Friday, 13 November 2015

The Bonkers Kitten has landed! A tale of litter picking, bed hopping, and (playing) furry sardines

Sorry for the posting hiatus, but this week has been a bit full-on, settling the new Bonkers kitten in. I am not a mother, but I sense there are definite similarities between a newborn baby and a tiny kitten. I have caught myself thinking: 'Do I have time to take a quick shower?' and 'If I nip out to the shop, will it still be alive when I get back?' One key difference of course being that you are supposed to take the baby with you to the shop. But I am running ahead of myself again - first of all there was the 110 mile round trip to pick her up on Monday. When I arrived, Truffle and her grandmother Daisy were engaged in a slightly disconcerting 'top and tail' / '69'-style multi-tasking kind of arrangement whereby Truffle was feeding at one end, while her foster mum cleaned her bottom.

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?


Carol said...

I am so happy that Truffle is with you!!! xo

Vanessa said...

Thank you, Carol, I am really happy too! x

Asali said...

If one is not a spineless owner, one doesn't really appreciate cats :-)
I absolutely adore little miss T, and congratulate you both on finding each other.
And how sweet of Tara to welcome little fur ball with a personal kitty parcel.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

I am sure you are right there, hehe. I sense the depths of my pliability have not yet been plumbed. ;)

I did a lot of 'Truffle hunting' myself to identify a suitable kitten - several weeks in fact - but it was worth it. And I managed to be the first to go to a viewing of all the kittens. Had I been a day later, it would have been a different story. As in a different tabby at the very least.

And yes, it was sweet of Tara - the kitten equivalent of a 'baby shower', hehe.

odiferess said...

Oh my...

What a beautiful little fluff-monster. She is a real sweetie. I bet you're having a wonderful week despite kitten antics (or because of kitten antics!).

I was asked this week if I wanted to home a 2 year old batman cat (full mask and 4 white socks). She's lost and living at my friend's veterinary surgery whilst her owner or a new mum steps up. I'm very tempted. She has especially pointy ears. I wonder if she'd cope with an indoor apartment life?

Truffle is making me feel(ine) broody.

Sarah Waite said...

PS. Shop Assistant cat has a sloping fringe and an interesting nose smudge. Does he remind you of a certain 20th Century European dictator?

Vanessa said...

Haha, Sarah, someone on Facebook described Smudge as a little Kitler...;)

I think you should follow your heart on the batcat front...well, assuming the owner doesn't show up anytime soon. Living at a vet's wouldn't be my idea of fun if I was a cat. Too many pointy implements in close proximity. I imagine she would be fine with indoor life if she had a horrible experience latterly. Though not being old - and presumably used to going out - she might still have a fair bit of Wanderlust in her. Take the vet's advice on that, I would.

Unknown said...

So cute! As my husband says, "she looks like beautiful little trouble."

Anonymous said...

Now I am not a cat person (I am that rare breed, a dog-loving fumehead), but she is GORGEOUS! Loved reading about her antics, and glad to hear she's settling in.

Pats said...

See so happy to see Truffle is now with her new mummy! On the stories you will amass over the years! She is gorgeous and I too am feeling motherly! Look forward to more kitty tales soon! Patsi x

Vanessa said...

Hi Anonymous,

There do need to be some dog-loving fumeheads to balance things up, hehe. Your saying you think my kitten is attractive means all the more then, so thanks for coming through to comment. I think I haven't seen the last of her antics - she seems to be devising more mischief on a daily basis. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Pats,

Yep, we are now officially a household - except for the purposes of the electoral roll maybe. More kitty tales look inevitable at this point, though I will get back to perfume soon. x

Vanessa said...

Hi Liz K,

Your husband is spot on. Truffle has finally knocked herself out after 5.5 hours of raking around the house like a demented loon. I am using the time while she is sleeping to get as much done as possible - the baby parallel is stark, haha.

Truffle has also developed one or two alarming idiosyncrasies, namely button chewing and climbing up my leg. In vain have I tried to explain that I am her owner, not the dining room table, not that I am encouraging her to climb up that, obviously.

