Here, Kitty Kitty!

Years ago, a colleague of mine arrived at work looking like he had lost a West Side Story-style knife fight. Twice.

19988xl__68965.1487041220

He was looking kinda pale, too.

He had two long vertical slashes on his face, a cut across the bridge of his nose, and his hands and arms had more of what CSI Miami calls “defensive wounds” than they had actual skin. He was a mess. Had he been mugged? Involved in a domestic dispute? Got caught up in a turf war with the Bloods and the Crips on a Tuesday night after work? He had not. He had tried to bath his cat.

I, to my eternal discredit, laughed like a drain. He got torn to shreds because Mr Tibbles didn’t feel like getting his little paws wet.

I wasn’t laughing quite so much a few years later when I had to retrieve a frightened tomcat from a thorn tree. Jesus. It’s all very well lying in bed with a curled up, animated hot water bottle purring at your feet on a cold night, but dealing with an unhappy cat is like trying to fix a running combine harvester from the inside. Whoever called what cats do to you a “scratch” was clearly unfamiliar with the word “slash”. I have scars.

I tell you this not to demonstrate that I have an occasionally unkind sense of humour, nor that I am intimately familiar with the concept of karma. I tell you this because it cuts to the heart of what cats are. Cats are balls of sinew, muscle and fur covered with blades. Even big cats. Even huge ones (with the possible exception of cheetahs, but we’ll get to those later).

cat-claw-flickr-335sm092112

The bigger they get, the bigger the blades get.

Cats have sacrificed the stamina of their eternal enemies the dogs in exchange for stealth, power, sinewy grace and an absolutely stupendous capacity for violence.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Yes, this is another post about the wildlife of the Lowveld. Yes, it’s about cats. And no, it’s not about the ones you are thinking of. The big ones. There are little cats in the bush, too. Those are the ones we’re looking at here. Starting with Mr Tibbles.

African Wildcat.

Decades ago, before we knew any better, we used, after a braai (barbecue) out in the bush, to leave a couple of chop bones and other leftovers out in the open just before we went to bed. We would sit in the dark on the step at the back door and wait to see if anything would come in to snap them up.

YPKxw1J

The dark gets that much more interesting when it might have lions in it…

This was a bad thing to do. The wildlife of Africa has made it through several million years without our help, and no good can come from training the creatures of the night to associate people with easy meals. There are some pretty gnarly things out there. Big things. With sharp teeth.

But back then, it was a magical time. We would sit in the shadows, motionless and unbreathing, our ears straining to pick out the snap of a twig or the crunch of a leaf that didn’t quite fit with the background noise of a night full of whispering life, our eyes trying to resolve the silver and the shadows of moonlight into a face or a body.

And the bodies would come. Hyenas trot through the night with heavy footfalls. Civets crunch through the undergrowth. Honey badgers puff and blow like tiny freight trains with emphysema. And African wildcats? They would come too. And they would make absolutely no noise at all. Nothing. Sometimes we would only spot them coincidentally when we turned on a torch to find our way off to bed.

I’m glad we did, though, because those are the only times I’ve seen a wild African wildcat.

African-wild-cat-TNR

This one must have been after breakfast scraps.

I’ve seen plenty of tame ones, though. So have you. You might even have one or two in your home. Yup. The domestic cat is just an African wildcat with a bit of the wild washed out. Just a bit though. Since they domesticated themselves a couple of thousand years ago, not much about their essential natures has changed. That’s why it’s so easy for cats to go feral.

And yes, cats domesticated themselves. Once we started farming, we started storing food. And once we started storing food, we got rats. Lots of rats. And mice. If you own a cat, you will know that they will go after birds and lizards and insects and frogs. But mostly they will go after rats and mice. African wildcats are rodent specialists, and once the rats and mice moved in on us, the cats followed by their own free will. That’s what makes cats so catty. So independent and aloof and free of the fawning adoration that dogs show for us. For most of their time with us, cats have lived alongside us, not under our care. All the fluffy cuddly stuff is a fairly new development.

300px-Persialainen

I’m not too sure this one would rock the whole “feral” thing.

So you can learn a lot about wildcats by looking at the tame ones. Wildcats are solitary (as the tame ones prefer to be when we let them), territorial (that’s what that lovely night-time singing is all about), and strictly nocturnal (which is why your cat seems so damned lazy). And they are very, very good at hunting. Which is wonderful for wildcats but has been a bit of an apocalypse for any unsuspecting creatures our domestic cats run into. They have helped drive over 60 different species to extinction.

