We didn’t have a cat when I was a kid — Mum didn’t like them or something. As an adult though I’ve lived with cats for the last 30 years or so.
I started with Blue Burmese. The photo below shows Minhla, who wasn’t quite my first cat, but who did manage to survive to the age of 16. Here she’s about 15 or 16, and didn’t last too long after that.
Minhla taught me to be persistent. She just loved to sit on my shoulders, wrapped around the back of my neck — which wasn’t actually too comfortable for me.
After Minhla came the neighbour’s cat Olive. The neighbours were taking off to the other side of the world and I offered to give Olive a home. She was about 3 at the time.
Olive’s a rich chestnut brown and hard to photograph. She’s also a very special cat: rather grumpy, rather needy and inclined to bite, sometimes hard and deep as one visitor learned to her cost.
Olive’s favourite trick is to wind around your wet legs when you get out of the shower and then turn and bite.
When Olive first came to live with us she was always a kind of scruffy and dusty cat. Once we put her on a diet of high quality biscuits her rough coat softened and smoothed and she lost that scruffy look.
From Olive I’ve learned respect: she needs and enjoys a lot of attention, but strictly on her terms. You’re permitted to stroke her head — carefully — but not her back and definitely not her tummy. Pay close attention to any tiny signals that she may have had enough, or she’ll quickly escalate the warnings to be unmissable. Ouch!
In March 2002 Aphra and Ares were tiny kittens too young to leave their mum. They had 3 brothers and sisters who went to live with a friend of ours. They’re a shiny, beautiful deep black, and are Mandalays — apparently their Burmese mum had a moment or two with a local domestic shorthair.
It’s hard to believe these two are now nearly 12 years old.
Aphra’s a little smaller, playful and loves to have her tummy rubbed. She’s a stay-at-home cat who loves to hide out in her little ‘pod’ on the top shelf of the wardrobe.
Ares is a big muscly boy who likes to roam. He’s very affectionate and likes to hang out with people — when the dogs aren’t around.
Whenever I turn up Aphra and Ares are always glad to see me, always ready for a cuddle, always happy to be stroked. They just love unconditionally.
Over the years I’ve learned to read and understand cats to some extent: Olive has been a particularly good teacher. But there’s always more to learn, as the 3 minute video below explains. Perhaps that inviting tummy isn’t meant to be rubbed!
Oh, and my final thought: humans have been living with cats, dogs and other animals for thousands of years now and we still don’t really understand them or communicate well. If humans ever do meet up with intelligent aliens I don’t fancy our chances for good communication in any kind of a hurry.