New kits on the block

There are two new cats at Seaview, Eggy (short for Eglantine) and Ilsa.

They have come from a London home.  There they had a cosy little two-up-two-down terraced house with a square patch of a courtyard garden in the busy, bustling world of north London.  For a variety of complicated reasons, that home had to be sold, so these little kits found themselves in need of a good home and a garden – so they’ve come north!

They travelled up by train in a sort of push-chair affair, and, looked so spaced out when they arrived. Where were they?  Who were all these new people?  Another cat?  To help them settle in, we shut them into my Woolly Room (big sacrifice on my part) and that has remained their bedroom and bolthole ever since.  In the photo below Eggy is on the right (she is darker with a light patch over one eye), and Ilsa is crouching down on the left.Two confused kitsOf course, we already have a cat.  Poe is a lovely ancient family friend who has been with us since she was a kitten. She’s just celebrated her 19th birthday, and if you haven’t met her before, you can read about her here.

Poe isn’t a well cat – not surprising considering her age.  She has serious heart trouble (for which she takes regular medication), eyesight problems, very reduced hearing, and is almost definitely on the way to some sort of dementia.  We sometimes find her sitting looking lost, facing the wall.  She is losing weight. Poe asleep on sofaSo Poe sleeps most of the day, either in the garden when it is fine (preferably the raspberry bed as below), or on her favourite sofa.  And we have recognised that we are probably supporting her in her last year of life.Poe asleep in raspberry patchWhen we invited the new kits to come and live here, we did consider Poe’s health, and the adjustment she would have to make in her very old age to having two new cats on her territory. We discussed with our very understanding vet the possibility of having Poe put to sleep.

This was a good move.  She was able to reassure us that given all of Poe’s health problems it would not be unreasonable to bring an end to Poe’s life.  With that reassurance, we somehow felt much more confident to accept the new kits.We like Katherine's sewing machine tableWe bought a new litter tray for the kits, set up their own feeding station (both in my sewing room) and invested in expensive Feliway cat pheromone diffusers.  The kits settled in to their new upstairs home, and we thought we’d take it slowly, let them live upstairs for a bit with Poe downstairs.  But the first night, the little curious kits pushed down the barricades we’d set up, and there they were on the stairs!shy kitsThen Poe happened to be passing … and, oh dear!  The look of horror on Poe’s face!  If cats could speak ….

Perhaps that’s why it took so much persuasion to get the kits to come further downstairs … Helen reassuring kitsNew friendships had to be made.  Trust had to be earned.Eggy meets StephenThey explored all of Poe’s territory.  The food bowls …New kits interested in Poe's foodHer conservatory … Poe’s expression (on the table) says it all.  I don’t plan to share this at all!Interesting encounter in conservatoryThe kits pretty quickly realised that Poe could get into a further world that they were at present barred from.  How did Poe do it?!trying to work out the cat flapWhen presented with an open door, they were very wary. Note Poe watching superciliously.Poe watchesThere were fascinating encounters – or non-encounters – as elderly Poe failed to realise the kits’ presence.  Perhaps Poe was just enjoying the fuss we all made of her too much to notice Eggy hiding under the bench.Poe unaware of EggyThe kits certainly took the outside world very cautiously that first weekend.very tentative steps outsideThey’d known outside, of course, in their London garden – but what was that compared to the huge Northumbrian spaces and skies. So both kits went very cautiously, looking for safe hiding places wherever they could.Eggy trying to trick the birdsThe real magic for the kits is, of course, the birds.  We have bird feeders on the house wall, but also put grain on the path for those birds which prefer to eat this way.  Ilsa will spend hours flattened like this, watching and hoping.  I feel uncomfortable because we love the birds, but cats are genetically programed to catch birds, and we just have to accept this is what the kits want to do.Ilsa trying to catch birdsEven though the kits have got better positions now for bird catching (they’ve moved to the raspberry bed), they still haven’t caught anything. I’m not sure they will – they aren’t exactly fast-movers. Yet.Ilsa in raspberry bedEggy is a bit better at finding a good hiding place.Eggy in raspberry bedAll sounds well and good, doesn’t it?  Well, the truth is it wasn’t.  Ten days in we were exhausted with monitoring the situation and trying to manage Poe and kit meetings. Expressive cat encounters Poe seemed to be getting thinner and thinner – whether it was just the contrast of the fat little kits that made us more aware of her loss of weight, or whether anxiety was genuinely causing her to lose weight, we couldn’t be sure.  She certainly seemed to be eating as much as ever. But she looked so thin – her sides are almost concave.Poe looking very thinSo as we approached their second weekend here, we were thinking that it would be kindest to take Poe on that fateful vet trip next week.