Tara said...

Hi V,

So lovely to hear that the house feels completely different with Truffle in it. That's exactly what you'd hope for; that your new arrival feels like you have family around. I did think it must be like becoming a new mother, so yes, it was intended to be a sort of "new baby" gift.

I don't dislike cats but I'm not a cat person either and I have really taken to Truffle. Even my mum (who can't stand them) commented that she has a very sweet face. Which she does!

LOL at "owner training".

Anonymous said...

Hiya Bonks!

That last photo is simply adorable, with the huge scratching post and little Truffle looking up. That's a keeper!

Good luck with keeping tabs on her and with kitten-proofing like crazy.

cheerio for now,

Anna in Edinburgh;-)

Ingeborg said...

Lovely story. I had to smile when reading Truffle had already tested you by going missing indoors. Good luck with new routines in the household!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

The parallels with new motherhood are legion - the lack of time and my own personal grooming, the snacking on the run, the hazard awareness and constant watching where the 'baby' is and what mischief she is wreaking when my back is even briefly turned!

Very sorry to learn that your mother can't stand cats as a rule - what is behind her strong dislike, may I ask? It is praise indeed though if she will admit Truffle is cute even so. ;)

The 'owner training' is ongoing - really being put through my paces, haha.

Vanessa said...

Hiya Anna!

She does look cute - and small! - in that shot, hehe. I am on the go most of the day keeping her out of trouble. It can only get worse before it gets better when she is big enough to leap up on twice as many pieces of furniture as is currently the case. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Ingeborg,

Yes, she has gone missing - always down that tunnel - lots of times since, but I have stopped worrying. She seems to be able to knock down all my defences fashioned from towels and wash bags and toilet rolls. Maybe I need a joiner to block it off, or just accept that that is her secret place from which she will eventually emerge every time...

Tara said...

So I asked mum why she doesn't like cats (she also doesn't like the recent habit of people starting sentences with "So" but never mind!) and as I suspected she's not sure. Apparently their "soft bodies" don't help :)

It's funny because she has always said that cats gravitate to her and I read recently that they do this with people they sense don't like them. Not sure how or why this would be the case though.

Undina said...

You know, it's the first time I hear about cat-proofing a house in term of preventing them from falling. My whole life I assumed that, if anything, animals have a self-preservation instincts from the early age and kittens knew how to not to fall. And I never heard about kittens being smothered by their owners in their sleep!

She's extremely cute. I hope you'll work out some sleeping (and other) arrangements soon.

One of the bathrooms in our house is Rusty's room. It has not only his litter boxes but also a small bad. So if I need to lock him (when a cleaning lady comes or if at 6 in the morning he decides that he doesn't want to sleep any longer - so we shouldn't either), he isn't offended or upset - he just sleeps there. And if anybody goes to use it, he always checks afterwards what they were doing in his room.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I did assume kittens have self-preservation instincts, but at the same time, Truffle careers around the house at 90mph and could easily slip through the banisters if she tripped or misjudged a turn. She slammed into the fridge door the other day but remarkably was unscathed. And the drop is about 13ft or more - I read on the Net that anything up to 8-10ft is okay for a cat to fall. So I guess I was just being a bit cautious. I'll remove the cushions either when I stop worrying or when her head is too big to go through the gap, whichever is sooner. ;)

The vet did call her 'robust' today, which I take as a good sign!

There seems no danger of smothering, you are right there - the co-sleeping has been very straightforward, and is also only intended as a temporary thing.

My bathroom is too tiny to be the cat's safe room, but yours sounds ideal for Rusty to retreat to - or to 'be retreated to', hehe. He does look like a pretty laidback cat who would take things in his stride.

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

You are a saint. I can't do baby anything, no patience.
How freaking cute is she. AWWWWW!
You'll be a great Mum/Bestie for the beasty I'm sure
Portia xx

Martha said...



Apparently I have no further words.

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

You certainly need patience when they are this age...they will get bored so quickly if you don't play with them / wear them out.

And she is very cute, though I would say that, being her Mum! xx

Vanessa said...

