In the ‘new’ 200 year old house there are four floors, three people, and three cats. Whilst all of the humans (and one of the cats) are happy to eat together in the kitchen, the other two cats have segregated themselves according to floor. We therefore have one cat for each level, although the ground floor cat (Sossage) includes the basement in her territory.
The first floor is owned and occupied by Poppy, and Sandy lives on the top floor. For the first few months things went along in this fashion fairly smoothly, but you know all about cats and curiosity…
As they had sorted themselves out so neatly, we put a feeding station and a litter tray on each floor for each cat. They all (except Sossage, who will eat anything) have their preferred foods, and their acquired habits, and seemed quite happy with this arrangement.
Poppy and Sandy are also quite elderly, and don’t seem to desire too much in the way of excitement, so when Sandy started to occasionally creep down to visit Poppy’s floor, they kept a respectful distance, edged around each other on tippytoes, and each generally tried to pretend that the other cat was not actually visible. It was all very courtly and reserved, like a ballroom scene from Pride and Prejudice. And we, (the humans), were completely deceived by it.
It wasn’t long before Sossage decided to venture up a floor – also to Poppy’s territory, but Sossage, bless her, is somewhat lacking in the finer feline social graces. Sossage greets everyone who is not a human, with an open mouthed and very sweary hiss. Anything new, anything moving, anything she thinks is in the wrong place – it all gets the same treatment. She has in this way shown her distain for everything from the curtains and the stairs to a packet of croissants, with particular venom reserved for the hat stand.
In all other respects she is the most gentle and affectionate of creatures. She is very small and spent her first couple of months with us being carried everywhere in a sling around my neck, or in the pocket of my apron. She adores people and loves to be cuddled, and she is loved in return. She has a few issues though – apart from the indiscriminate hissing. She will not look anyone, or anything, in the eye. She is totally convinced that she is in fact just a slightly undersized lion, not a 10 inch long kitty. Her mathematics is truly dreadful, she simply cannot calculate the proper distance for a jump, or how to get on to a chair without banging her head on the arm rests, so she is constantly crashing into things and lacks grace. She also seems to have some gender issues, she often tries to spray things, and her face is wide, like a tomcat’s face.
So the two upstairs old ladies, Sandy and Poppy, had a bit of shock when Sossage started to invade their peaceful world. Picture your mother and aunt, having afternoon tea in an elegant hotel, and being joined at their table by the town drunk. How would they behave? Would they pour him a cup and hand him a cream slice? Would they get up and move to another table? Would they just sit there in stunned silence and then collapse in giggles? Sandy and Poppy, wellbred females that they are, decided to ignore her. Or at least to ignore her as far as possible – Sossage does not always make ignoring her a viable option.
Both Sandy and Poppy seem to sense that all is not quite right with Sossage, they are both experienced in seeing off other cats. Sandy in particular has a paw swipe that is so fast it can hardly be seen. This, combined with the huge feet and claws of a Norwegian Forest cat, and the fact that she has never been known to hold her temper when annoyed (we all have the scars to prove it, and I have a particularly lovely long scratch all the way across my face at present) means that her reluctance to just thump Sossage at every hiss comes as a bit of a surprise to all of us. But no, they both, apparently by tacit agreement, ignore her with a determination that has to be seen to be believed.
Did I mention that Sossage is not happy about being ignored? I may have done. Anyway, she decided to start a war. Anything to get attention.
She may have limited weapons at her disposal, due to her somewhat limited intellect, but she is definitely capable of creative thought.
The three humans (remember them?) were having supper in the kitchen when Sossage came hurtling around the corner of the hallway, fell down the step into the kitchen, and ran to the far end, where she sat panting, eyes fixed on the doorway, tongue sticking out. None of us had ever seen her move so fast before, or be quite so agitated, and as there is no carpet in the hallway the skidding around corners had been impossible to miss – like something out of a cartoon. We knew she hadn’t come from the basement (lots of stairs and no room for skidding), so mum decided to go and have a look to see if one of the other cats had chased her. Unlikely, but worth checking. What mum discovered was that Sossage had started a guerrilla war. Her (clearly planned) opening salvo was to sneak upstairs to Poppy’s floor, and poop in Poppy’s litter tray. We know it was Sossage because (without wanting to bore you with too much detail), Poppy can’t bury hers and Sossage buries every offering as if it was treasure that she was planning to come back for later.
Mum removed the offending item from the tray and we all had a good laugh about it. We didn’t think Poppy had noticed it.
A couple of days later, I was working in my studio when I heard some scraping in the litter tray at the back. I turned round, expecting to see Sossage, but no, Poppy was getting her own sweet revenge. Poppy pees like a horse, and she had obviously been saving up her liquids for some time in order to bestow a special baptism upon Sossage’s tray. She looked mildly embarrassed to be caught in the act, but stared right back at me with a scornful expression as I took a photo (for evidence, I knew Mum would never believe her cat capable of such a thing).
Another few days go by and Mum witnesses Sandy sneaking out of the upstairs bathroom, looking decidedly furtive. Another check of Poppy’s litter tray and yes – Sandy has left a little souvenir in Poppy’s litter box. At least she had the grace to look slightly ashamed of it.
Two more days, and Poppy is back in Sossage’s litter tray, having snuck down the stairs and been as discreet as she possibly could, but everyone can hear her peeing, it’s like a tap being turned on behind you!
So, at present the only unviolated litter tray is Sandy’s, and we think that is only because the other two haven’t found it yet. It can only be a matter of time. I shall keep you posted.