It was quite apparent that Daisy - who had stepped up to feed her three orphaned grandkittens in addition to her own litter when her daughter Nala was sadly run over - was heartily fed up of this whole breastfeeding lark. All the kittens had now gone to their new homes except Truffle - leaving aside the small matter of a random ginger kitten who had appeared out of the blue the day before to assuage the owner's nascent empty nester syndrome - and Granny was clearly looking forward to giving her chest a rest. Anyway, eventually Daisy batted Truffle off with a brisk clip of the paw, and the owner's daughter skilfully lured her into her travel basket using a catnip banana.
|Truffle's last stand - while Daisy's gaze is firmly fixed on the pet carrier|
I am sorry to report that on the long, dark drive home, Truffle mewed piteously non-stop, which was quite harrowing for me as the driver, trying to concentrate on the road ahead. At one point I had the idea to play a CD quite low on the car stereo to soothe her, Super Plastic City by The Monochrome Set, and interestingly - and possibly by way of coded mixed message? - her miaows were more intermittent / muted during the songs 'If I Could be Woebegone', 'Strange Young Alien' and 'It's a Wonderful Life'. And then she almost stopped mewing completely during 'Dark Red Rose', which happens to be my favourite track too.
|Oh, the bike has now gone. Oily chains? Not going there...|
I should add at this point that in advance of the new pet's arrival, I had taken some steps to kittenproof my home. I put a mosaic of cushions and pillows on the hall floor, for example, their degree of bounciness cunningly correlated with the height of the drop at each point. Meanwhile, I blocked off the landing banisters directly with perspex double glazing, a hardboard sheet, a huge picture, a V & A calendar, and a teddy bear wedged in the remaining gap. In the utility room, which is supposed to be off limits anyway on account of all the warm tempting crevices at the back of appliances, I managed to squeeze four gym shoes 'on pointe' in between the freezer and the washing machine. Though as will become apparent later, my nook and cranny coverage was to be found seriously wanting...
Having safely brought Truffle home, as is the standard drill I introduced her to her litter tray straight away (of which more anon), and to the smallish area where I was going to keep her initially, comprising dining room, kitchen and the back corridor. I had erected a camp bed in the middle of the dining room floor, which looked most outlandish, but I figured it would enable me to bond with the kitten in situ for the first few days - or however long I could stand sleeping in a main domestic thoroughfare with multilateral draughts and no socket within reach for my phone.
I can report that by lunchtime on Day 2 Truffle had finally flaked out in her basket for the first time in nearly 24 hours. I had lain on the camp bed all night, weathering seven hours of frenetic nocturnal activity on the kitten's part, which according to the RSPCA website, is perfectly normal 'crepuscular behaviour'.
'Night time activity is quite a common issue for some cat owners and can include cats that nibble or pounce on the owner's ears or toes in bed, walk across the sleeping owners, night time vocalisation, or highly energetic play sessions across the furniture and/or owners during the night or early morning.'
Yep, we had all of this behaviour, except, crucially, the 'sleeping owner'.
That bleary-eyed day was largely devoted to inducting Truffle in the important life skill of litter recognition, and to picking out a user friendly sort. I had got in two types already: the hygienic white crystals kind and the wood pellet variety. The former she tried to eat, while the latter she batted around for the hell of it like a plaything. So I dashed out to a local pet store where - under the watchful eye of Smudge, the feline sales assistant, pictured here sitting rather ironically on some dog food, for all the world like those promotional girls who perch on car bonnets at the NEC, or used to - I bought some regular Fullers Earth. This immediately computed with the kitten, as evidenced by her frequent and copious christening of the size-appropriate tray I had also bought. The original one was like the hull of the Titanic and had really taxed her clambering skills.
|Sponge bag had been blocking it, but clearly not enough!|
On Day 3 - possibly as part of her owner training - Truffle went and upped the ante... For I spent a frantic six hours turning the house upside down after she decided to well and truly hide in - as I finally deduced by a process of 'elimination' - the boxed pipework behind the loo. I was so distressed at her disappearance that I even had to switch Women's Hour off, imagine that. I felt so irresponsible, like a mother who loses her toddler in the supermarket. But in the end, having watched a YouTube video by a behavioural expert (thanks Anka!) on how to lure out your lost feline, and right before I turned to God in my desperation - or the fire brigade, or a plumber, or a joiner, or a truffle pig or dog - she was successfully 'flushed out' by the tried and tested bowl of wet tuna trick.
So Truffle is clearly living up to her name as 'something special, inaccessible and highly sought after'. Oh boy, did I do epic levels of 'seeking after' that day, involving a stepladder, screwdriver, torch, catnip wand and sundry other utensils. I must also confess that the scale of dust under and behind my furniture is as spectacular as it is shaming.
Day 4 saw the arrival of the kitten's first parcel, from Auntie Tara, formerly of OT. It contained a bee toy and some food and treats, but for me the real kicker was seeing my new housemate's name on the typed label, initials all present and correct - looking so very official:
'Miss Truffle G. S. Bonkers'
Then that night, Truffle found her way to the 'mothership' bed to which I had eventually retreated in my state of cumulative exhaustion. She promptly curled up between the two sets of pillows and didn't budge - or make a sound - for eight hours straight. I didn't sleep very well, mind, as I was worried about squashing her, but I am sure we will figure out some kind of workable system by and by.
So looking back over the first few days, I can confirm that I don't feel remotely 'alone' in the house anymore - it has a completely different atmosphere. The kitten feels like my immediate and obvious 'family', even though she is a tiny little ball of fluff who seems only to emit a noise if you drive at speed up the M1 or kick or tread on her - something of an occupational hazard at this early stage. But even if she doesn't communicate verbally, Truffle Ganache Salome Bonkers (to give her her full name in all its ridiculous splendour) really does tug the heartstrings with that beautiful face of hers. Asali was right to predict that I would be just another 'spineless owner', pliable as putty in this puss's paws...
|Could you not find one more size-appropriate like the litter tray?|