And they have one more species in their sights. Wildcats. Wildcats and domestic cats may be from the same domestic stock, but they aren’t the same. African wildcats have a very specific coat; grey with various darker spots and stripes, and reddish brown ears. They also have longer legs than domestic cats. Since domestic cats are so very good at going feral, they move into wild areas with ease and interbreed with the locals. Wildcats in marginal areas are starting to lose the longer legs and show more variability in colour. In a couple of hundred years, they’re going to all look like grumpy cat and get marketing deals on YouTube.

2290

The wild called. I said no.

If you’ve been watching your tame cat, you will have noticed something a little unexpected for a supposedly solitary animal. Cats are extraordinarily good at communication. They communicate with their facial expressions, with the positioning of their ears and tails, with their postures, through scent, and with those gorgeous voices. Which seems like overkill for an animal whose main social strategy is never running into the neighbours. Until you remember what cats are. Sinew, muscle and blades. If every extremity except the tip of your tail is a vicious weapon, it pays to be very, very clear about your intentions.

There is one more thing that domestic cats can teach us about wild cats. All wild cats, even the big ones.

Wild dogs and hyenas make their living by running down prey. They seem to be able to go on forever. Cats can’t go on forever. They stick to short dashes. What they specialise in is sneaking up on things. And they are very sneaky indeed. Domestic cats can give us a little insight into how they do it.

An entire genre of YouTube videos has sprung up of cats walking down passages filled with dominos. It’s a remarkable thing to see. Without hesitation, a cat will stroll down a passage crowded with obstacles without so much as touching them.

Cats know where all the parts of their bodies are at all times. And they need to. For the sneaking. I once watched a leopard stalk a herd of impala for about ten minutes on a brightly moonlit night. It was excruciating. He managed to move forward about two metres in all that time. I counted him as unlucky that none of the impala died of old age.

But here’s the thing; he was walking through thick underbrush littered with dried leaves, and managed to do so without ever stepping on a twig or leaf, and without taking his eyes off the impala. This is even more impressive when you remember that by the time his back paws reached a spot, he hadn’t looked at that spot for minutes.

He failed. No impalas were harmed in the making of this post. It was no big deal though. He wasted a fair bit of time, but very little energy.

If you really want to know what the phrase “cat footed” means, here’s a dog being dog footed…

Which is lovely. But not all that stealthy.

Servals

While I have fond memories of African wildcats, I have absolutely none of servals.

I have a short mental list of the larger creatures of the bush that I have never seen. It gets shorter as time passes. Pangolins are on it, because they are so damn rare. Aardvarks were on it for ages, until I started seeing them all over the place.

b06341641ed925817c42deea09a6b3c9

I was, to be honest, drinking quite heavily at the time.

And servals are on it. I’ve never seen a wild one.

They aren’t particularly rare. What they are is very particular about their habitat. Servals live in tall, damp grassland, and it has shaped their bodies.

Their heads are small, about the same size as a big domestic cat’s. The rest of them, however, has been stretched out to give them a bit of an advantage in the tall grass.

They, like wildcats, eat birds and lizards and such, but specialise in rodents. They find them with the help of those satellite dish ears, and then jump up and over the grass and down onto them, like dolphins porpoising. Those are just little jumps for a serval. They can fairly casually jump 3 metres into the air to take down birds.

Servals are breathtakingly beautiful, tall, slender and graceful with a constellation of spots and stripes over a pale yellow background, like a tiny king cheetah.

1200px-Leptailurus_serval_-Serengeti_National_Park,_Tanzania-8

Which is a pity. People are now taking them out of the wild and breeding them with domestic cats. The outcome is the world’s largest domestic cat, a rather fetching creature called a savannah cat, whose defining characteristic is that it’s not allowed to live on the savannah anymore. Oh well…

Caracal.

Growing up, we didn’t have a television in our house. I did, however, get to watch the occasional show. One of the earliest TV movies I can remember was a horror called “The Claw!” about a young boy who gets stalked across the hills of his family farm by a terrifying and mysterious creature. A caracal.

It was an awesome movie. Haunting and atmospheric. A South African equal to “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. I couldn’t sleep for days, knowing that some time, any time, one of these horrifying murder-beasts could launch itself out of the undergrowth and tear me to shreds, or at the very least scratch my dog quite badly.

