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This was previously on Ann's Page


The Change of Life


Introduce a kitten to your household and the changes to your life creep up imperceptibly over the months and years. Take on two fully grown and very opinionated Siamese after several years without any cats at all, and the impact hits you like a ton of bricks. It's nearly 2 years now since Spock and Dracs came to live with me permanently, and it's led me to reflect on how my life has changed since their arrival.

1. Instead of pretty bedspreads, my beds are covered with old sheets. Since Spock decided to surprise me once in a while by leaving a "calling card" on the sheets, they are now doubled over with a layer of polythene in between. It was a relief to both of us when he recovered from a sharp attack of diarrhoea a few months ago. But I'm still living down the morning the doorbell woke me up. I shot downstairs barefoot because I thought it was the postman and I was expecting a parcel, trod in something cold and wet on the stairs and opened the door to the electricity meter reader with a foot covered in.... I'll leave you to work out the rest, but it wasn't vomit as I'd assumed at first.

Spock and Dracs having their afternoon siesta

2. The two guest room doors, which are side by side, have been roped together to keep Spock out. When I have visitors, I live in terror of any of them going into the bedroom, only to discover Spock has been there before them. It hasn't happened yet, although I did have a couple of guests ask apprehensively if they were to be roped into the room for the night once they'd retired. (Just in case anyone's in any doubt, I don't go that far.)

3. Washing takes twice as long as I have to de-fur everything before it goes into the washing machine. After I've de-furred the duvets I'm constantly left wondering how I don't have two bald Siamese. How can they possibly lose so much fur and yet still have so much left?

4. Assorted ornaments and pieces of china are now glued together or have been thrown out as beyond repair. Neither cat is anywhere near the scene of the crime when I discover the pieces. Both blame my guests.

5. My bedroom carpet, which is pale and plain, invariably has a Vim/Ajax covered patch on it somewhere because Dracs has been sick and I'm attempting a damage limitation exercise. (It works extremely well for anyone who may be interested.)

6. When buying clothes, one of my favourite occupations, quality of fabric and manufacture come second to the all important question, "Will fur brush off easily?" My love of black clothes has been relegated to the back burner. I now find, when I'm browsing around clothes shops, that I've started to move quickly past anything black and am increasingly drawn to cream, white or light brown clothes.

7. One of my living room radiators has an old towel or sheet permanently draped over it. This is for Dracs, who's small enough to fit neatly on the top and spends a lot of happy hours there when the central heating's on.

Dracs loves his bed on top of the radiator

8. I am no longer allowed to spend any time in the bathroom on my own. I am always followed by Spock. He has yet to understand that, when I have visitors, it is not the done thing to use the lavatory with the door wide open. He complains, at length and at the full pitch of his very considerable lungs. Concerned visitors have been known to ask if he's in severe pain.

9. I used to have smartly dressed days and casual days depending upon how I felt when I woke up in the morning. Now I only have casual days. The same few fur covered and well clicked items are worn all the time and I look longingly at the other 95% of my wardrobe, also liberally sprinkled with fur these days (does each hair come complete with a set of wings and built in radar?), and think wistfully, "Some day". On the rare occasions when I do need to dress smartly, it means dashing up to my bedroom immediately before I go out, changing my clothes at top speed, ensuring that I do not make the classic mistake of laying anything I take out of the wardrobe on the bed. (Does fur also have very strong magnetic qualities?) On returning home, I follow the same procedure in reverse, invariably watched by two pairs of blue eyes and a running commentary from Spock.

10. Both cats can apparently render themselves invisible and sneak past me when I go outside to put some rubbish in the bin. I inadvertently left Spock outside when I went to the shops one day. On my return, an hour and a wintry shower later, I was greeted by an irate cat perched on a stone trough beside the front door looking for all the world like a small garden gnome. As a result, I have to allow extra time whenever I leave the house in order to have a head count and retrieve any missing cats from the great outdoors.

