Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A tail in three cities

Meet Emily (left) and Jet (right).

Not long after we moved to Melbourne, we decided it was time to get a couple of kittens. J and I both had always had special cats in our lives, but in the years we'd been living in the UK, we'd missed having cats. Being back in Australia, we felt the timing was right, so we headed off to the Cat Protection Society of Victoria to adopt some little 'uns. The plan was that we would choose one each.

As soon as we walked in, we spotted Emily. She was tiny and clinging on to the side of the cage she was in. She had little shaved patches on her front legs and a  huge shaved patch on her side with stitches poking out - the result of being desexed only the day before. Justin pulled her out for a cuddle, she purred, and that was that. Decision made. Stroking her, he asked, "Can we get her?" I replied, "If you don't choose her, I will".

While they cuddled some more, I wandered around the other cages to choose a brother or sister for her. I pulled out a couple of others for cuddles, but then my attention was drawn to a black kitten who was trampling his cage mates in his efforts to get my attention. He had a loud meow, and implored me with his eyes to give him a cuddle, so I pulled him out. He had the loudest rumble of a purr, and I'm a sucker for a loud purr. That was that. Decision made.


This was seven years ago, and those kittens became our babies. Emily endeared us by climbing into our bed at night, and snuggling up to us - when she was small, I often woke up to find a warm, purring bundle wrapped over my neck. She was the 'good' one who never had accidents. Jet, on the other hand, had his moments with forgetting to use the litter, but wasn't too bad. We were in a first floor apartment, so they were mostly indoor cats. Jet was 'special' - he was easily spooked by things and used to have us in stitches with his springy jumps of surprise. We joked that he got signals from the mothership in space, and he loved to spend time up on the highest surface possible - it was where he felt the safest.

Sydney, House #1
Sydney, House #1

After a year in Melbourne, we returned to Sydney. Happy to be back with family and friends, but I was also surprised at how much I was going to miss the life we'd carved for ourselves in Melbourne. We found ourselves a small terrace house to rent in Sydney's Inner West, and Emily and Jet immediately set about getting familiar with outdoor life during the day. This house had a cat flap - handy - which we closed at night to keep them in.

Sydney, House #1

For the most part, they were great mates and complemented each other well. Emily loved her tummy rubs, which we happily indulged her in. Who can resist a fluffy expanse of creamy caramel stripes and spots? Her paws were always a forbidden zone, but Jet loved his paws being rubbed and touched. This set him apart from any cat I'd ever known, and I loved that about him. His tummy was to be touched at one's own risk, though. It triggered the frisky kangaroo kicks and swipes, but always in a playful way and never malicious.

Things were cruising along nicely, then J and I decided we'd been practicing this nurturing stuff for long enough - without killing any small defenceless creatures - and it was time for a real baby (pot plants were another story, though). Along came the Faery.

My worries about the cats jumping into her cot and smothering her proved to be silly. If anything, they avoided her. A cat just can't relax around creatures that make randomly loud, squawking sounds. Apart from the occasional look of disdain in her direction, there was little interaction... although they did try to compete for attention at times, especially when I was breastfeeding. Both of them would try to find a spot on my lap, which made for interesting times.

Sydney, House #1
This is one of the last photos I have of Jet.

Maybe it was the Faery's refusal to sleep at night, or the noise she made, but he began demanding to go outside in the middle of the night - something we'd never allowed after losing past beloved cats to the roads. However, Jet had a meow to rival any of the oriental cat breeds. In other words, he was loud. And constant. He could be a broken record. He even reached up and rattled the old door knob on our bedroom door from the other side. He was a bugger.

After months of sleep-derivation and losing my sense of humour, I was a zombie. Not wanting anything to potentially wake up the light-sleeping Faery once she was asleep, we caved in to Jet's demands. This only happened for a couple of weeks, then there was a knock on our door at 3am one morning. I knew straight away and was crying before J had even opened the door. A kind passerby (so he claimed) had found him and brought him to us, as Jet's name tag on his collar had our address. His body was cold but hadn't stiffened yet, and we sat up, cuddled him and said our goodbyes. It was almost three years to the day since we'd adopted him.

Nearly four years later, I still blame myself.

Sydney, House #1

As far as fur-babies go, Emily became an only child. She also found herself the sole focus of a determined toddler's attempts to be friends. To this day, it's still a very one-sided friendship, but as the Faery gets older and less heavy-handed, Emily has become more accepting.

Sydney, House #2
We moved to another house after our landlady announced she was selling - we didn't want to deal with the hassle of home inspections and wondering if the new owner would keep us as tenants, so we got out while the going was good. We found a house not far away, on a hill, with a backyard that faced west. Perfect for a cat to catch those afternoon rays of sunshine.

Sydney, House #2
Sydney, House #2
Life was pretty good for Emily... most of the time.

