Last weekend, after 3 years of me whining about not having a cat (not including the 18 month temporary acquisition of the neighbour’s cat) we finally adopted some feline companions.
The landlord was fully supportive of the cause, and the landlady even suggested that we get 2 cats so they can keep one another company. So, naturally, we ended up with 3.
After a couple of awkward lecture-like conversations with the Cats Protection League and a disappointing rehoming attempt at Battersea, we came across the Celia Hammond Animal Trust in Lewisham. Having fallen in love with 2 black sisters on the website, I emailed the Trust and registered our interest immediately, following up with 3 phone calls. Just to make sure.
Within a few days, a slightly surreal house check interview was arranged with a lovely lady who has her own ample menagerie of adopted cats, chickens and dogs. We were cleared for adoption that evening and, not being the patient type, I requested to meet our prospective fur babies the next evening, which CHAT happily agreed to.
So, Friday night we grabbed our cat carrier and jumped in an Uber ready to go pick up our twin black beauties. We had read on the website about them being semi-feral, so weren’t quite sure what to expect. Would they run away in horror or attempt to take our faces off? Such suspense.
The answer was neither. When we arrived, we were taken down to meet the cats – with a small detour as our guide had to stop and feed her 3 week old kitten. We walked into a room with rows of cages, all occupied by various quantities of cat. The lady opened the cage for our cats and we were met with the twin glares of 2 small black dragons.
They were gorgeous, but after a few minutes of talking to the lady and discussing their needs and temperaments, it was decided that they would be just a little too tricky. Reluctantly, I declined those 2 and asked if there were any others that we could see. She explained that all the friendly cats went very quickly, so the ones in this room were a bit more challenging. We looked around, and staring at us saucer-eyed from one of the top crates were 3 little faces.
We asked if we could meet these 3 – at the time named Austin, Mercedes and Rolls-Royce (more on those names later). After a bit of play with the feather teaser, we were in love. The lady said we could take the 2 girls together and leave the slightly more rambunctious boy as he could be rehomed with a different cat, but after a brief chat about finances, the man of the house decided they should stay as a set. So we got all 3.
Our 3 – now George the Furred (tabby), Betty (black) and Moo (black & white) – were found as kittens in an abandoned garage on the Old Kent Road in London (hence the car names). When we brought them home, it took took well over 2 hours to get them all from their carriers into the temporary crate which is designed to give them a ‘safe space’. Yes, we have snowflake cats.
Having set up a veritable mini cat paradise in the crate for them, complete with a small cat tree, hammock, teepee and fleece-lined box, the cats began to settle in. We attempted to implement set meal times, as recommended by the CHAT staff, but this was not as easy as we thought.
For the first 3 days, Betty and Moo barely ate and showed no interest at all in playing. We decided that leaving biscuits in the crate with them during the day while we were at work might encourage the girls to eat a bit when we weren’t there.
This was a mistake. George took full advantage of our naivety and has put on a visible amount of weight since arriving… so we have now introduced meals at 7.30am-8am and 8pm-9pm, with treats hand-fed to them as part of their socialisation training. This was supposedly also meant to be a good opportunity to stroke the cats as they would begin to associate food with stroking… or stroking with food. Either way, a positive association. This also hasn’t quite gone to plan, but we remain hopeful.
On Monday, we got them to venture a little way outside their crate, playing with the feather teasers and laser pens. This seemed to go very well. In fact, it went a little too well and by Friday the cats had the run of the place and had found a very cosy hiding hole right under our TV table which is virtually inaccessible.
We had been warned not to let them out of the crate until they really wanted to come out – but in our over-enthusiasm we lost sight of this advice a little… As a result, my entire Saturday was spent attempting to herd cats back into their crate so I could leave the flat knowing they would be safe. Top tip: cats really don’t enjoy being herded. And it is a 2 person job. In fact I would recommend a 2:1 person to cat ratio.
So we are now back to basics. The cats have just been served a special Sunday dinner of chicken with gravy – it smells better than cat food and they prefer it too, so it works for everyone. This week we are hoping to properly start the socialising process, through more in-crate play, hand feeding and reading them books (to get them used to our voices, not because we’re insane). We have also been leaving Classic FM on while we’re out of the flat, as the soothing music and interludes from Bill Turnbull are recommended to keep the cats calm. I don’t know whether the Feliway diffusers have worked at all, but the cats are certainly less skittish than they were when they arrived. We’re hoping to introduce them to my mother next weekend…