I Googled the movie yesterday. Turns out it was actually called “Claws”, and has a rating of three out of ten on IMDB. One of the reviews started “This was the single-most horrible film I have ever been witness to…”

gmxPiq3mXqZoHXSZ6z2SS5Ju94i-220x357

You won’t want to watch it with anyone else, either.

Oh well. It made a huge impression on me at the time. Huge enough to come back and haunt me a couple of years later when a caracal launched itself out of the undergrowth to attack my mother. Kinda.

I was visiting the Mountain Zebra National Park with my family, and we had stopped for a picnic at a small dam where you were allowed to get out of your car. My mother spread out a blanket and sat down to start getting lunch ready, while my dad took my sisters and me for a quick stroll around the water.

“Kul!” said my mother in the sort of voice adults use when they wish to point out imminent danger to other adults without alarming the small children in the area. This is an entirely ineffective sort of voice, and we small children swung around in very much alarm. With good reason. A caracal loomed glowering over my cowering mother.

My father grabbed us children and took a step backward. “Oh my God!” I thought. “It’s happening! The Claw! The Claw!” Viciously, the murderous cat began to purr at my mother, before savagely rubbing his cheek along her leg and strolling brutally over to a nearby patch of shade, where he flopped down menacingly in the dust and fell asleep.

5cf140592400003b078563b1

My blood still runs cold at the thought of it.

“This,” I remember thinking, “is not what I have been led to expect…”

It took us a moment or two to realise that the caracal was wearing a radio collar, and we later learned that he had been hand-raised at a nearby ranger station. This should, technically, have stopped me from removing caracals from my list of unseen wild animals, but I decided that this sighting counted because he had so viciously attacked my mother. I’ve seen a couple since then, but they certainly aren’t easy to come by.

Which isn’t the same as being as being rare. Caracals are one of those rare wild creatures that manage to cling on in farmland long after the other wildlife has been wiped out.

Which is a problem. Because Caracals aren’t rodent specialists. Caracals are about the same size as Servals. But here’s the thing with cats; Small cats kill small prey with a very precise bite to the back of the neck, while big cats kill big prey by suffocating them with a bite to the throat. Servals kill their prey with that back of the neck bite. They are, round here, the biggest of the small cats. Caracals kill their small prey in the same way. But they don’t only take small prey. They kill those by suffocation. They are the smallest of the big cats.

Caracl_(01),_Paris,_décembre_2013

Which leads us back to that problem. A 15kg caracal can kill a 60kg sheep. Caracals do not lurk around farmland as an undetected presence. They are at war with the farmers. Farmers shoot, trap, and poison caracals, and yet somehow the caracals persist.

Happily, the caracals I have seen have not been at war with anybody. In the bush they eat anything from reptiles, birds and rodents to buck the size of duikers. Like the servals, they can cheerfully jump 3 metres into the air, and are supple and agile enough to knock flying birds out of the sky.

f93b3a79739d2a9e699a24e7fe9e47ae

Sensible bush-goers wear protective headgear outdoors.

And that’s just about that for the caracal. Except for the ears. There’s something up with cats’ ears. Wildcats have rufous ears, in contrast to their grey coat. Cheetahs, servals, lions and leopards have black ears with white patches. Caracals have charcoal ears, in contrast to their reddish coats. It’s all part of that communication thing I mentioned earlier.

Thing is, all of those contrasting colours are on the back of the ears. If you survive by stalking, you don’t want to give the game away by blending perfectly into your environment except for the two striking flags waving around on the top of your head. The ears are there mostly there to signal to the cats behind you, like your kittens or cubs following you through thick grass or, if you’re a lion, your pride stalking your prey with you.

Cats do sometimes flatten their ears so you can see the back of them from the front. If you ever see a cat doing this, whatever you do don’t try to give it a bath. That is a very unhappy cat.

growling-leopard-Kruger

Maybe just wipe it down with a damp cloth.

Caracals have taken things one step further. Their ears are tipped with tufts of hair like the eyebrows of an aging Anglican priest. Their ears have become semaphores whose every movement is exaggerated. In fact the caracal’s whole face looks like it is designed to exaggerate every expression. Black lips with white borders. Black rimmed eyes surrounded by white. A black nose with a white background. Black and white lines furrowing the brow.

c51c416545b1657ec192948010488d9a

Either it’s snarling or it just saw a man fall off a bicycle.

