It has been about nine months since the timeshare between Charlie and the Tabby started. Our routine for the day probably could raise a few eyebrows.
Early morning: We wake up and my boyfriend feeds the cats their breakfast of biscuits. I used to feed them at every meal but then they started treating my boyfriend like he was surplus to requirements. Our new routine is aimed at restoring a sense of order. We both then leave for work.
Arrive at work: My neighbour’s cat normally returns from his night out while I’m driving to work. Once the Tabby is safely indoors, my neighbours unlock my catflap. Yes, you read correctly! The Sure Petcare pet flap door allows anyone you invite to remotely access the cat flap from an app on their phone. This is particularly convenient as it has allowed me to continue working and keep the cats at the same time! The flap makes a clicking noise when it is unlocking which the cats have learnt as the signal to stampede towards the flap but then queue diplomatically like a scene on the M25… “you go first”, “oh no, you go first, please”.
Sometime between lunch and early afternoon: There is a curfew mode on the flap which automatically locks at a set time. However, my neighbour can also check Charlie’s live status (inside or outside?) and lock the flap earlier if necessary.
Return home: The cats are normally indoors and Charlie is ravenous! Sometimes he wraps his paws round my legs and he always purrs like crazy. Socks is a little more subtle but she does do the ‘sociable roll’ on one side showing her tummy.
Later evening: We have a good play with the cats in the evening and if they haven’t had very long outside that day I will let Socks outside a bit longer and take Charlie on an evening walk. Yes, a WALK, that’s right! After we agreed the timeshare with the Tabby I started harness training Charlie. We took it slowly at first and I just walked him round the garden with a bag of treats. We then moved to the street, much to the amusement of my neighbours. These days we can walk quite far although it’s difficult in the summer with the dog owners taking advantage of the lighter evenings. I even have to take a poo bag with me as Charlie has a favourite spot to relieve himself (on a neighbour’s lavender bush – sorry neighbour, if you’re reading this).
Just before bed: We always give the cats a very small amount of biscuits before bed to avoid a purry alarm clock going off any time before 6am.
Although the routine works well day to day, there are still some aspects to living with Charlie that never change. Normally, as soon as Charlie is let out, he heads straight to the Tabby’s garden and makes himself at home. I am told he has several favourite snoozing spots. He also spends some time peering in through their patio doors and windows trying to find where the Tabby is sleeping so they can have a ‘hiss off’ through the window. My neighbour has even caught him sticking his nose up against the cat flap when he clocked a yoghurt being taken out of their fridge. Most of his incidents are normally recorded and shared via picture message (hilariously) – where would we be without WhatsApp?
There have been times where things haven’t gone to plan though. Charlie went through a phase of escaping from the house, meaning there have been several occasions of me panic running down the street in various states of undress. Last time I had only just got out the shower and raced out the house in my dressing gown. Unfortunately, I had not noticed how windy it was and my thin dressing gown ended up over my head. A swift retreat was necessary on that occasion. At least no one saw my face.
All this escaping was terribly inconvenient and we could not figure out for the life of us how he was managing to get out! All the windows were shut and the cat flap was locked in the outwards direction. It was only after a couple of months that we noticed Socks sometimes pauses as she enters the house through the catflap, such that her front half is in the house and her back legs are still outside. This allows just enough space for Charlie to break free from the luxury 5 star all-inclusive resort where he is held prisoner. Charlie also quickly learned how to escape from the first harness we bought him. I was pretty annoyed about wasting money on that product until it produced a moment of absolute comedy gold. My boyfriend had to chase Charlie around the garden and eventually pull him off the garden fence. I decided to be as helpful as possible by filming the moment and giggling. As my boyfriend pulled Charlie off the fence he was saying “you will not win” over and over.
The second harness we bought him was a product from Trixie and it was a lot more successful. Charlie has not escaped to this day!
Overall the timeshare has worked incredibly well and we are so grateful to our neighbours for helping us make it a success and also to Sure Petcare for creating such a sophisticated product that works really well. I honestly don’t think we would have been able to keep Charlie without this incredible cat flap!!!
Training Charlie on the harness and arranging the timeshare was a huge turning point in the battle to keep him. Although his ways have proved a lot to endure, I sometimes have to remind myself that he has helped me make some great friends and has done a better job of getting to know neighbours than I had the whole year before.