But something changed.  Suddenly, things jelled.

I think two things happened.  Firstly, the kits genuinely made our house their own home.  Because they are differently sized from Poe, they couldn’t get through the catflap without help, so we helped them …steps to catflapAnd a little gaffer tape came in useful.gaffer tape makes catflap manageableSecondly, I think the antagonism between Poe and the kits settled down.  It is now benign teasing of Great-Aunt Poe by her bumptious nieces. They are endlessly inquisitive, and cannot resist checking her out, but she, from her superior age and height, can just let it pass – mostly. She still hisses, and has been known to biff them if they annoy her too much. It helps that we separate the kits from Poe at night so that nobody can upset anybody else when we are not around.checking out PoeThe new kits are the very sweetest of sweet-natured cats, and they give us hours of entertainment.  For all that it is hard work having three unsettled cats, it is very funny. Look how guilty they seem after we caught them watching birdtv!guilty looks - watching birdtvOh Eggy, you know just how sweet you look in the sink, but how am I to clean my teeth?Eggy and the sinkI even laugh when Eggy plays with my knitting wool!somebody's discovered my knittingAmong our collected bits and pieces from the seaside, we have what we think is an about-to-be-born seagull chick.  It is just bones and feather (presumably the rest eaten by a predator).Seaview treasures including gull chickIlsa loves it!Ilsa with treasureSo Eggy and Ilsa have in their own ways made themselves at home. Meanwhile Poe is comfy as ever beside me on the sofa.Poe with me on the sofaThree cats, getting on with their own lives, sharing the space.all cats together

Let me introduce you to Poe

Poe in Crediton garden, hiding behind nasturtium plantPoe and her sister Monet came to live with us in our Crediton home in 1999.    Monet and Poe as kittens, sitting on old knitting machineThey were sweet little kittens, and we loved them ……Young Monet and Poe cuddled up to each other while Poe washes Monetand they loved each other too.Monet and Poe cuddled up to each otherBut that love did not last.  Before long, they preferred to keep an unfriendly distance from each other.Poe and Monet on benchMonet was an anxious cat, and had some very difficult problems so eventually she had to leave us for the great cat home in the sky.  RIP Monet.Monet lying in the sunCuriously, with Monet’s departure Poe found her voice.Poe making her voice heardWe weren’t at all sure how Poe would take to our move from balmy Devon to the windy open spaces of Northumberland.Poe on garden fence looking out to the seaShe loved it! – and took to mousing with such enthusiasm that even when the snows came she was out there, catching mice.Poe outside with mouseShe liked to bring the mice in to play with – but often lost them so they ran off to make new homes inside.Poe inside with mouseRecently high blood pressure caused her retinas to detach and she went completely blind over night.  Luckily medication (very expensive!) means that she can now see again.Poe's damaged eyes after collapsed retinasThese are a few of her favourite things …
hogging the best spot in front of the fire…Poe in front of firedrinking Jammy’s cereal milk ….Poe watching Jammy eat cereallying in the sun…….Poe in woolly room sunlightdoing the fence walk with you know who ….Poe doing fence walkrolling around in a smelly man’s shirt……..Poe smelling Jam's smelly shirtwatching bird tv (broadcast live from our woodshed)!……Poe watching Bird tvand her Christmas mouse! Poe and her Christmas mouseOh Poe – we love you!