Nobody snarls like a caracal. If anyone has ever tried to bath a caracal, they should be given a medal before being institutionalised. I’m not sure why they have such expressive faces. Maybe as the smallest of the big cats they are extra prickly, like the small guy at the end of the bar who keeps trying to stare you down while his bigger friends ignore you. It seems that caracals need to be extra clear about what and when they communicate with each other. It makes for a very striking cat.

And that’s that for the small guys. After this, things get bigger. And easier to find.

Cat People

My father was not a man about whom people said “He has such a way with animals.” Not that he disliked them or anything. He just wasn’t one of those people who spend their first ten minutes of a visit to someone else’s house aggressively patting the dog and shouting “Who’s a good boy, then?”, or trying to win over the surly cat by holding out a hand a going “Psshwhsshwhsshwhsshwhssh” and gurning like a lunatic. He tended to ignore animals and they tended to ignore him.

 

Some people ignore animals more energetically than others.

Some people ignore animals more energetically than others.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when, as he was walking in his garden one day, a cockatiel landed on his shoulder and just didn’t go away. We put up some “Found. Naively trusting cockatiel” signs, but no-one claimed him. And so we went out and bought him a cage and some toys, and a tiny mirror so that he would have an imaginary mortal enemy to fight with. Cheeky Boy (for some reason, all cockatiels round here are called Cheeky Boy) lived with us for a year or two, nibbling his way through the edges of our childhood books and noisily beating the crap out of the bird in the mirror until, sadly, he went the way of all flesh.

We packed the cage away in the back of the garage and forgot about it until, as my father was walking in his garden one day, a cockatiel landed on his shoulder and just didn’t go away. Up went the “Found” signs. Out came the cage. We called him Cheeky Boy (rules are rules). Being older and wiser, we threw away the mirror.

This is, I’m sure you will agree, a rather unusual way of acquiring pets. I have heard of other people who have captured escaped cockatiels (all cockatiels round here have escaped; they don’t occur here naturally, and can’t survive as ferals) by luring them in with food or spraying them with a hose, but my father just had to step outside.

We began to suspect that sinister forces were at play when, some time after Cheeky Boy II had passed on, my father stepped out into his garden, and a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo landed on his shoulder, and just didn’t go away. Up went the signs. Away went the bird. Cockatiels may be a dime a dozen, but a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is $1000 for just the one. The owners turned up almost as soon as we put up the signs. No free pet for us.

 

"Cute! If only there was a way we could turn it into cash..."

“Cute! If only there was a way we could turn it into cash…”

This was, in retrospect, probably a good thing. Sulphur Crested Cockatoos can live for over 70 years, and besides, none of us had the faintest idea of what you are supposed to call them.

My father passed on a couple of years ago, and among the many things we lost was the ability to pluck free pets from the ether with no effort at all. These days it takes a bit of effort.

My family, you see, is obviously rather taken with the idea of free pets. Not birds, though. Without my father’s curiously impractical super-power, birds are out of reach for us. No more Cheeky Boys. So my family has taken to stealing cats instead.

They will loudly protest their innocence, but I know what they’re up to. It started with my youngest sister. A few years ago, she and her family moved into a new house. Once they’d been there for a week or two, the neighbour’s cat popped over the wall to check them out, as cats do. And so, obviously, my sister fed him a can of top-grade tuna. As one does. Or rather, as one doesn’t.

 

Psshwhsshwhsshwhsshwhssh

Psshwhsshwhsshwhsshwhssh

This wasn’t a starving feral cat from a back alley somewhere. It was the neighbours’ pet. They had a little basket for it. They had a litter box for it. They fed it and had a cute little name for it, like Mr Whiskers. They did not, however, feed it top-grade tuna. For some inexplicable reason, the cat began to visit my sister’s house more often, and spend more time there. And put on weight.

And now? It doesn’t go “home” anymore. Ever. She might have done so very, very slowly, but my sister stole her neighbour’s cat. Is she racked by guilt? Filled with remorse? She is not. She has renamed the beast “Tuna Cat” in recognition of her glorious victory. And the best part? She doesn’t really like cats.

My mother was slightly disapproving of all of this. One shouldn’t use high-quality saltwater finfish of the tribe Thunnini to steal one’s neighbours’ cat. Not content to merely point this out, she then went on to demonstrate, by stealing her neighbours’ cat through the power of love alone. It took nearly a year. She knew she had won when the unfortunate beast began to starve to death. It was clearly spending so much time at my mother’s house that the neighbours forgot they had a pet and stopped feeding it.

