The importance of pets

Throughout the stress, confusion, and complexity that is life, sometimes we have to take a step back and enjoy the simpler things. It could be returning home to a friendly face waiting hopefully for your return. It could be having someone to cuddle when you’re down. Or it could be having someone so desperate to be with you that they force your bedroom door open with brute strength so they can walk all over your sleeping form.

If you’re thinking of a beloved pet, then I’m with you all the way. If not, then what sort of people have you been raised with?

I don’t know about you, but for me, our cats are a solid part of the family. Having recently lost our beloved, cuddly, dopey old Tango, I think this feeling is particularly high at the moment. My budgies, my sister’s hamster, and our grandparents’ dog were a big part of my childhood. Many of my friends and family have animals that they love. So I’m going to try to do justice to the importance of pets.

For a start, I don’t know where I would be without Bouncer, my unofficial Guide Cat for the Autistic. At nearly 14 years of age, he hasn’t retired from calling me until I follow him, leading me into a specific room, then calling again if I don’t follow. I’ve got to hand it to him, without his conscientiousness, I would never be able to find the way to my own room. Then there’s Suri, our resident feline policewoman. When it’s time to feed the cats, the others dare not get too close to our feet lest she repeatedly punch them in the face until they retreat. She has her uses even when off duty; once she settles on your lap, you have a very valid excuse to put off being productive until you can get up again.

Then there’s companionship. True, you can’t share reflections on the human condition, or entertaining life anecdotes. At least, not if you want a two-way conversation. But there are many things about pet company that you can’t beat. Physical affection, for one. If you stroke an animal, or pick it up and hold it close, it can be comforting to both parties. Do that to a person, and it’s just not the same somehow…

More importantly, animals don’t hold you to the same standard as people do. I’ve never worried that animals find my Asperger’s off-putting, judge my Biblical understanding, or disagree with any of my moral principles. Heck, they don’t even mind if you’re in a state of undress. Again, most people are funny about that… But pets have an uncanny ability to forgo social expectations and just be, and if you find that contagious, even if just for a few moments, it can only be a good thing.




Tango and Bouncer, the mirror twins


Thomas eating broccoli


Suri guards the Christmas tree




Tango’s tale

Cats are aloof, they say. Cats are dignified, they say. So tell me, any of you, has anyone ever seen a cat quite like this one?

If you know me – or at least my blog – very well, then you will have met Bouncer. Pictured above is his brother.

What prompted me to suddenly give Tango a bit of screen time was something actually quite sobering. Earlier this week, with little warning, he took ill rather dramatically. Having vomited copiously in at least two rooms, my mum and sister found him in a state of collapse. While the picture above indicates, not entirely incorrectly, that collapse is a normal state for him, he was rushed to the vets, put on a drip and kept in overnight.

Meanwhile, we were told he probably had something wrong with his heart. I inwardly accepted that this blog post was going to be something between an obituary and a eulogy.

To get a diagnosis, he had to be taken to a feline heart specialist in Derbyshire. Two car journeys, a heart scan, and a three-digit-long fee later, it turned out there was nothing wrong with his heart. So much for that.

Tango’s defining trait has always been his docility. At least one of the vets described him as “such a dude”, and at no point during his x-ray at the vets, or heart scan in Derbyshire, did anyone feel the need to anaesthetise him. For him, there seems to be a very fine line between illness-induced lethargy and normal behaviour. He barely woke when, as an animal care student in my teens, I had to give him a physical health-check for an assignment. I think he was a bit disconcerted when I started flexing his legs, but I was finished before he even got around to reacting.

We went on holiday a few years ago and left the cats in the care of one of my stepbrothers who, at one point, rang Mum and John, because he was worried about Tango. Needless to say, we had to reassure him that no, nothing was wrong with Tango, and yes, lying with his legs in the air and rarely waking up is perfectly healthy behaviour. For him.

For such a placid cat, he is a bit funny about late-neutered males. He hated Basil, my late grandmother’s cat, on sight. While Basil bullied Bouncer relentlessly, Tango pursued Basil with a Mr Hyde persona if he so much as looked at him; it was as if, for every blow Basil gave Bouncer, Tango would dole out two. When George kept turning up in our garden as a stray, it looked like he was in for similar treatment. Now, give or take the occasional fur-flying squabble where collars go pinging off, they seem to have come to a truce. In fact, George is fascinated by him, and doesn’t seem to understand that, while bottom sniffing has its perks, Tango doesn’t share his enthusiasm for it.

Now he and Bouncer are 13 1/2, having joined our household when they could still fit in one hand. Tango may be the soppiest cat I’ve ever met, but I’ll say this for him: in his own way, he’s stoical. He may be inclined to roll off beds in his sleep, he may panic if your keys rattle too loudly. But, as the brother who drew the short straw healthwise, he continues to be his usual trusting self throughout eczema medicine, eyedrops, and at one point a cone collar, being forced upon him. And while we’ve all been losing sleep over the thought of losing him, he has dealt with the ordeal with his usual unconditional trust and affection. Couldn’t we all learn from that?

