In the last few weeks our life has changed as Mr M and I have opened our home and our hearts to four pairs of paws. After three and a half hours of selection interviews, meetings with the re-homers and appointments with the vet and nurse, the staff of at the new cattery at Battersea Dogs Home decided that we were suitable adoption parents and we left with two cats and armfuls of supplies.
Since adopting Zoë Rebecca Montefiori – a supremely tarty tortoiseshell with definite tabby ancestry – and Dante Jeremiah Montgomery – a handsome but congenital coward who looks as if he has walked elegantly out of a pharaoh’s tomb – our lives have taken on a new routine as well as perspective. Like any new parents we are developing an understanding of our little ones’ needs and habits. What food will they like, will they object to a different brand of litter, where will they prefer to sleep and what toys tickle their fancy (without overstimulating them)?
Day by day we are learning to read the subtleties in their body language, mews and miaows. I am no longer waking in a split second from my deepest sleep by Dante’s high-pitched miaows or by Zoë’s portly body landing with a thud on the living room floor overhead during a game of chase. Mr M – or as he prefers “the mog-father” – has discerned the difference between madam’s playful bites and those that announce the onset of one of her Garbo-style “I want to be left alone” moments.
Our little tigers have, however, brought more than endless entertainment and joy to our home. They have also brought us new perspectives on our housekeeping, each other and ourselves.
During the first few days the mog-father was surprised but charmed as my maternal protective habits kicked in. I was picking up hazards and moving glass objects out of harm’s way. And whilst I always knew Mr M liked pets, it has been a delight to watch him bond with his own two and respond to their different personalities and needs. He loves the affection little Zoë shows him and worries about how best to reassure Dante, or at least not to scare him inadvertently. I, by contrast, am worrying about equal and fair treatment: how do I avoid spoiling our engaging tigress and bolstering her “top mog” status, and how do I encourage our handsome boy to come out of his shell without him being slapped down by the top mog?
Many of the other perspectives are far more mundane. As I am spending more time on my haunches to play with her highness and reassure his eminence, my thighs are getting daily toning sessions. I have also instigated a more regular sweeping and mopping routine as spills and dust are worryingly visible on floorboards when you are standing only one foot tall.
Another change has been the reconnection with my dormant inner child. Like many young children, Zoë ignores the bought toys (like catnip and mice on strings) but is absolutely enthralled by packaging, especially parcel string which provides hours of pleasure – broken down into quarter-hour cat-bites of course. Another favourite is shadow-chasing. I am not talking about a possible psychological condition or a philosophical view of live in the platonic tradition. Zoë’s sole source of exercise seems to be scampering across the sofa or bed or up the hallway walls in pursuit of shadows cast by my hands, face, hair and, even occasionally, herself.
Dante is of course still far to shy to play but after him sitting quietly yet inquisitively through an impromptu photo shoot and him rolling on his back in complete deliverance, we are expecting great things from our Bastet-like panther. He may one day emulate his namesake and show some ferocity in the face of the ostrich feather duster, if not a real bird.