Today the kitties are exactly a year and half old. They’ve changed quite a bit since we got them last August—bigger, obviously (compare this photo of them on their kitty condo to an earlier one), but also beginning to become grown cats, by which I mean they sleep a lot more and spend more time on their own pursuits (often literally). They spend a lot of time together. Outside they hunt together sometimes. Indoors after dark they often play, and sleep, and fight together—Charlie usually starts it—but during the day they prefer to move around the house separately. George will sit near me but not on me; Charlie wants to be on me, though when I’m working he’ll mostly settle for being put in his bed on my desk. They still both love playing Feather, and Foil Ball, so I keep a stack of crumpled gold chocolate wrappers next to my desk and just toss one when they get irritating. But mostly they are wholly involved in each other, and in their individual presences out in the world.
And they are out in the world a lot. You will remember the trials and tribulations we went through with the cat door, and lock, and portcullis. Well, we’ve been through another couple of rounds. George began to stay out later and later, getting really good at sneaking in quietly for food, then sneaking out again before we could lock the kitty door. So we decided it was time swap to a four-way lock mechanism—where you can set it to open both ways; closed both way; open only for going out, and open only for coming in.
That way we could set the lock to 3 (inwards only) mid-afternoon and any time George sneaked in for a snack, whap, he would not get out again. Then when they were both in we’d switch it to 4 (fully locked). One problem—the mechanism is bulky, which meant the portcullis had to be dismantled. We didn’t worry, though, because we thought even our Einstein Houdini Ferociraptors wouldn’t be able to figure out how to turn the lock anticlockwise, to 1 (fully open) and escape.
Oh ha! Ha ha ha!
It took Charlie about three minutes to figure it out—he worked out that if I set it 4 (all-closed) then he could just lean on it and push it round clockwise to all-open. So we had to build a new portcullis. But that wasn’t hard. So now we’ve managed to establish an indoor-outdoor rhythm: we unlock their door at 9:00 am, and we set the lock to enter-only around 4:00 pm. They are now always both home well before 5:00 pm. They are throughly adjusted to this—to the degree that George doesn’t even try to go out anymore past mid-afternoon. He’ll give one pro forma yowl, then go eat his bodyweight in cat food, then curl up (on something green) and go to sleep. Charlie, though, well, not always. Every now and again he’ll just get mad at the restrictions and just run from window to window to door to kitty door, chirring and meeping and desperate to get out. If neither Kelley nor I know where Charlie is at any given moment, nine times out of ten he’s on a windowsill somewhere, yearning, threatening local wildlife, and plotting revenge.
They sincerely disliked us for ten days in early September when wildfire smoke turned the outdoor air quality here in Seattle to unhealthy then very unhealthy then flashing-red hazardous. We let them out the first morning when the air was merely moderately bad—and even so you can see how yellow the light is.
But then it got really bad. There were a couple of days when day seemed like night in our living room.
The cats did not understand, and were very, very unhappy. There again, so were we. The whole family spent a lot of time watching TV. It turns out they’re both fans of speculative TV—and dislike realism quite a bit, unless it’s about big cats killing big game. Here they are watching The Old Guard, and Charlie is quite taken with this notion of being killed, then just getting up again. It’s hard to say whether here he’s having visions of having to catch only one shrew that he can kill over and over again, or if he’s figuring out that, hey, he’s a cat: he can live forever, like NINE TIMES!
George likes Firefly, particularly Wash—whereas Charlie is more of a Jane fan.
They are both mystified by Lucifer, particularly when he sprouts wings, but George likes him; Charlie prefers Maze.
By the time we could let them out again, summer was over, and fall was well on the way to winter—Seattle’s five-month rainy season—so now it’s cold and wet outside all the time. As a result, they’ve really changed their habits. We haven’t had a dismembered vole or shrew to deal with for nearly a month—an abrupt change to finding three livers and a tail in a single day. Perhaps it’s just that they’re eating them outside but I suspect not because they are eating a truly astounding amount of food.
They are both still growing—that kitty condo is now ridiculously too small for them; they love it anyway—but much more slowly. I suspect they’re within a whisker of their final size. George is bigger; he always will be. Here’s a photo taken a few months ago, with a Kindle for scale. He’s bigger now.
They’ve developed habits. George, for example, will never come snuggle up during the day. If it’s daytime he’ll find a place to sit near me—usually his favourite ratty green blanket that we’ve had to make an almost permanent feature of the family room sofa (sigh).
In the evening, he’ll settle in front of the fire—
—while Kelley and I have our wine or cocktails and Charlie plunks himself onto Kelley’s lap. Or steals her chair when she gets up to get us a refill.
But at night, George will climb onto my lap in bed while I read—again, onto a green blanket—and head bump, then knead and purr luxuriously, then slowly fall asleep. I not a fan of the blanket, so as soon as he wakes up, yawns, and wanders off for his second supper I take the blanket off. When he comes back he does a double-take (every time) at being faced with a (to him) unfriendly duvet (even though it’s green) then huffs his way to join Charlie bracketing Kelley’s legs on the blue blanket.
While George is still very cautious of people who aren’t me or Kelley, Charlie is utterly promiscuous—he will settle on anyone, anytime. As Seattle enters its rainy season he’s been helping me a lot with my work.
Both of them have had their first wounds. George got bitten on the base of his tail a few months ago—by something small, judging by the spacing of the bite marks and how shallow they were—but there was no infection. He cleaned the bite so assiduously that half the hair on the base of his tail fell out, and it’s still growing back in. Charlie wasn’t so lucky. Three weeks ago he got chomped by something just above the dew claw on his right foreleg. We knew something had happened, but we couldn’t find a break or anything, and he seemed to get better, but then he started to limp and the paw swelled: the wound had abscessed. Off to the vet. Shaving draining, antibiotics, and a kitty who felt very sorry for himself for a couple of days and wanted cuddles every minute of every day, and never missed an opporunity to show his shaved patch.
They have been an immeasurable comfort to me during a recent MS relapse and the horrors of the American political landscape. Here’s George beaming love and comfort.
And they both offered a moment of silence for Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
And a few days after the election they seemed thankful for new possibilities.
But mostly they’re just learning to be cats, and trying to learn to make space for others, one mum at a time.
Mostly, though, like all of us I think they’re just biding time until spring. Instead of vaccines and new administration, though, they looking forward to pulling up flowers, chasing butterflies, and pulling the heads off anything they can catch—perhaps a few slow-moving White House escapees. Meanwhile, you can enjoy many, many earlier adventures—including photos and video—in previous Kitten Reports.
*News about that next week