Then our new landlords decided they wanted their house back. I was heavily pregnant with Miss Pie. Bugger.

Sydney, House #3
The next house had a huge old tree out the back, which Emily enjoyed climbing. She wasn't terribly impressed with the move, though, and she sensed things were going to change even more.

Our cat, who had never peed anywhere naughty, pissed in the yet-to-be-installed baby car seat. I cleaned it, left it to dry, then discovered yet more cat pee in it.

I didn't take many photos of Emily in this home. Too much was happening.

I had my second baby.

My best friend had her first baby.

J was offered The Job in Los Angeles. We had barely unpacked from the last move, and had to start all over again for an even bigger move.

Emily then pissed in the stroller. Little bugger.

However, being part of our family, we never doubted that we would bring her with us to L.A. Besides, it felt like too much of an imposition to ask anyone to mind her for a few years.

We boarded Emily for the final week we were in Sydney, and for the first couple of weeks we were in Los Angeles. We wanted to be settled somewhere before flying her over, and avoid having her stay in our cramped hotel room.

Los Angeles
Emily finally arrived (and I had a super-duper new camera!), looking like the proverbial that a cat had dragged in - she had gotten covered in her drinking water on the plane, in icy cold temperatures, which gave her a wretched cold. I'd never seen her so sick, but she got better quickly. Little trooper.

But she was less than impressed by her ordeal and new surroundings. She pissed in Miss Pie's bouncer. She pissed in the Faery's little suitcase. She pissed in my suitcase. She pissed on a pile of my underwear in the closet. She crapped in one of the bathtubs, on several occasions. Charming. I'm pretty sure that on each of those occasions, her access to her cat litter had not been obstructed. They were very deliberate acts on her part... and I was pissed off. I was furious, and sick of cleaning cat pee. It got to the point where I had to lock her in the bathroom when we went out during the day because I did not trust her. Thankfully, it was just a phase, and she stopped doing this. I'm not proud to say I was ready to give her away.

Los Angeles
Now? She just has to deal with the unwanted gropings of Miss Pie, who is yet to master being gentle. I mostly feel sorry for Emily, though, and let her sleep in our room with the door shut. All day. Because now that middle age is setting in, sleeping is all she wants to do these days.

Mind you, a few eye pokes and tail tugs are a small price to pay for this:

Los Angeles
If reincarnation exists? I'd like to put in a request for domestic cat. It's not a bad life at all.


  1. I loved this.

    And you know how I feel about noisy fur shedders these days.

    It made me all nostalgic for the early days with LuLu and Zeb. Oh man, I loved my kittens (referred to as such long after their kittenhoods had passed).

    Poor Jet. I kept my cats in 100% of the time, too. I was terrified when they would climb out on the balcony. I was a helicopter parent, it occurs to me.

    Now, LuLu keeps eating a plant that makes her spew. Zeb drives me nuts with the constant attention-seeking meowing.

    And I can't even think about the fur on our bedspread.

    But this was lovely. Emily is lovely. And so patient.

  2. Thanks Angie!

    I intentionally avoided the topic of cat hair everywhere - that would have resulted in another five hundred words, at least. Don't get me started! I am so with you on that one.

    You should see our bedspread. Ahem.

    Your cats sound similar. Jet was an attention-seeking meower, and Emily is partial to the spews too. More so when she was a kitten though. We found out the hard way that kangaroo meat and her will never agree (despite her practically inhaling it each time if offered). Now it's just certain plants that she'll eat. She gives a good 15 second warning with a wail before spewing, which is handy if I hear it.

    I miss that kitten honeymoon. F is desperate for a kitten, but I dread to think what the cost would be of bringing back two cats to Australia... P would probably squash it, anyway...

  3. Oh I loved this, right from the get go. The title is great too.

    Poor Jet - it is hard when you have cats that want to roam and you know how it is going to end for them. I lost one that way a long time ago. Pusster was an outdoor boy too until almost the very end of his life so I get that fear very well.

    The pissing ... oh God. Nobody shows displeasure like a cat. I'm really amazed and pleased that you brought her over to live there with you. Lucky Puss.

  4. "Nobody shows displeasure like a cat." Amen to that, Mel.

    Lucky for her, she's also very good at showing pleasure and is quite forthcoming with the snuggles, purrs and lap-hogging once both girls are tucked up in bed for the night. She relishes being back to original only-child status in the evenings.

  5. Love it! I love seeing how youre girls are growing up with Emily!
    Charlie wont go near our dog and Lucy loves her a little too much!

  6. Dogs are good with the excessive lovin' though. I bet it's cute to watch.

  7. Loved this Mad.

    And cried when i read about Jet :( It's so awful losing a pet. They really are a big part of your family.

    Emily sounds gorgeous. It's wonderful that your girls get to enjoy having a little feline family member in their lives.