The kitties are now almost 11 months old—young cats. Charlie was back at the vet three months ago for the recurring kitty herpes virus that leads to generalised inflammation of his upper respiratory tract, including juvenile gingivitis, and needs keeping an eye on. At that point he weighed in at 8 lbs 5 oz. At his followup checkup, one week later, he had gained 5 oz. And he’s gained much more weight since. He must be at least 9.5 lbs, and frankly I’d be surprised it it was less than 10lb. He’s beautiful, and, at 11 months, nearly as big as our last cat, Zack, in his prime.
Here he is posing (something he’s very good at) as a thick-thewed fluff ball.
We have no clue what George weighs—he hasn’t needed to visit the vet since his kitten shots—but I’m guessing he’s perhaps 13 pounds. Like Charlie, he doesn’t carry an ounce of extra fat. He is an extraordinarily large and powerful domestic cat. And, like Charlie, he is very good to look at. He, too, is still growing. I read a while ago that domestic cats do most of their growing in their first 12 months but don’t hit their peak until they’re about 18 months old. If that’s true, then we might have to buy a dog carrier for George, because he won’t fit the one designed for kitties.
Here he is in the kitchen, glorying in his stripes—tiger kitty in front of tiger oak. He barely fits on that pillow that they both used to share.
Ominously, both still seem to have comparatively large paws and long tails. I think there’s still a fair amount of embiggening ahead. This next photo was taken end of January/beginning of February, and they’ve both grown enormously since. Charlie can take up most of the bed on his own; George spills over the edges.
They are both still chameleons. George can look oddly wise one minute, then young and uncertain the next—that’s nothing new. Whereas Charlie doesn’t seem to change affect so much as shape. Here is just thirty seconds after that first photo by the candles; he has stretched.
And again, this time posing on my Rollator (please note both the teethed-on foam backrest—courtesy of George—and the clawed-to-bits hard plastic seat—courtesy of Charlie) and reverting to thick-limbed and thick-furred.
A heartbeat later, he’s watching hummingbirds at the feeder and giving a splendid impression of a polecat.
As you can see, the kitty condo is still very much their boys club. Kelley and I have definitely been voted out of the clubhouse.
It’s a very exclusive club. So exclusive that they decided to go three rounds to see who else gets kicked out. Charlie is smaller but utterly committed, and with a mean left jab…
In the end it’s a draw, I think, with both of them deciding the kitty condo is okay first thing in the morning but not fit for purpose after noon. In the afternoons, Charlie retires to my wheelchair, and George often comes to sit near me on the sofa—him on the green blanket that he likes so much, me cross-legged next to him, with a cup of coffee, lots of notes, and a plate of chocolate or some other snack. Here he is, blissed out to the sound of my Apple Pencil making that most satisfactory chit-tit-tuc sound on the lusciously smooth iPad glass, followed by the occasional chuc as the Pencil clicks back in to its magnetic hold. He seems to find it comforting—perhaps only because he knows that once I settle down with notes, i’m not going anywhere for a couple of hours, which means nor is he.
But then, when a knotty plot point requires more brain food—after I’ve munched through the chocolate, moved on to pistachios, and finally need to eat something with more bulk—he seriously does not approve of the smell.
In the evenings, after dinner, he likes to watch TV. Charlie’s not really a fan, but George loves anything with animals. His most recent favourite? The Lion King. (And if you want to see how they’ve grown, look at this photo of Charlie by the same TV but different role model in late summer/early autumn.)
Their personalities are becoming more distinct. Charlie still can’t meow or do that frustrated-predator chitter; he chirrs and chirrups and squeaks like a rusty axle; I’m pretty sure his vocal cords were damaged during his polyp operation. But it suits his personality: endlessly inquisitive. He’s still in instant-physical-engagement mode: greet it, then hit it, jump on it, or put it in his mouth—and worry about whether that’s a good idea later. Actually, I think ‘worry’ forms no part of his vocabulary. This is why we are not yet letting them outside. Right next to our driveway, we have coyotes denning in the grassy commons down to the ravine: magnificent beasts, but they’d snap up our kitties like pop tarts. Especially if one of said kitties trots right up and chirrups as if to say, Hello! I haven’t seen you around here before! Let me bite your tail… We’d planned to build a catio for summer, but our friend the coronavirus has put paid to that. So I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to handle summer. Because George, in particular, needs more stimulation than we can give him. He’s a thinky beast. It’s fascinating to watch him work out how to open things, or whether the effort of chasing something is worth the meagre reward, and whether Kelley or I are likely to sit still long enough for him to go to all the bother of getting on our laps. He’s turning into a mature predator, that is, he won’t expend energy unless it’s an efficient means to an end. Which means it’s getting more and more difficult to persuade him to run, jump, chase, etc., because he looks at, say, Feather, and thinks, Oh, that thing. I know exactly how that behaves. And I know exactly how unrewarding it is to catch it. So I have to seriously provoke him to engage.
I suspect at some point we’ll buy a few rolls of chicken wire, use it to block off access to under the deck (and so around to the front of the house), then let them out into the fenced back garden for a few minutes at a time while we guard the gates which are lower than the rest of the fences. Charlie, for sure, couldn’t make the high fence jump of about 8 or 9 feet. George probably could—but he’s much, much more cautious and would stand a far better chance of surviving a cat-coyote encounter—mainly because he’d make sure the coyote never knew he was there. He’s an amazingly stealthy beast for his size. We’re still dithering. As Kelley says, once you let the kitty out of the bottle you can never put him back in.
They both still love my Rollator—they’ve loved it half to death, as you’ve already seen. But when it’s time for afternoon tea they both climb up expectantly and wait to be driven to the kitchen.
But like most of us these days they are mostly wrestling with the concepts of quarantine, sheltering in place, and social distancing. It begins of course, with a family meeting. George is seriously worried: one, will the catfood and Feather replacements hold out? Two, what is wrong with me—why do I look like the unnatural offspring of a haystack and a barbarian?
When I explain I haven’t had a haircut in some weeks and sadly have no shears or clippers, when I reassure them that their food supply is safe—and that they don’t need to worry about their hair growing shaggy—they buckle down and practise their COVID-19 responses.
Once George gets the hang of it, he decides to explain it to his little new bronze friend, who of course is small and empty headed and just wants to wriggle about. He finds it a frustrating experience.
Charlie of course does not give a flying fluffball about helping anyone understand anything. Spring is springing and he just wants to go out and play. Pretty colours! Lovely smells! Coyotes and squirrels, jays and crows! Gigantic climbing posts with funny green things sticking out of them and waving about! So many new things to make friends with…
So I think that’s where we’ll leave them. We’ll be back for their first birthday, perhaps with news of outside adventures but perhaps not. Meanwhile, feel free to catch up with previous Kitty Reports—and stay inside, wash your hands, and read a book!