Two tabby cats sitting up after a nap on a woven throw next to a laptop.

George and Charlie are two weeks shy of six months old. Their food consumption is up again, but as you can see from the photo (they were helping Kelley in her office and had just woken up) they are most definitely not portly. I would not be surprised if George were to weigh in at 7 lbs, and it’s all sinew and muscle. Charlie is definitely growing, but he’s still small. He can look surprisingly hefty in bright sunlight, though, and yesterday, when he caught sight of the neighbour cat for the first time—a big fluffy Balinese—he puffed up to alarming proportions and made a kind of strangling sound in his throat—his first attempt at a growl.

Their developmental pendulum swings wildly between sweet fuzzy little sleeping potato and manic murdercat. In their grown-up phases they pose. Charlie has a fondness for Lolling Potentate, while George (jealous of Charlie’s Bast look) is practising Sphinx.

Young tabby cat lolling in the sun, yellow eyes reduced to slits by bright light. Charlie as Jabba the Hut.
Young tabby cat sitting on white carpet in sphinx pose: front paws straight out. George the sphinx.

They are still teething. George sheared off the specially reinforced cords holding the fuzzy pompoms hanging from the kitty condo, though hasn’t yet been able to get through the one on the scratching post. George is also, I suspect, responsible for the huge rent in our favourite 1200 thread count sheets and the great hole in my (admittedly old) purple sweater. His new nickname is Ripper.

Charlie has learnt to carpet swim—pull himself along the floor by digging his front claws in the carpet and pulling himself along, fish-like. And given his mackerel tabby colouring, he is Kipper. Neither of them seem impressed with their new names and refuse to answer to them. Kelley swears that when she calls their proper names they recognise them, but I’m not convinced.

Charlie likes sleeping on me; George prefers to sleep right next to me, preferably on something of mine, whether the Rollator or a sweater—he’s particularly fond of my sweaters; if I put one down, I lose it for the day. He tends to sleep tidily, Charlie not so much:

Tabby kitten asleep on an oatmeal coloured sweater George is dignified in sleep, mostly. Note his paw pads which are like roasted coffee beans.
Tabby kitten on a cross-legged lap. He looks as though he just fell there from a mile up, or maybe is doing the can-can. Charlie can fall asleep anywhere, in any position. Here he looks as though he may be essaying the can-can in his sleep. Note the chewed ties on my sweat pants, sigh.

They both love to cuddle. Charlie is demanding. He just leaps at you and expects to be caught, supported, and carried about like a toddler until he suddenly flops into deep sleep, and then won’t move for hours. He can sleep anytime, anywhere. Last time we were at the vet his was in my arms and just fell into REM sleep, head lolling over my elbow, while the vet was chatting about immunisations. George is a fan of hugs: he stands on his hind legs, reaches one paw up to each side of my neck and tucks his head under my chin. Actually, he likes standing up in prairie dog pose a lot. Here he’s watching Galaxy Quest.

Cat on its hind legs like a prairie dog, watching TV George watches Galaxy Quest

He’s learnt that claws + human skin = verboten. A couple of weeks ago I picked him up (he’d jumped on the table while we were eating breakfast) and he panicked, flailed, and caught my lip and cheek. I bellowed; he ran off and stayed hidden for a while. Later, when he crept out, he seemed chastened. I haven’t seen his claws since. Which is a good thing, because he’s getting big, and strong, and fast. I’m happy not to worry about a recurrence. Charlie, though… A month ago we elected not to trim Charlie’s claws because when he doesn’t see well, the claws are what save him: if he misses a jump by a few inches he can generally hang on and haul himself up. That was fine when he weighed 3 lbs. But now he weighs over 5 lbs it’s becoming problematic: he takes a flying leap at my shoulder and if he feels even a little insecure will clench his paws into taloned fists, like an osprey around a fish.

Tabby cat with its head over staff's shoulder, looking back at the camera Charlie gets possessive

I shout in outrage (and pain), and while he doesn’t like that, he seems unrepentant. Right now my shoulders look as though I’ve gone headfirst through a threshing machine, and my thighs have what look like the fork patterns you put in shortbread. (My hands, too, look like they’ve met the fork fairy.) We’re hoping he’s just a bit behind the learning curve, but we’ll see.

George discovered bacon and played with it for hours before figuring out how to eat it. This was obviously just-in-time preparation for real life. Last night, as a Halloween present, George woke us up growling and leaping: he had caught a mouse and had brought it to us to be admired. I felt sorry for the mouse—but it was dead, so too late to bother to rescue it—but also absurdly proud: our itty bitty kitty killed his first meal! Of course, waking up the next day to its liver and tail in the middle of the carpet—none of our cats seem to care for rodent liver—was less fun, as was the realisation they, hey, we have mice. Not for long, obviously, but still.

Charlie was not the least bit interested in either the bacon or the mouse. I don’t know if this is a vision issue, a developmental stage, or just personal preference. He’s certainly curious about most things. Last week he discovered the inside of the wheelchair lift. When it was in the down position he jumped neatly inside then yowled when he couldn’t get out (it’s a 44″ jump up a metal side panel with no purchase for claws). I couldn’t open the door for him—because I can only get downstair if I use the lift—so I had to bring the lift back up to the main level. When he realised he was moving, and trapped, poor Charlie nearly had an aneurism. Terror adrenalin gave him enough of a boost that he leapt out, mid-rise, at which point I nearly had a fucking aneurism because he could easily have got a leg caught between the lift and the steps. He seemed a bit glassy-eyed, but fine. I had to go make a soothing cup of tea (and of course Charlie promptly tried to boil himself in it).

Charlie’s brain fritzes are becoming less frequent and so more obvious when they do occur. They seem related to fatigue and/or stress. The other day, he was in the kitchen watching a towhee (stealing the food we’d put out on the deck for the crows) when a yard worker clomped up the steps with a roaring leaf blower. Charlie streaked to the other end of the house and hid under the bed; when he emerged he seemed to process poorly for a while. He was fine after a nap. I’m beginning to suspect this may be a permanent feature of his brain injury. If so, he’ll adapt and find ways to compensate, as all of us with impairments do.

He might not be learning about his claws, he might not be learning that not all food comes from tins, but he’s definitely learning. Today I saw him do something George has been doing for quite a while: prancing about on his hind legs while holding and batting about his favourite grey catnip mouse. He’s also learning to think more strategically about prey: how to anticipate where it might be going and being there, waiting, rather than simply chasing. He’s been doing that on and off for a while, butnow he does it all the time, plus he’s figured out that he can cut the angle in a chase by going over a piece of furniture. Frankly it makes our games of feather a bit less entertaining for me. Instead of endlessly racing in a circle, he stops and waits behind a piece of furniture.

Right now I suspect they’re under-stimulated. We’ve chased, caught, and chewed to death several feather toys. The catnip mice only hold them so long. Red dot (the laser pointer) seems to frustrate them now; they’ve learnt they can’t catch it or rip it. Foils balls are always fun, but they go under furniture almost immediately. Ribbons are no challenge at all. And, finally, even their mini-football (soccer ball—Charlie has mad paw-ball skills) seems to be losing its allure.

So: we need some new toys. Suggestions?