11. I have to share my duvet with the boys every single night. They get the middle, I get the edges. It is not unusual for me to wake up and discover I'm in a spreadeagled position with an ice cold foot protruding from each side of the duvet.

The boys love the centre of the duvet

12. Bedtime itself is a prolonged affair. Before he settles down for the night, usually half an hour after I've settled down and have just started to doze, Spock likes to bring one of his catnip mice up to bed with him for a quick play. He drops it by the pillow in the hope that I'll hide it under the duvet for him. If I do, we repeat the process a number of times. If I don't, he "kills" it on the floor, very thoroughly and very noisily. If the light's still on because I'm reading, the pair of them take turns to inspect the book closely, from a position immediately in front of my nose. Both cats also appear to have perfected the art of landing in the centre of the duvet, from a great height, in pitch darkness.

13. The patio door has to be opened every morning, even in sub zero temperatures and howling gales, so Spock can have his morning constitutional and check his territory for overnight invasions. The door cannot be closed until he is safely home again. This is repeated every evening as he also needs to take a final check before bedtime.

14. The central heating is on a lower setting as the gas fire, which I previously only ever used in extreme conditions a handful of times in the year, is put on every evening in winter so the boys can take advantage of the strategically placed cushions in front of it. (To my surprise, this actually reduced my gas bill, so it has its advantages.)

15. Sitting on the settee on my own is a thing of the past. Within 5 minutes, one or both cats appear out of nowhere and settle themselves down on my lap. They will systematically push any books, papers or magazines out of the way. They never give up. Over the months, they have developed a strategy so that they can both be on my lap at the same time. Spock, who, compared to Dracs, is a big boy, stretches lengthways along my thighs. Dracs curls up across my midriff. If I "upend" him, he will lie on his back in my arms, purring, for as long as I'm prepared to tickle his tummy. When I need to move, for example to get the circulation back into the lower half of my body, both cats take it as a personal insult. If one cat manages to commandeer my entire lap, the other one does circuits of the settee looking suitably forlorn and unwanted. Spock who's the thinking cat of the two, has worked out that I usually sit down for half an hour or so around tea time. He often appears at about 5.30 and loiters with intent around the settee area, monitoring my every move. If I have a guest, he uses their lap as a convenient vantage point.

Spock and Dracs both like a lap.

16. Working on the computer is a continual challenge. It is next to an open plan staircase. The boys have discovered a short cut to my lap is to come underneath the banister and straight across the keyboard. If my lap is already occupied by one of them, the other sits on the mouse mat. I am slowly improving at typing with a cat sprawled across my lap, but I have yet to master using the mouse when all directions are blocked by a large Siamese bottom.

17. Since I left work, one of my chief joys has been the luxury of getting up in the morning, making a cup of coffee and settling down on the settee for a long session with the newspaper. I still get my coffee, but only after I've made my bed (see point 1), washed the boys dish, replenished it, changed their water, emptied their litter tray and brushed all the stray cat litter off the carpet. I now read my paper sitting on a dining chair at the table and the boys spend the next hour jockeying for pole position on my lap. Whoever loses, makes his presence felt by sitting on the newspaper, usually right in the middle of the article I'm reading.

18. When I was buffing a small table cum bookcase I'd stripped to the bare wood, re-stained and varnished (one of my hobbies), I was startled at the number of cats hairs that had mysteriously found their way into the varnish. Especially since most of the work had been done outside in the open air. This leads me to believe that cats fur also contains homing devices, "home" being anything with a remotely adhesive surface.

Dracs inspecting the bookcase.

19. Their attitude to my food has already been well documented in the boys 2 diaries*, but, in addition, I can no longer eat a packet of Cheese Puffs in peace. I have a running battle with Dracs, who appears to develop several extra paws for the duration. He only likes the coating, so by the time I've finished the pack, there are a number of soggy half chewed puffs scattered around the carpet.

Would I be without the pair of them? Not on your life!

* Click here to see some excerpts


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