Honour was satisfied. My mother declared victory and started to feed the stolen cat. She named her Mishka. My mother has set aside a couch in the TV room for her. And the best part? She doesn’t really like cats.

I don't know why not. There's just so much you can do with them...

I don’t know why not. There’s just so much you can do with them…

I try not to judge these people. As they say, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I love them for who they are, and to be perfectly honest, moral superiority is quite a warm and snuggly feeling.

So why this long and rambling redefinition of the word “catnap”? Well, this is actually one of those long and rambling “I haven’t posted for ages!” posts. I’ve been a little scarce.

I have, you see, re-joined the ranks of the nine-to-fivers. I started a new job at the beginning of last month. It’s exactly the same as the job I left a year ago, but in a different place. Yup. I’m a bookseller again.

It’s all been a bit of a shock to the system. My time is no longer my own. It took me a while to find my rhythm. Evenings were for catching my breath, not writing. But I got over it pretty quickly. I’m a bookseller, not a lumberjack. After a week or two I was ready to return to blogging. And then it happened.

 

Now try to keep Monty Python's lumberjack song out of your head for the rest of the day.

Now try to keep Monty Python’s lumberjack song out of your head for the rest of the day.

I am sorry to have to tell you this, but Mrs 23thorns has been sneaking around behind my back. All it took was for my absence to be guaranteed and my movements predictable. I stepped out of the door one day, and everything around me crumbled. Mrs 23thorns betrayed me.

Yes, good people. No sooner was my back turned than Mrs 23thorns up and stole a cat. Bam! Just like that! No high-quality tuna. No furtive strokes as the cat came stealing over the wall. Nope. I went off to work one day without any cats to speak of, and came home to find Ginger Cassidy living in my house. Yup. Ginger Cassidy. He was named by a committee of small people.

 

I wanted to go for "Contraband", but the committee disagreed...

I wanted to go for “Contraband”, but the committee disagreed…

The whole operation was flawlessly executed. Mrs 23thorns arrived home with her two tiny henchpersons to find the soon-to-be Ginger Cassidy mewing in the driveway. In a heartbeat he was installed in my daughter’s bedroom, calmly chewing on a piece of sausage and lapping up some milk while the dogs barked hysterically at the window.

Luckily I, the calm, rational, sensible member of the family, arrived home soon after, and immediately set about remedying the situation. I took Ginger Cassidy back out into the driveway and explained to him in short, easy-to-understand Anglo-Saxon words that it was time for him to leave. Sorted. I dusted off my hands and went back inside, nodding firmly to myself in acknowledgement of a job well done. Until I glanced out the window and saw that Ginger Cassidy was still there. As was the younger Ms 23thorns.

 

They were having a pose-off...

They were having a pose-off…

Every time Ginger Cassidy so much as glanced at the gate, she would scoop him up in her four-year-old arms and carry him back to the middle of the driveway while explaining that she loved him very much and he was not allowed to go anywhere.

Right. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I set the dogs on him. Kinda. What I actually did was carry him out of the gate and then let the dogs into the garden to keep him from coming back in. Theoretically.

Apparently Ginger Cassidy can levitate. Ten minutes later we found him sitting comfortably up a thorn-tree in the middle of the garden while the dogs went berserk just below him. “We need”, said Mrs 23thorns, looking at me pointedly, “to get him down.”

Right. This is what our thorn-tree looks like.

Mrs 23thorns refers to this category of things around the home as "Your job".

Mrs 23thorns refers to this category of things around the home as “Your job”.

 

“We” got him down. There was blood. No matter. I had another idea. I locked the dogs in the house, and the cat outside, and off we went to bed. It was perfect. As we slept, Ginger Cassidy would get bored and bugger off home to his real family. And he has a real family. Feral cats don’t let four-year-olds carry them around like ragdolls. Perfect.

Theoretically. In reality, I stepped outside the next morning all clean and polished and ready for work to be greeted by a plaintive mewing. From the thorn-tree. More blood. The dogs were locked outside and Ginger Cassidy was locked inside, and I went off to work.

