Made on the occasion of their second birthday as an experiment in digital drawing

Image description: Black and white digital sketch of two tabby cats. The one on the right is made to look like a pencil sketch; he sits neatly, tail around his toes, in profile except for is head which is turned to stare directly at the viewer as if to say, “What, exactly, are you begging to do for me?” The one on the left looks like a black and white gel pen and brush image of a cat on a table. He is sitting slightly crooked and leaning forward a little, with his tail not quite curled around his toes, and his eyes wide and quizzical.

These are the sketches I made of Charlie and George on their second birthday.[1] That was five weeks ago; they are no longer kittens but full-grown cats. At least I think so. Kelley swears that George is still growing. (We’ll find out at the end of summer when we take them in for their annual inspection and tune up.) Charlie, however, is definitely no longer growing. George weighs about 50% more than Charlie—though you wouldn’t think so from the sketches. When you don’t see them side by side there are times you’d automatically assume Charlie was bigger: he has this ability to look weighty and luxuriantly furred—whereas in reality he’s very sightly built; his bones are slender; his neck is about half the width of George’s. He also has the ability to just stretch and stretch and stretch until he looks like a mile of leopard-spotted belly

Charlie has the longest belly in the world

George, even now, can look very young and uncertain.

I’m just not sure…

They’re both healthy. Although they both—Charlie particularly—occasionally suffer a flare of their kitty herpes (sore throat, sore gums, a slight bubble in the breath) it never lasts longer than a couple of days and it doesn’t affect their appetite for food, lap time, and play.

In terms of appetite, dear god they eat a lot! Charlie still won’t touch anything but canned kitten food—he ignores cat treats; ignores fresh (and cooked) chicken or fish; doesn’t even care to chase chickpeas or steal broccoli (something our other cats did). But if you put down a can of Fancy Feast Tender Chicken Feast (Kitten) he can hoover up the whole thing in about sixteen seconds (yes, I’ve timed him). He’s marginally less fond of Tender Turkey (that takes him more like 22 seconds).

Charlie demolishes one plate of food, nears the end of the second, and considers of the third—though because it’s human food (fish) he ends up not touching it

George eats a lot of Tender Chicken, not much Tender Turkey, but manages his body weight in shrews, voles, moles, and mice. He’d add birds to that if he could (he brought home his second bird last week—more on that below). He also adores Orijen natural freeze-dried cat treats, but only the original flavour. He will also occasionally graciously accept cooked beef, cod, and chicken (though is not keen on pork or lamb or bacon).

So they’re grown cats, but in many ways they the same as those tiny kittens we brought home in August 2019. Charlie is the extrovert of the family, and his moods are alarmingly mercurial with the highs and lows turned up to 11: sweet and loving, wholly demonic, plaintive, Cardinal-in-all-his-Medici-glory, territorial, playful, and limp—when he’s still, he’s utterly inert; otherwise, he doesn’t stop moving. George is more introverted and cerebral: by turns cautiously playful, mildly mournful, wild-eyed-and-feral, pondering, or desperate for love—which involves many yowls, head bumps, scritches, treats (rinse and repeat), then kneading, then suddenly jumping up and going away. The picture I drew of him (above) is his quintessential doubtful self—wanting to be loved, but not entirely sure it’s a good idea. He thinks a lot; he’s one of the most thinking cats I’ve ever known. He;s both wary and smart.

Charlie is smart, too, but less thinky—and he has much less stubbornness and stamina than his brother; he’ll attack a problem headlong—and very often figure it out—but he has to figure it out fast; after two attempts he’s done; he’s bored; he walks off. He can’t understand why, if he wants something, it doesn’t just, y’know, happen. After all, he’s a god; or at least the Pope. Self-doubt is not his thing.

Charlie still goes first: still tries everything first; still first to wake us up and demand breakfast; first out of the door in the morning. He’s much more pushy and demanding: he knows with every fibre of his being that he’s adorable and loved.

George, well, I’m not sure George even now always quite believes he’s safe—most all the time, yes, but any sudden noise (especially men, or women with loud voices and heavy treads) and he vanishes. But when he thinks he’s safe he’s the sweetest cat on earth.

Alternately watching Time Team and guarding my head

Charlie will jump at a loud noise—but then immediately go investigate it. He’s not 100% fearless—but he’s not far off. Last week I looked out of the window and saw a raccoon in the front flowerbed—with Charlie sitting about two feet away. I nearly had a heart attack. Fortunately it was a young raccoon and a bit nonplussed by a morsel-sized cat just sitting there. Kelley shot outside and ran it off; Charlie came in looking nonchalant—but with his tail fluffed like a bottle brush. 

Their relationship to each each has changed, though it’s hard to describe. They’re both more and less at ease with each other. It used to be that as kittens they always hung out together. Outside as young cats it was a different matter: they’d immediately peel off in different directions. Now I often see them sharking about together. Yesterday they tried a pincer move on a squirrel. The squirrel was on the back fence, and Charlie left onto the fence behind it, George in front of it. They started mincing (it’s less than half an inch thick) towards the squirrel, which immediately made a death-defying leap into a tree with branches too thin to support a cat—which didn’t stop Charlie leaping after it, and falling off, while George, startled, also fell off, leaving the squirrel shrieking at them both from the tree and two crows laughing raucously at the lot of them. 