First world cat problems

Today, I asked four cats what their biggest pet peeves are. This is what they said:

“I think one of my pet peeves is when I’m lying in front of the fire, and I get too hot, so I have to actually move. Which means I get cold, so I have to move back. AGAIN. I hate it.” Suri, aged 5

“For me, it has to be when I’m just chilling with my girl, or catching up on sleep, or whatever, and one of the humans interrupts me by making me have breakfast or dinner. Humans can be such killjoys.” Bouncer, aged 13

“When I’m lying in front of the fire,

and I get too hot, so I have to actually move…”

“I thought the worst thing was not getting enough credit for checking the humans are still breathing every night. Wrong. It’s not being able to do it at all because they always close the bedroom door. #unappreciated” – Tango, aged 13

“Sometimes my food bites back. Just when I think I matched wits with it and won, it attacks me from within and bursts forth back the way it came.” – George, aged 4

“I feel like I can’t tell anyone, but I can’t help feeling jealous of the computer in my room. I secretly wish it would just disappear, so that my human would forget all about it, and focus on me, and me only.” – Bouncer

Where’s your computer now? Check MEOWT! – Bouncer

“When you want to be stroked, and you literally have to headbutt someone’s hands or stand on whatever is distracting them so that they get the hint.” – Suri

“It really drives me mad when people won’t stop stroking me until I show them my teeth. Not everything’s all about you, you silly humans!” – Suri

“For some reason, my humans and housemates alike expect me to have finished eating the top layer of my food in just 20 minutes. Come on folks, why the rush?” – Tango

“Why do humans have to be so greedy? Mine takes up at least 25% of our chair and 50% of our bed. It’s like enough is never enough.” – Bouncer

Finally owning this bed – Tango

“I think beds have it in for me. They trick me into thinking they have no limits, then just when I roll over, they disappear from beneath me. I feel like nobody gets how hard this is.” – Tango

“I don’t think my housemates really understand me. I thought it was perfectly acceptable to inspect another cat’s bottom at length whenever I want. Guess not.” – George

Girl power at its finest – Suri

“I’m the only girl cat, and no-one tells you how exhausting it is, hitting the boys in the face when they bother you, or trying to grab their food without getting caught. All that just to prove my girl power.” – Suri

“When I roll over, beds disappear from beneath me.

Nobody gets how hard this is…”

“When you get nice and cosy with your friend’s preferred human and he takes it waaay too seriously.” – George

Come on, lighten up, man! – George

“When your housemate has the nerve to suck up to YOUR human right under your nose, and she doesn’t instantly rehome him.” – Bouncer

When things get too much…

1546304_855123871173450_5444187306995747447_nLife in the flat has been going pretty well overall, but right now I am at a bit of a low point. I try to be careful about posting depressing things on the internet because I know this can be attention seeking, so if I come across like that, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to.

For a start, my stepdad rang me yesterday to tell me our elderly ginger cat Thomas was going to be put down due to kidney failure. We adopted Thomas in June 2010 from a vet nurse who had saved him from being put down by the RSPCA who was unable to take care of him. Since then, he has survived much, eaten much, loved much and been loved very much in return. He was so outgoing, he was the perfect icebreaker whenever we had people over for the first time. He had what I always called “Puss in Boots” eyes – the way he would stare at someone while they were eating was the spitting image of the cat in Shrek. Then there were so many times when he nearly died, then didn’t, I can’t quite believe that this is the last time. I went back to say goodbye yesterday evening, and by 11 this morning he was gone.

Aside from Thomas dying, life in general seems to be getting on top of me at the moment. Maybe it will feel easier as the grief passes, maybe it will feel easier once I get on top of my work. I have four assignments due in before Christmas, possibly more Demon articles and am struggling to get to grips with various adult life skills. In some ways the last part hasn’t been too hard. In others, all the little mistakes I’ve made have made me feel like a bit of a failure at adult life. Apart from anything I’ve been trying to figure out for a while now why my self confidence crashes so hard when I don’t meet the standards I (or others) set for myself. Being sensitive is supposed to be a good trait, but it can be a double edged sword at times.

In short, I am having one of those days where it’s all getting a bit much. I spent most of last night staring tearfully at the ceiling feeling like a scared child as everything threatened to overwhelm me. Not good. Normally I try really hard on my blog to sound interesting, eloquent or at least vaguely funny. But recently I have come across blogs (including vlogs) where the main message is: it’s ok to be sad. I can fight back the urge to cry until I turn blue, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is no point pretending life is perfect. I’m not good at being open with my emotions, so am trying to be more so. Because in the long run, letting yourself be unhappy, cry, talk to loved ones, etc. not only gets the emotions off your chest, but also, to an extent, shows those close to you that crying, sadness and bad days are all a part of life.

So to conclude, I will try to make future blog posts more entertaining, and hopefully things will feel better soon. I’m generally very grateful for the good things in my life, both recent and longer term, and am hoping I can express myself more easily in writing than face-to-face conversation. I still managed to get this image of Thomas and Lionel seeing each other up there and thinking “Not you again!” In the meantime, I am just praying that God, Grannie and all previously deceased pets receive Thomas well.