I returned to find that we now had a litter-box full of cheerful white and blue crystals, and eighty kilograms of cat food. I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I went around the neighbourhood knocking on doors. No joy. I put up some “Found. Naively trusting cat” posters. Success! That very evening I got an excited phonecall from a pleasant-sounding Nigerian man with only a passing familiarity with the English language. It took me just ten minutes to work out that he wanted me to go and fetch my cat. And its kittens. It took me just another ten minutes to explain the small but fundamental difference between the words “lost” and “found”. Bugger.

 

Although he did give me an idea...

Although he did give me an idea…

I mentioned the SPCA to Mrs 23thorns. She mentioned euthanasia to me with moist eyes and a quivering lower lip. Bugger.

It would appear that we now have a cat. And allergies.

And so to the paucity of posts on this blog. I have found my new routine. It goes like this:

We wake up bright and early in the morning. Or rather we are woken by a distraught four-year-old who has been bitten by a cat. There is little or no brightness involved. We lock the dogs outside. We remove an unreasonably large poo coated in cheerful white and blue crystals from a specially bought plastic tray full of cheerful white and blue crytals with a small, specially bought pink spatula, and throw it away. Then we vacuum up the cheerful white and blue crystals that have been artfully scattered around my daughter’s room. We close the cat back in my daughter’s room and let one of the dogs back inside to feed it while the other eats outside. Then it’s just a simple matter of locking the dogs outside again so that my daughter can get dressed with Ginger Cassidy before moving them back inside (while making sure Ginger Cassidy is safe in his room) so that they don’t run out into the street when I go off to work.

God only knows what happens when I’m away at work. All I can tell you is that yesterday it involved a tetanus injection. Then I come home again.

 

So that's what Karma looks like...

So that’s what Karma looks like…

I arrive home to a scene of idyllic peace. This lasts up until the moment I open the front door. The dogs run out. I pause briefly to greet the family before having a quiet cup of coffee with Mrs 23thorns in the garden. Or not. First, we have to drive the dogs back inside and lock one of them in the bathroom (the reasons for this are complex, but revolve around his ability to open windows) so that Ginger Cassidy can have some outside time. We then have to threaten the children with death if they let the dogs out. And then we can have our quiet cup of coffee.

Or not. My children do not fear death. We have about three minutes in which to soak up the peaceful sounds of the dog barking hysterically in the bathroom before one of the children needs to come outside to tell us that they are drawing a picture, or the other needs to answer a call of nature and releases the window-opening hell-beast. Then we get to relax by sprinting off down the lawn to drive the dogs back into the house before retrieving the cat from the thorn tree. And bleeding.

Once we have finished relaxing, we drive the dogs back out of one door while bringing the cat in another. We feed and bath the children before closing the cat in my daughter’s room and letting the one dog inside so we can feed the entire menagerie in their separate locations. Then we let the dogs inside for the night and squeeze my daughter into her room while holding various animals at bay with our feet. All that remains is to open my daughter’s window once she has fallen asleep so that the cat can frolic around in the dark for a while before coming back in to bite her awake at four in the morning so that we can do it all again.

 

Dawn at my house.

Dawn at my house.

And then it is my time to write. For some reason I don’t really feel up to it, and Mrs 23thorns and I opt instead to weep ourselves quietly to sleep while one of the dogs whines peacefully at my daughter’s door.

Fear not! Things are going to change around here! We are going to find a new routine! I wish I could tell you that we are taking control back from the vicious swarm of vermin that have taken over our lives, but I can’t. Nope. Today’s the day my daughter gets to bring Mickey and Mouse home with her. Micky and Mouse are the class hamsters. They live in a cheerful looking circus tent-cage covered in transparent pipes, and apparently need to be taken out and held every fifteen minutes or they will feel sad. My daughter is very pleased with herself. All the other kids get the hamsters for a weekend. She’s got them for the holidays.

Hamster cages have come a long way since I was small.

Hamster cages have come a long way since I was small.

 

And so, good people, it might be just a little while before I get back to regular posting. I need to find a way to keep the cat away from the hamsters. And the dogs away from the cat. Which involves keeping my daughter away from the hamsters. And my son away from the bathroom. I can, at least, relax just a little and leave the dangerous work up to Mrs 23thorns. Not that she’s in control or anything. It’s just that she recently had a tetanus shot…

I’m beginning to understand why they say that owning a pet adds ten years to your life. I’ve aged at least that much in the last two weeks. And the best part? I don’t really like cats. Maybe we should get a cockatiel…

We could call him Cheeky Boy.

We could call him Cheeky Boy.