Hi Martha,

You are excused the paucity of words - I know you are busy with NaNoWriMo or whatever its exact (abbreviated) name is. ;)

Vanessa said...

So that's too bad really, as it is such a common thing nowadays in modern parlance. I have been puzzling over your mother's 'soft bodies' objection for several days now but am none the wiser. I would have thought that was rather appealing. Does she only like humans with very honed physiques perhaps? ;)

It is true that cats tend to make a fuss of people who are cat averse - part of their natural perversity maybe to bait the unbelievers in this way.

Vanessa said...

So that's too bad really, as it is such a common thing nowadays in modern parlance. I have been puzzling over your mother's 'soft bodies' objection for several days now but am none the wiser. I would have thought that was rather appealing. Does she only like humans with very honed physiques perhaps? ;)

It is true that cats tend to make a fuss of people who are cat averse - part of their natural perversity maybe to bait the unbelievers in this way.

Anonymous said...

Belated congratulations on the arrival and settling in of Truffle (and the settling down of her Mummy).

Cats/kittens will always find a place to hide, either in the dark or someplace high, or simply someplace where you can't see them.
As a cat-sitter of some experience, instead of tuna, I suggest buying a bag of healthy treats (ie not Temptations) and shaking the bag when you give her one or two. She will come to associate the sound of the shaking bag with TREAT and will come running from quite a distance unless she is well and truly asleep. I wouldn't worry about losing her unless you think she sneaked outdoors, in which case I find a shaking treat bag works well.

I do understand the real anxiety of not being able to find kitty having not found all the hiding places of each cat. I'm often sure one of them has somehow sneaked outdoors.
And they are so clever. My friend's cats, while kittens used to be able to fit atop the large books at the bottom of the two cubbies used as bedside tables. As they grew and no longer fit, they simply clawed the books onto the floor and made space for themselves. I was quite confused the first time that I walked into the bedroom to see books all over the floor, knowing I had not touched them at all.

I'm sure all will go well and she will soon have you at her bidding. As the expression goes: dogs have owners, cats have servants.

-- Lindaloo

Anonymous said...

Dear Vanessa
a shame I knew too late when you were going to pick her up, otherwise I would have suggested spraying the interior of your car and the pet carrier with Feliway. It's a spray that contains natural cat pheromones and it helps putting cats at ease. I in fact used it two weeks ago when I picked up my own new kitty from the cattery; I do not have a car, and had to go pick her up by train no less! I heard not a peep from her the whole two hours we were in the train and then car afterwards. I even caught her grooming herself and taking a nap! I used it successfully with my previous cat (maysherestinpeace)... Ah well. Perhaps you can still get it and use it whenever you need to take Truffle to the vet for her shots?
May you and Truffle have loads of fun together, and for a verrrrrrrrry long time!
Hugs, Wendy

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Thanks for your detailed and informative comment!

I am not sure which brands of treats count as healthy, but I think I could usefully deploy that 'treat recognition bag shaking' tactic. I am much less worried about losing her now, not least because I really believe I have blocked up every possible (dangerous) hideyhole. That book cupboard hiding story is hilarious - cats are certainly as resourceful as they are tenacious!

I tried to create several 'nest' type environments but so far she prefers being in bed with me. The current cold snap and my habit of going to bed with a hot water bottle may have a lot to do with that, hehe.

And oh boy, I do think I am shaping up to be her servant...;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Wendy,

Thanks for stopping by and for your good wishes for Truffle's and my future life together!

And what an encouraging story about your own success with Feliway on not one but two cats indeed. (Maysherestinpeace). I must look out for that in the pet shop, though Truffle was good as gold on the very short drive to the vet - in both directions. Longer trips are bound to be more tricky, should there be any.

Yuki said...

Oh my, Truffle is a cutie. I look forward to hearing more about her adventures in the future, and it must be wonderful to have the house atmosphere feel so lively :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

There will be another update before Christmas of her antics! And you are quite right that the house feels more lively - and companionable - so the decision has definitely paid off. ;)