘gifts’

Stella, my chief suspect

A couple of Saturday mornings ago, there was a cup from a fast food outlet standing at the bottom of the stairs when I got up.

It wasn’t ours.

It was empty, and standing upright on the carpet, just outside the lounge.

Mysterious, maybe, until you remember there are six cats living in this house.

It seemed an impressive feline feat all the same. One of them – and the list of suspects is quickly narrowed down by factoring in that two have yet to use the cat flap we had installed unaided – had managed to manouevre what appeared to be a regular-sized paper cup through a cat-sized entrance and plonk it, none the worse for wear, in the entrance hall.

If you’ve been to a fast food outlet recently, you’ll know a regular-sized cup is taller than your standard takeaway coffee cup, which makes the mission all the more unlikely. The culprit, and I think we’ve narrowed it down to two potential suspects, can only have had the cup clenched in its jaws and bashed its way headfirst through the flap.

From there it would have been relatively easy to get it down the short passageway to the kitchen, through there and into the entrance hall via a second doorway.

Nevertheless, it seemed unlikely this cardboard cargo could have arrived at its destination undamaged, but there it was. Unless my memory’s playing tricks on me, there were no visible teethmarks around the rim. It had been handled with extraordinary gentleness, droplets of raspberry liquid still clinging to the interior, though that may say more about the dangers of said liquid than the care exercised by the cat courier.

And it’s that care that intrigues me. Although the deliverer hadn’t brought the cup upstairs to our bedroom, it seems the action may have been part of the ritual whereby cats present ‘gifts’ to their owners. Had that mission taken place earlier – the cup seems to have been dropped by someone ambling home after a night in town – then we may well have been presented with it as we relaxed in the lounge. When the cup-carrying cat realised we’d already retired, it placed its trophy carefully on the carpet for us to find. Or so the theory of cat gift-giving seems to go. It’s related to the way big cat mothers keep some of the kill for their cubs, according to an internet post whose source is unclear.

The episode had an intriguing sequel exactly a week later. Out on a late morning coffee run, I got a couple of frantic texts in quick succession:

“Bryan’s got a bird!

“And he’s brought it into the bedroom.”

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Bryan on the prowl

Now to be clear, birds and bedrooms are not an unknown combination in the three months we’ve lived in this house. Sorry Gareth*, but it’s true. As our nation’s self-appointed moral conscience, I thought you ought to know.

I remember lying in bed one night, reading, when Stella, my chief cup suspect, came in and was acting strangely at the edge of the floor. The light of the reading lamp didn’t carry that far, but when I got up to investigate, I discovered a dead blackbird was providing the entertainment. Not our first, to be fair. There’ve been a couple of mice too.

Last Saturday, Valentines Day as it happens, Bryan was obviously in the mood to show his mum some affection. When I got her messages, I expected to arrive home to a major clean-up job, with feathers everywhere.

But no, nothing of the sort.

Intrigued, I went upstairs and delivered the coffee. Nothing in the bedroom either, apparently, but I was assured Bryan had appeared in the room carrying a bird. Weird.

There was just one thing for it. Down on my hands and knees, I started scanning the carpet under the bed. Again it seemed at first glance there was nothing to see there. We were both confused. How could he have brought a bird through the house and left no visible sign? Cats don’t vacuum.

Then I found it and the truth was even stranger than I’d imagined. There was a bag under the bed, near the foot of it, containing a shoebox. Sticking up, in front of the red shoebox, I could make out the yellow beak of a blackbird. It was lying on its back, the beak in the air, dead as a doornail, but barely a feather out of place, unlike previous kills.

When I picked it up, it weighed next to nothing, as though it had been dead for some time.

I really want to know the ill-fated bird’s back story now. Why was it left intact? Had he found it like that, rather than killed it himself? And why did he place it so carefully in that bag? Was it really just because he loves his mum?

As for the curved section of plastic piping that’s since made its way through the cat flap to join an interesting array of other plastic objects, who knows?

But I did hit on an idea as I was ‘researching’ my subject. A former colleague informed me that her cat has a magnetic collar “and occasionally likes to pay her way by bringing in coins”.

I wonder what six magnetic collars would cost, and whether we’d show a profit before the neighbours started noticing?

*Gareth Morgan, public figure who has encouraged New Zealanders who own cats to make their current cats their last, to spare New Zealand’s native birds.

This column was first published in The Timaru Herald on February 21, 2015

Let me in, I want my breakfast!

Look at that cute little cat, all afraid, looking through the door.

I’m Daisy, and my Dad – the human one – took that picture a couple of days ago. I wish he’d been in a bit more of a hurry to open the door and let me in. I was hungry, and I’d been out all night, unable to get inside and snuggle up on a bed.

What did you say? Oh, that thing next to me is known as a cat flap, is it? I didn’t know that. I don’t use it, it’s scary. I’ve seen my cat mum, Malcolm,  and some of the other cats here go through it, but I just can’t bring myself to go near it when the flap starts waving around like that. So if I don’t get inside before Mum and Dad go to bed, I end up having to stay out all night. Not a lot of fun, ask my younger sister, Molly, – about five minutes younger – she can’t stand it either.

