While Socks was very cautious around us for the first few days, Charlie would become incredibly affectionate at meal times but would seem quite sulky at other times, taking himself upstairs to sit on the landing alone. My instinct was that he was unhappy and missed his previous owner. I started to suspect he was a cat that bonds strongly to his owner. I now know this is true!
I learned a lot about cats in the first few weeks we had Charlie and Socks. One of those lessons is that cats are like clockwork! If you feed them at a certain time on one day, expect to be harassed at exactly the same time the next day. Now Charlie had muscled his way into our bedroom each evening, we had the problem of the early morning thunder purr alarm. On mornings he was particularly hungry; the purring would start at 4am and continue at 30 minute intervals. Pushing him away only encouraged his behaviour. In the end, my last resort to get rid of him was to pull him close to me and give him a big cuddle. That worked! Eventually, the early morning wake up calls got later to match our routine and even though they are now a more tolerable 6:30 am, we still have the problem of the furry alarm clock at 6:30 on weekends. Luckily, I am a very good sleeper and a quick sleepwalk to feed the cats isn’t a problem.
Charlie may have worked out that my boyfriend and I wouldn’t be getting up in the middle of the night to feed him, but he hadn’t worked out that guests staying over wouldn’t really want to get up for him in the middle of the night either. My boyfriend’s mother was startled by the thunder purring early one Saturday morning. She woke to find Charlie doing his intent stare and heavy breathing. She recounted later that she told him “you don’t look like you’re going to waste away Charlie”. He jumped down and after a few minutes came back with Socks, who was underweight when we got her. That proved enough to convince her to make the trip downstairs to feed them.
When they first arrived, both the cats ate all the food we put down for them straight away. We often joked they were more like dogs! This became a problem when Charlie continued to eat all his meal straight away and Socks eventually wanted to graze across the day. Charlie would end up polishing off her meal too when we weren’t looking! Luckily, we found a way to allow Socks to graze without Charlie becoming obese. We bought a couple of smart bowls that only open after detecting a cat’s microchip. They were a great investment! Sure Petcare, the company, obviously put a lot of thought into it because they even have a protective barrier to stop Charlie squeezing in next to Socks and stealing food. There is also a rubber seal between the bowl and the movable plastic cover, which helps keep the food fresher for longer (not an applicable benefit for Charlie!). They look modern and the cats got used to them really quickly. I found myself showing them to any poor visitor who happened to venture into the house.
Unsurprisingly, Charlie’s cat food was never enough for him. We were constantly making sure there was no food about the house for him to snaffle but we did make a few blunders. One time, my boyfriend was working in the garage and left the porch door open, which just happens to be where we store their 4 kg bags of food ! Even after his evening meal, Charlie felt the need to rip the bag open while he was alone and help himself. When I walked in to find him later he had eaten nearly a quarter of the bag and was slumped in a corner in a food coma, looking very sorry for himself. I was surprised he wasn’t ill!
Charlie the Chancer
As the cats were so hungry all the time, we had to be careful leaving any human food at all on the worktops. Even the most unlikeliest foods were not safe. We came back from shopping once and left a new loaf of bread on the side. Later on, I thought I heard a strange noise in the kitchen. I rushed in to find the loaf of bread on the floor with a bite taken out of the middle. The missing chunk had been spat out and was lying next to the loaf.
We don’t regularly cook whole chickens in our house any more due to the trauma of the last time. During the whole cooking process, Charlie never took his eyes off the oven and looked like one of the bakers from Bake Off checking their precious sponge to see if it was done yet. Once it came out of the oven, he was on the counter tops trying to help cut the chicken. Eventually he realised he was not the intended recipient of the delicious meat and he became particularly argumentative, yowling at each of us and putting his paws on our knees. Finally, once we had finished eating and put the leftovers in the fridge, he jumped in after it. After extracting him from said fridge and dealing out a thorough telling off, he stretched up at the fridge again just as I was shutting the door, trapping his paw. He got his revenge that night by ripping the bin bag to shreds to try to get at the chicken carcase.
Fish isn’t safe either, perhaps unsurprisingly. I had just made a mackerel sandwich one day for my dinner. I heard my phone in the next room and made the fatal error of leaving the sandwich unattended. I came back in the kitchen to find Charlie nose deep in the sandwich filling. “Charlie!!!!” I shouted. He jumped down and gave me a look of disdain. “Well, you did put mackerel in it Mum, what did you expect me to do?” Rolling my eyes, I let him and Socks share the rest of the mackerel, only for my boyfriend to find it again later regurgitated on the stairs carpet.
One of Charlie’s most difficult characteristics to live with is his stalker-ish tendencies around yoghurt. If we retrieve a yoghurt pot out of the fridge, he will appear with big saucer eyes, purring like a lunatic. He will then proceed to stalk said yoghurt pot around the house until the whole pot has been consumed and thrown away. He will lick the yoghurt lid if you’re not looking. Ice cream and milk provoke similar but slightly less strong reactions from him. I have even caught relatives letting him lick out their yoghurt pot or bowl saying “don’t tell your mother”. Yes, I know about that kiwi yoghurt, Grandma!
One time we had a very lucky escape with Charlie after we had ordered a takeaway curry. We had filled our plates and accidentally left an open takeaway carton on the side. As usual, while eating, I suddenly heard a noise from the kitchen. We raced in to find the curry carton on the floor with Charlie enthusiastically licking out the leftovers. I immediately panicked that the curry had onion in it, which is toxic for cats! My boyfriend didn’t think he’d eaten very much though and luckily Charlie survived! Unfortunately for Charlie, he was on and off his litter tray the next day making lots of musical notes. We could sympathise.
Once Charlie had eventually started going outside he was often ill. After a while, we spotted the pattern, which that it happened to coincide with bin day.. One evening, after being outside, he took himself away in one of the spare bedrooms and didn’t appear again. It was very unusual for him to do that. When my alarm went off the next morning, I hazily registered that Charlie had ran into our bedroom. He then proceeded to be sick and in it produced a large lump. On closer inspection, we realised that it was the elasticated red string – the kind that joints of meat come wrapped in. I couldn’t believe it!
I now feed the cats Arden Grange biscuits as these are hypoallergenic and do not contain grains. This seems to have helped Charlie’s flatulence tremendously. I also give them one pouch of Harringtons wet food each day, which includes lots of superfoods in its ingredients! They are the best foods I can afford for them for now and both cats seem happy and their coats glossy. I am open to trying new foods for them as I think there is still a lot to learn about the optimum feline nutrition! It’s easy for owners to feel guilty about what they feed their cats (or maybe that’s just me). I believe that it’s more important to feed cats within your budget and to change their food if there are signs their current option is not working for them.
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