Indoors, though, during the day they are only in the same room if one or both of us is there; even so, they prefer separate perches. 

Charlie with me, George by the fire, Kelley in the chair off screen—on the last day of the fire before autumn

On the rare occasions they’re inside during the working day (usually when it’s raining), Charlie likes to sleep in front of my screen, or next to Kelley’s keyboard. 

After deleting all my copyedits for SPEAR, again (it’s a gift) Charlie sleeps the sleep of the righteous

Like Kelley, Charlie sleeps like the dead. George is more like me—part of him is never switched off. In the afternoon he will sleep next to me on the sofa (when I’m reading/researching, or just watching science or history TV—he seems to like that) in his green-blanket-and-yellow-cushions fort, but if I’m working and he really wants uninterrupted sleep he creeps under the bed where he’s built himself another fort by the floor vent so no one can surprise him.

These days, the only time they spend tumbled together is at bedtime, on the bed, with us. It can take a while to get to this deceptively peaceful state, though.

Yeah, no, I don’t trust him, either

George, particularly, likes my attention at bedtime. He gets grumpy when I try to read. In fact he took such a dislike to this particular book that after six months I still haven’t made it past page 20.

Do. Not. Read. Pay. Attention.

They fight a lot, usually when George wants Charlie to give him some love and Charlie just wants to sleep. George will sidle up and offer to clean Charlie’s head—which Charlie is fine with; it’s when George moves to the throat that things go sideways. George can’t seem to grasp that he shouldn’t choke his brother out like a prey animal, while Charlie, quite reasonably, objects to having his oxygen and blood supply cut off. They have a knock down drag out fight right there, then thunder around the place for half an hour. As this invariably begins on the bed at two in the morning, I—quite reasonably—also object. Kelley doesn’t care because Kelley could sleep through both a zombie attack and the nuclear explosion that created the viral mutation that led to the zombies in the first place.

Charlie is much better at the give-bruv-some-luv thing: he can clean George for hours, and frequently does. Occasionally he’ll meditatively sort of suck on George’s ear, which every so often turns into trying to bite it off, but this is rare, and they rarely have a big fight as a result—probably because George is not the least threatened by his brother, who is only two-thirds George’s size.

But if they had their way they would spend hardly any time indoors. We try to keep it to roughly nine-to-five outside and the rest of the time in the house. This does not always work. In summer, particularly, they are now trying to persuade us to let them out earlier and earlier. They don’t understand the crepuscular hunting habits of coyotes, raccoons, and owls; all they know is is the sun is shining and they want out!

Charlie tries yowling—well, given his damaged vocal cords it’s more a chirruping squeak—but George’s preferred mode is fixed staring. 

You are feeling the urge to open the door…

Charlie has taken to copying him, though he hasn’t quite got the  hang of it yet: he thinks staring at the table is the way to go.

It’s not working…

Every now and again he tries to sneak out disguised as recycling.

Ha, ha, George. This is how you do it!

Charlie is much, much better about coming home when called, though. With George we can never rely on his timing; the other day he didn’t come home until 4 in the morning. Those days are rare, but I hate them: he comes home black-eyed, wild, and skittish. I know how he would be as a feral cat.

They continue to kill many small beasts. Their routine: Charlie generally catches the mole/vole/shrew/mouse, brings it home, kills it (except those times he gets bored and drops it and wanders off—in which case George dispatches it efficiently), and George gives the dead beast a couple of perfunctory flings, then eats every single scrap, starting with the head (I no longer flinch at the crunching sound). Occasionally he’ll leave the liver—always (sigh) on the white carpet.

George brought home their second bird—the first he’d killed. (Charlie brought home the first, a pine siskin; George ate it and nearly died of salmonellosis.) Although this one wasn’t a pine siskin and so less likely to be infected we still had it from him in a split second—but sadly not before he covered the entire (white) carpet in feathers (sigh).

I’ve really noticed the seasonal change in their coats; outside they glow like sunlit sandstone—particularly George. Sometimes he looks like some unknown alloy of gold and ginger. This filtered photo captures something of the colour he turns in full sun. It can be pretty startling.

Charlie, wake up! Wake up! Your brain is ticking…

George still will not be picked up, though allows himself to be held if he climbs on a lap voluntarily; Charlie is fine with it. Despite their foibles or more likely because of them, we love them fiercely and look forward to another twenty years with our furry aliens.

These are not the droids you’re looking for…

I might draw an occasional picture, and maybe do an update at the end of summer after they’ve been to the vets for their booster jabs and a general exam. Meanwhile, please feel free to amuse yourselves with previous Kitten Reports.

[1] Well, okay, George was drawn on his birthday; Charlie wouldn’t pose for me until about a week later. And even then every time I tried to draw him my app crashed and ate the work-in-progress. So his pic is a bit more stiff than George’s.