In the last few days, my human Mum’s started to hold the flap open for me a bit. I don’t mind it so much then, I can get through without anything hitting me. Trouble is, she’s not always around to do that for me.

I think Dad secretly doesn’t mind when I’m stuck outside, because it means I can’t get on their bed and grab their toes or anything. They’re not too keen on claws in their feet for some reason. Actually Dad  frightened me a bit the other night, and even alarmed Mum, I think. Not really sure why. He was just settling down to sleep when I grabbed his foot through the bedclothes with both my front paws – of course my claws were out, I’m a cat! – and he let out a bellow that I’m sure the neighbours heard.

After he calmed down, he was talking about shutting me outside if I did it again. No worries there, I was off the bed after he shouted out a pretty naughty word!

But I do love being on their bed, really. In fact, they’ll both tell you I love cuddling up to them. Mum was getting a little irritated with me this morning, though. I just touched her face with my paw a few times, just to let her know I was there, but she didn’t seem happy. She muttered something about “half past four in the morning”. I have no idea what that means.

Their bed’s huge, like an inside playground. Sometimes I can bounce on Dad’s stomach and he doesn’t even wake up. Mum tells him about it the next morning. There’s this really high bit just above where they put their heads, and I love jumping up there. Then I can look down on them, or walk up and down and try to see what’s happening outside, though that’s tough with the curtains drawn.

I can even sit on the window sill behind their bed, but I’m not so keen on that anymore. A couple of weeks ago, I leaned against the window a bit and it popped open, and the next thing I knew, I was sliding down the roof!

Mum and Dad weren’t happy. They kept muttering something about it being “really early”, and then trying to get me to run up the roof towards the window. No way! Scary as!

So I went out to the end of the roof and looked down. Even scarier! Then Bryan decided he wanted to see what was happening and the parents let him come out because they thought he was braver than me and might show me the way down from the roof. What a joke that turned out to be! Now there were two of us stuck out there.

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Eventually Dad had to climb onto a little stepladder and get us to come towards him at the corner of the roof in that picture. But it took a long time before either of us were brave enough to go right to the edge so he could pick us up.

What an adventure! Needless to say, it’s not one any of the Seaview 6 want to repeat. So I’ll stick to bouncing around that bed for now, as long as I manage to get in before they lock up.

Do I look friendly to you?

That’s me up there in the picture, Malcolm.

Do you think I look a little grumpy?

My human Dad reckons I do. In fact, he thinks I look a little bit like that dumb moggy that’s always popping up on the internet, Grumpy Cat. I’m not sure what people see in him, actually, but somehow he’s become really popular.

I think my Dad’s secretly a little disappointed that he met me when Grumpy Cat was already famous, because he thinks I could have done just as good a job, and he and my Mum could have cashed in. I heard him say a couple of weeks ago that Grumpy Cat has earned over $100 million. That would have kept me in some pretty tasty cat food.

Dad reckons it’s the fact that my eyes are a bit hooded in that photo that makes me look like I’m not the friendliest cat around.

It goes a lot deeper than that, I can tell you. I grew up on the mean streets of Dunedin, for one thing. I was seven years old, in cat years, by the time I fetched up on the back deck of my Mum’s house.

She was cool. Although she had a cat, she always had some food around for me and the other street cats that came visiting. But it wasn’t until one of those toms got a bit friendly, and I ended up having three kittens in the corner of Mum’s bedroom, that I think she realised she’d have to let me stay.

Anyway, back to the grumpy. I was born without a tail, or at least a full tail. I just have a little stump, which doesn’t make me feel that great about my appearance. Some of the other cats on the street used to scoff at my stump, which would make me a bit hissy with them. I mean, you’d have thought they were perfect, strutting their stuff on the street. But they shut up quickly when I found myself a human, and moved in. Meat, biscuits, even the occasional slug of pets’ milk. Beautiful.

I had another reason to be grumpy, though. My Mum’s son thought he was smart when we street cats started hanging around, and he decided to give us names. There was Sylvester, Seth, and then there was me. That’s right, I was this tiny grey and white thing, just an overgrown kitten, really, but he somehow imagined I was a bloke. Silly boy! So now all my kids have to tell their mates their mother’s called Malcolm. Not happy.

I’m not that unfriendly, though, you’ll find if you don’t give me a hard time. I’ll sometimes even go and park on a human’s lap for a while. Though I can get pretty grumpy where my kids – did I tell you I had another three, and none of them have tails? – are concerned.

I didn’t like that bolshie Bryan, the one who introduced us a while ago, when he arrived. Still don’t. I mean, my kittens and I were enjoying ourselves and he just started hanging around like he owned the place, and Mum quickly became pretty fond of him.

Bryan and I still don’t see eye to eye, cheeky young outsider. He’s always getting up my nose. But I let them know when he’s having a go at me. I howl the house down.

All in all, though, I can’t complain about the set-up now that we’ve moved to Timaru. Nice house, a garden where I can go and do my own thing and keep out of the sun, and plenty of food.

And the kids are each starting to stand on their own four feet. If they can stop falling out of windows or getting stuck on the roof, we’ll be ok here.