I have to confess that as well as a family, my house is home to a menagerie; mostly created by my daughter. There is our aged, Maltese-cross dog, Leo; four cats, a chook, a cockatiel, a pigeon and five Zebra finches. There used to be two guinea pigs, a fish and several more finches, but they're stories for another day.
'Four cats!' I can hear you say. Yes, four - I know I risk the label of crazy cat lady. Only one cat was an intentional purchase. Sir Snuggles Rat-slayer, the eldest of our pride, was an RSPCA purchase. He began as a ten week old, black and white kitten for said daughter, who unkindly, in seven year old girl fashion, named him 'Snuggles' rather than continue with his existing name of 'Gizmo'. He has reacted against his sweet name all his life... by being completely demanding and ungovernable. He was given the title 'Mr' Snuggles by a visitor and since then has earned a knighthood, initially for his mouse hunting, and then his rat-killing, abilities. In tandem with this, his territory expanded from the family patch to most of the neighbourhood block.
However, Sir Snuggles' life as an only cat received a lasting and devastating blow when a family friend changed residence and couldn't take his cat with him to the new apartment. Rowley, always the most outgoing, friendly, lovable cat, came to our abode. What could go wrong? She was adorable.
Rowley is a talkative, tabby cat, about the same age as Sir Snuggles. As an only cat in her household, she expected the same conditions at our home. Consequently she launched covert attacks on the sleeping Snuggles, who although not happy about sharing digs, was resigned to the new situation. Eventually these attacks elicited return fire and his hostility to her in his outside territory drove Rowley to take command of the indoors and leave him to rule the great outdoors.
Their state of uneasy truce, alternating with total war, existed for about four years. Then a change far more hideous than either cat could have foreseen, took place...
Ever the pet-acquisitive child, my daughter took an extreme, unswerving desire to adopt an unwanted ginger kitten from yet another family friend, who needed to find homes for an unplanned litter. This friendly, adventurous and playful kitten was cute in his own right, but I was firm with my 'no'. We had two cats already! However, he had a sibling which was the most beautiful kitten ever created - with long, soft grey hair and the biggest pale green eyes. So, it became a case of 'you can only have the ginger kitten if his beautiful, gentle, friendly brother comes too'. The unwitting cat-breeder was only too happy to agree and bundled us off home with everything that a new kitten owner could need - lactose-free milk, litter tray and liners, even a box.
What had I done? The adult cats asked the same question when they caught sight of these fluffy bits of cuteness. Their response was terror, loathing and incredulity. They did not think the kittens were adorable. They did not see that taking command and establishing who was boss early, was their best strategy. Instead they ran from the kittens' joyful playfulness. A bad decision.
Almost two years on, the kittens, now big cats, dominate the house, although the elder cats are by no means driven from the home. The cute and adventurous ginger Simba has turned into a neutered version of his alley cat father and attempts to dominate all comers, even the dog, Leo. Gandalf remains the most beautiful fluffy grey cat ever, but is much more timid than his brother. Sir Snuggles remains top cat outdoors, while Rowley, who commenced altercations against Snuggles many years ago, is the most dominated of them all. She rules our footpath by day and our lounge by night. Have you had a similar experience of a growing menagerie of rescued animals?