You may remember that one of the reasons we chose our house was the ‘good cattage’ and it has been a positive delight to watch the Calamity Cat and the Princess growing in confidence as they have explored their new territory. They have forgotten that, at 12, they should be slowing down and have got a new lease of life. The Princess brazenly leaps the 6 foot wall to get to the front of the house, no matter how many times we tell her not to, and even Calamity has been seen patrolling the orchard and sitting on top of the coal store, to get a better view of her empire.
When I adopted the girls 4 years ago, they had lived in the same family since they were kittens and the family had made the heartbreaking decision to rehome them after having 2 children in rapid succession. The cats had made the decision for them in a way – the Princess had voted with her feet and moved out to the garage after the birth of the second child and, while they don’t always get on, where the Princess goes, Calamity usually follows eventually. In the end, although upset to be losing the cats they had loved dearly for 8 years, the family felt that a new home would be fairer, and asked Cats Protection to find someone who would love them. Which is where I came in. Once D arrived in our lives, which evened up knee-time (the Princess usually gets to my lap first, so it was hard initially making sure Calamity had enough attention), our little family was complete.
One thing their previous owner had warned me about was that they were both hunters, especially the Calamity Cat. Once I got to know them both, I was surprised at this – Calamity isn’t the most agile cat in the world and her co-ordination isn’t great, while the Princess is much fitter. It worried me a bit – like lots of cat owners, I find hunting quite distressing – but it is part and parcel of having cats, so I just had to hope they wouldn’t be too bad. In Scotland, we didn’t have a big garden and the house was on a small estate, so I was hopeful it might be OK. And it was, relatively. I think we only had 3 incidents that we were aware of between them.
Of course, here in Yorkshire, the good cattage does mean more scope for wildlife. They haven’t actually caught anything yet, but it isn’t for want of trying. The Princess discovered an early fascination for pigeons, even though they are nearly as big as her. You don’t see many pigeons in the north of Scotland – too many seagulls competing for food – so they were a real novelty. One morning I was working in the study overlooking the garden, when I saw her shooting across the lawn after a couple of particularly large and ungainly specimens. They flew off and landed in a tree next door, where they proceeded to laugh at her. With the endless patience of the feline hunter, she crept closer and closer until, in the end, she vanished through the hedge and reappeared at speed up the tree.
The pigeons, who had never been in any danger apart from in her head, of course flew away, leaving the Princess at the top of the tree. It appeared that this was a new experience for her. As soon as she realised that she had lost the birds, she started to give some thought as to how she might get down and she clearly didn’t like the alternatives. First of all, she edged gingerly along her branch and eyed up the large, flat top of the hedge. As Calamity had fallen through the hedge the previous day, landing with a crash at the bottom, this clearly wasn’t an inviting option. She edged back again and had another think. Perhaps just coming head-first down the trunk might work? Hmm – 2 steps in and maybe not. I watched from the window, trying not to worry as she retreated back to the top. D, already in the garden, called to her but he couldn’t reach her either. “She’s a cat,” I told myself. “She got up, she can get down again”. Easy to say, not so easy to believe.
It took her 10 minutes to find her way down. Eventually, she went back to Plan A, and the hedge. Slowly, she lowered herself down on to it, her lighter weight and better balance helping her avoid Calamity’s indignity the day before. However, it is a high hedge – at least 7 foot. She padded up and down it, searching for a way down until she realised that there was no alternative. She carefully picked a landing site in the middle of the lawn, psyched herself up and launched herself into thin air. I swear she hovered for several seconds, like some cartoon character, before dropping to the precise centre of the lawn.
I ran downstairs, to check that she did land, as cats should, on her feet, to find her nonchalantly wandering into the house. “Ah, there you are – any snacks going?”
It’s clearly hungry work, this tree-climbing!