The world has been a seemingly inescapable cesspool of doom and gloom this past… when was the inauguration?… couple of weeks? And I don’t know about the rest of you, but this state of the world has been reflected in my mood with an eerily acute level of accuracy.
So I thought I’d lighten the mood with a post about the internet’s favourite topic for upset and anxious people the world over; cats. More specifically, my own.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me reveal to you something that I consider very important. I am 27 years old (28 in a month), and I have always, ALWAYS, had at least one cat. I come from two long lines of animal lovers, and cats happen to be the animal of choice for all of us. As far as we are concerned, a house is not a home without a cat. And while we have conducted plenty of observational research and compiled enough data to understand that there are some households that manage to create a reasonable facade of a complete home without a feline friend or seven, we eventually had to conclude that such households either did not know any better, or had to make do due to horrible circumstances, like cat allergies.
Throughout the years we have completed our home with a lot of different cats. Longhairs and shorthairs, purebreeds and moggies, small cats and big cats, clever cats and dim cats (ok, mostly dim cats). Right now we have four furry little bundles of perfection in our house, and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to them all.
Let’s start things off with the oldest and current longest-serving member of the Brown Family Feline Formation. Named for her tail (or, more specifically, for her lack thereof), Stumpie is a rarity among our cats in that we did not first acquire her as a kitten. Rather, she came into our lives when she was about three years old, after befriending my mother while Mum was living in the south of France. Stumpie literally walked into Mum’s house one day (with almost no intentional waving of ham slices and cooing cat-calls from Mum needed, she’ll have you know), and a friendship started that puts Thelma and Louise’s to shame.
It turned out that Stumpie belonged to Mum’s next-door neighbour at the time. By the time Mum had to move away, Stumpie was Mum’s cat more than she was her original owner’s, and Stumpie was, for lack of a better word, ‘given’ to Mum.
Mum lived in Paris for a while after that, with Stumpie serving as her roommate. Stumpie was an invaluable part of the household, with primary responsibilities including waking Mum up at the precise hour that her breakfast was required, guarding the flat while Mum was at work, ensuring that Mum’s opposable thumbs remained in tip-top condition by insisting on the frequent dispensing of cat treats (or ‘treaties’), and pushing Mum towards the bedroom at 10pm, because that was bedtime. Stumpie also kept Mum company during the long journeys she took to England to visit us, but she was slightly more reluctant to do that job, as it involved travelling by car, and Stumpie is a cat. When Mum moved permanently to England, Stumpie was bequeathed with a new job: adapting to life in the UK with the rest of the family.
As I have mentioned before, Stumpie was not raised by us from kittenhood. She was primarily an outdoor cat for the first three years of her life, and that time seems to have made her less trusting and more jumpy than we are used to. Mum remains her favourite human by a huge margin, and even she is not completely immune to Stump’s occasional lashings out, which normally occur after she’s been surprised. Despite that, there is a uniquely enthralling quality about Stumpie. She is perhaps the most ridiculous cat I have ever met. She’s very rotund, to the extent where she struggles to reach much of her fur when she cleans herself (she has had to be shorn before). She likes to affectionately bite Mum’s nose, which, combined with the raw power of Stump’s jaw, appears to be a rather painful, not to mention bloody, experience. She also seems unable to elegantly twirl and turn as she seats herself upon a bed or basket like most cats do, instead opting to lower herself vertically as if her body were a hovercraft. She then always finishes the complex task of sitting by extending one back leg as though executing an arabesque. It is both the most ridiculous and the cutest thing anybody has ever seen.
Stumpie is one of those cats who takes her sweet, sweet time to get to like you. But once she gets there, she is a joy to have around. She is ridiculous, endearing, and unique, as all cats should be.
In November 2015, we had to say goodbye to Ming, our long-lived Burmese and the last of the four cats we brought to England from Aus. With Ming’s passing, the family and I sat down to dinner and unanimously decided that our home would benefit from another cat. Maybe two.
My brother accepted the unappointed job of ‘new kitten-finder’ with exceptional aplomb. He found a breeder who had three half-Maine Coon, half-Russian Blue kittens to sell. He then visited these kittens, deemed them adorable, and sent word and pictures to my parents. Mum and Dad looked at the pictures for precisely one moment, before Mum looked to Dad and said ‘shall we get all three of them?’, and Dad nodded with the sort of solemnity one only employs when one knows that it is one’s duty to bring as much furry cuteness into one’s home as possible.
And so, that evening, the Brown family welcomed three new kittens. Two very pretty lady kitties, and one beautiful boy. The boy was given a cat name that Dad had had in mind for years. Olaf.
And no, he is not particularly fond of warm hugs. But he puts up with them.
