Saturday, September 13, 2014

Introducing our Cyprus kittens

I mentioned in passing, in my last post, that we have two new kittens.

This is not something we planned, precisely. Until six years ago, we had four cats, and that was plenty. Then Jemima vanished one night - we never found out what happened to her - so we were down to three. Daniel had left home so we only had three humans; Daniel was Sophia's human and I was Jemima's, so in the absence of both, Sophia adopted me. Quite an undertaking as she is a highly extraverted, vocal and bossy cat.

Then nearly a year ago, when Richard and I were in the UK, Tessie disappeared. Tim was her human (although there had been some competition from the others while we were away) - and since Richard (Cleo's human) is often out or away, Cleo adopted Tim too.

But Cleo is now sixteen. She's getting thinner, and arthritic, and one of her legs is a bit swollen. Her coat is in good condition and she seems in good health overall - but cats don't often live more than about sixteen or seventeen years. Some make it to twenty, and we hope ours do - but she's definitely getting elderly. Sophia, Cleo's daughter, will be sixteen at the end of next February. She is still quite active, her fur is thick, and she isn't getting thin.. but she does sleep more than she used to (though not at 5.00am, unfortunately).

We had said, idly, for the past couple of years that it would make sense to introduce a couple of kittens into the house while we still have our older cats, to have some overlap. But Cleo and her daughters never accepted Tessie: they wouldn't eat together, they hissed and spat at each other, and Cleo was actually quite afraid of Tessie at times. Tessie, too, saw herself as defender of the house: if any other cat dared to come on our property, or any part of the road she considered hers, she would chase it away. Sometimes quite viciously. The other cats in our neighbourhood were terrified of her - and yet she was a friendly, fluffy cat who liked people very much.

I knew there was no way we could bring kittens here with Tessie around. And I didn't really want the hassle of kittens again, in any case.

Then our friends' second cat Conny gave birth to three kittens early in April this year. I didn't take a whole lot of notice of them at first, but they did become rather cute, as kittens do. There was this grey female one, who, at about five or six weeks old, took a strong liking to Tim:

Then there was a calico female and a brown and white male, who tended to be a lot livelier, watched here by their mother: 

(For anyone who thinks, as I did until recently, that 'calico' is the American word for 'tortoiseshell' - that's not actually the case. Tortoiseshell cats are mixed brown/black and orange, generally, while calico cats have more distinct patches of orange and black, plus large amounts of white).

When we went to see our friends, the three kittens would play for a while, then curl up in a bundle to sleep: 

Our friends did not want to keep them. Richard was very keen on adopting the two girl cats, so we said 'maybe', and 'if our two older cats don't mind'. I thought they probably would mind, very much, so didn't really see it happening. The boy cat was definitely going to be adopted by another friend. 

The kittens were given names, by our friends' 8-year-old daughter, Katie. The boy cat was called Alexander the Great, because he was so big and strong. The calico cat was Joan of Arc, because she was so brave. We didn't think the names would stick, but somehow they did.

And then there was 'the grey one'. Katie wanted her to be called Grandma, 'because she's grey and beautiful'. Someone else in the family wanted her to be called Alfie. I suggested, rather frivolously, that if the other two were named after famous people from history, perhaps she could be Lady Jane Grey.  And for some reason, that name stuck too.  I thought that, if we DID adopt the two female kittens, Joan and Jane made a nice pairing. 

We continued to watch them grow up. Here they are exploring our friends' dolls' house 

Then they would drop to sleep, curled up again... although by early June it was getting a bit too warm so they spread out a bit more:

I did notice at this stage that Lady Jane Grey was something of a loner, often sitting and watching while her two more boisterous siblings chased each other around. I made what was, perhaps, a foolish comment: that Alexander was really not suited to being an 'only cat'. And it was about this time that Alexander's future family found and adopted a feral kitten and said they really didn't want him after all. 

Then we had the news that our grandson had arrived. All other concerns seemed minor. Richard and I flew out to the UK when David was just a couple of weeks old and for the next two months I didn't think much about Cyprus at all.

However, Richard returned a month before I did. And within a few days, he said that he thought the kittens, almost four months old now, were ready to be adopted. 

Not Jane and Joan, as I had thought, but Alexander and Joan.

I didn't mind being away from home while he introduced them to the older cats and had a few sleepless nights of mewing kitties who assumed his toes were cat toys. But Cleo and Sophia accepted them - dubiously, but with a much better grace than they ever accepted Tessie.

Tim, meanwhile, found an apartment about five minutes' walk from where we live, closer to the school where he works, and moved out. Also in my absence.

And Tim adopted Lady Jane: 

Since they were all four months old by this stage, they were all neutered; this is something that some Cypriots don't like to do, but there are so many stray cats that we felt it was important. Particularly for Alex, who was growing fast and starting to display worryingly teenage tendencies. We did not want him spraying to mark territory, or roaming the streets at night yowling for females. 

So by the time I got home, the two kittens were in residence, in an uneasy alliance with Cleo and Sophia. Alex likes to sleep in bookcases and on printers:

Joan is still quite interested in exploring: here she is discovering herself in a mirror: 

And she also sleeps on the sofa, much more elegantly than her brother: 

A couple of weeks ago, Richard and I watched an episode of Doctor Who on DVD. Cleo loves the show - she always sits on Richard's lap when we see it. Sophia keeps out of the way. We had no idea where the kittens were until it had finished, and we discovered Alex hiding behind the sofa: 

... just as I used to when I was young and Doctor Who was on. 

Alex seems to be getting a lot bigger than Joan - typically male, I suppose! - but they still do everything together; here they are having a nap while trying to stay cool about two weeks ago:

.. and here they are, exhausted after the visit from our young friends: 

Alex sometimes washes Joan; she puts up with it for a while, but then tries to push him away: 

But overall, the experiment is working just fine. Here are three of them sharing a sofa a few days ago: 

The kittens are nicely subservient, and Cleo seems to think they're her kittens - she tolerates them remarkably well, and bats them away when they encroach too much. Sophia treats them like annoying little siblings. They have just started eating together, even sharing dishes - something neither Cleo nor Sophia would ever do with Tessie. 

What I find particularly interesting is that, although they still make some mews that sound very like their mother, they have also picked up some specific 'words' from Sophia. The one they are using in this short clip, however, appears to be a universal cat word - I've heard their mother use it, I've heard Sophia use it, and I've seen other cats on YouTube using it. It apparently means 'give me yogurt':

PS Alexander has now started his own blog: Alexander the Great


Anonymous said...

How sweet! Lovely that you, Richard and Tim have been able to give them great homes. I love the pic of Alex hiding behind the couch! NOT living up to his name!!! :D


Anvilcloud said...

A full house. How fun for you.

Gina said...

Very cute!

D Jess said...

Lovely kitties!