If I had to sum up Olaf in one word, it would be ‘temperate’. Although he will occasionally run around the house, upsetting carefully stacked piles of papers and folded blankets, most of the time he likes to settle himself at a window or on a ledge and watch whatever is happening (chattering birds, dining humans, showering owners, etc.), always with a look of mild surprise on his face. This can be problematic, because he’s so unreactive that you can’t tell if he’s enjoying it when you pat him. I therefore always assume that he does. This might be a mistake on my part; he might suddenly decide to lash out with one of his rather large paws.
Thinking about it, Olaf also needs to be at least partially described with the word ‘large’. Because, yeah. He’s a big kitty. When Mum is leaning back on her desk chair, Olaf is able to reach up behind her and tap her on the shoulder, demanding Lick-E-Lix. He also possesses the most magnificent tail I have ever seen. True to his Maine Coon callings, Olaf is able to sit, statuesque, and wrap his tail around his feet like a giant comforter. Alternatively, he will sit at a window ledge and let his tail hang more than halfway towards the floor. The tail has a small scattering of white hairs amidst the brown-black. It’s so sweet.
None of our cats are fond of being picked up, but of all of them, Olaf is the most tolerant of it. His placid nature means that Dad can pick up and carry him around, baby-like. Which means Dad was able to carry Olaf to my room the other day and gleefully declare ‘I love my big black pussy’, without Olaf ruining the joke.
It’s very important to be able to utilise your cats for family jokes. Very important.
Just… look at her. Look at how pretty she is.
Freya is the kitten with whom you can see the mix. She has the lovely long hair, body shape and facial features of the Maine Coon, and the gorgeous blue-grey colouring of the Russian Blue. This inadvertent ‘halfway cat’ status is appropriate, as her personality is also halfway between her siblings. She is not totally placid like Olaf (you can usually tell when she wants to be petted), nor is she the complete reactionary that her sister is… but more on her later.
We dubbed Freya the ‘Gryffindor’ cat shortly after we first got them, because she was the bravest. She was the first to venture out of the living room, and she’s normally the first to ‘investigate’ when something new is brought into the house. Earlier this evening she was trying to reach up to investigate a new clock Dad had just hung up. Not being as big as her brother, however, she couldn’t reach it.
Freya spends most of her time either in the main hallway or upstairs in Mum and Dad’s room, but she also has a tendency to visit when you are in the kitchen, for no discernible reason. When she’s feeling particularly affectionate, she will circle herself around your legs, walk a few steps away, and then fling herself onto the floor. Again, for no reason. I suspect she understands just how a) stupid, and b) adorable we all find it. Between that, the way she reaches up to you when you are on a chair or standing at a counter, and the tufts of long hair between her toes, Freya is one exceptionally cute kitty.
Mum was looking thoughtfully at Lokie the other day, and she said ‘You know why Lokie’s so cute? It’s because she looks just like the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. It’s kind of true, but I’d say that Lokie is cuter by far.
When we first got Lokie we thought she was a boy. It’s hard to tell when they’re so little. We called her ‘Loki’ because both Mum and I liked the name, and Loki is the name of a god that normally presents themself as male. Then we found out our little white kitten is female, and Mum suggested simply adding an ‘e’ to her name to make it look a little more feminine. So that’s what we did, and I will forever and always find it wonderfully perfect that our slightly gender-fluid kitty is named after a gender-fluid god.
Apart from her white colouring, Lokie is all Russian Blue. She’s small and slender, with a thick double-coat of short, slightly course hair. She’s quite the excitable kitty as well, always reacting with head-butts and purrs when you pat her. Get her very excited, and she will flop onto the ground, expose her tummy, and attack your hand with all the might her tiny teeth and claws carry (if you go too far).
As well as being gender-fluid, Lokie also manages to uphold her namesake by being a little bit mischievous. She likes to hide in mysterious places where nobody can find her. She likes to bother you when you’re trying to do things like work, or go to sleep. She also (and this is, in my opinion, the cutest thing about her) likes to talk to you. One of her favourite spots to sit is at the window of Mum’s study, and sometimes you will enter the study to hear a little voice going ‘ee-eeow!’ Another of her favourite haunts is behind the sofa. If you look behind the sofa and see her there, she will offer you a hearty ‘ee-eeow!’ to let you know that, yes, she has noticed your presence. Oh, and if you happen to be sitting on the smaller sofa in the dining room while she is under it, you might suddenly become aware of her presence when a little paw darts out to swipe playfully at your foot.
In short, Lokie is the cat I would recommend to anybody who likes their pets a little more involved, provided you don’t get panicky if your pets are wont to disappear for hours at a time.
And there are our kitties. To finish this post, here is a video of Lokie enjoying all the attention that is being lavished upon her. The next time you read some upsetting news, most probably related to American politics, I invite you to give this video a watch.