I have hesitated so long, and procrastinated so much, before starting this piece that Pauline has probably given up hope of ever seeing it.  Gill and I keep telling the groups that we give talks to how domestic cats, just like their ancestor the African Wild Cat, are solitary animals – but now I must tell you how Princess Daisy, of whom I have written before, now shares her life with a long-legged boy cat called Tiggy.

Poppy on the bedUp until Easter this last year Daisy quite happily shared her life with the beautiful, unassuming Poppy, who I nicknamed Pointy Tail.  Poppy had almost completely shut down when we found her in a local animal rescue where nearly all the cats were kept in one large room and the bigger cats had the first choice when food was served.  Poppy was the least assuming, so waited until the others had had their fill.  It took her some time to develop her personality, but she and Daisy became as close as two non-related cats are ever likely to become and would have continued to grow closer had we not had to go through the terrible experience of losing Poppy to cancer.  I won’t dwell on that awful time here – most of my readers will have experienced the sadness of losing a much-loved feline friend.

As I said at the start, we explain in our talks that cats are solitary animals.  While dogs are descended from wolves, which live in family groups, cats are descended from African Wild Cats and still exhibit many of the behavioural traits of their forbears.  Cats don’t need to live in groups – but they can.  We’ve all seen colonies of feral cats that gather round food sources and loosely resemble lion prides, but even within these colonies, relationships are complex and the cats will hunt alone.  Surely it makes no sense to suggest cats can mourn the loss of a companion and, indeed, pine for them?

The question of whether animals grieve has been much debated over the years.  Certainly, animals that liveDaisy and Poppy closely together will notice things have changed, and in our own experience our remaining cats seemed to understand and say farewell when one was sadly hit by a car outside our house.  Calico cats, like Daisy, are generally reckoned to be more intelligent than many cats and are often very talkative, with an extensive tonal range to their voices.  We have long conversations with Daisy, who varies her responses to fit the mood and circumstances.  We know her, and her responses, well – and have no doubt that she pined for Poppy.  She was also off her food and clearly moping around, so we decided she needed company.

EmmaI can almost hear many readers suggesting our actions were more for our own happiness than for Daisy’s.  Cats Protection warns that “one of the most common misconceptions when it comes to cats is that they get lonely and need other cats for company”.  Despite everything we had read and passed on to others we felt we were doing the best thing for Daisy – and many learned bodies state that sociable interaction with another cat can greatly enrich a cat’s daily life.  So we tried introducing Emma – and that was a big mistake.  Emma was, and I’m sure still is, absolutely adorable.  She loved us from the moment she first set eyes on us and hugged us to within an inch or two of our lives.  She came from a 25-cat household, where she had been living (existing, rather) in a rabbit hutch.  She probably loved us with the same amount of passion with which she hated Daisy.  There was, sadly, no way these two could inhabit the same space – indeed Emma would prefer it if Daisy did not live on the same planet.

We happened, soon after sadly returning Emma to her fosterers, to be chatting to a couple that know Daisy well, having looked after her in their wonderful – but sadly closed - cattery whenever we were away on holiday.  They reckoned we were making a mistake trying to introduce a female cat, as whenever Daisy stayed with them and went for her daily walk up and down the cattery, she only had eyes for the male cats.  Our wonderful fellow Cats Protection volunteers came up trumps again and introduced us to Tiggy (though he wasn’t Tiggy then, and is only just getting used to his new name!)

Tiggy had already had a hard life, even though he was only about a year old.  He had been, thankfully, takenTiggy away from his previous humans by the RSPCA – largely because something they had been smoking convinced them that he could fly if they threw him out of a second-floor window.  When we first met him we loved his long legs and tail, his beautiful markings and his habit of hiding his food under the nearest blanket.  We brought him home and set about a long, slow introduction to Daisy.  For weeks and weeks he lived in our spare bedroom – we even bought a cat platform so he could look out of the window and a cat harness to help him slowly explore the garden.  Daisy was obviously aware of him, but didn’t seem terribly bothered, even getting into the habit of wandering into ‘his’ room for a snack before bed!

It would be lovely to report that all is completely well between our two lovely cats, and things are almost normal.  Daisy is wary of Tiggs, especially as – being so young – he just wants to play chase most of the time.  Tiggy is changing and relaxing a little more each day but still likes to go out from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, only coming in for a quick snack or to try and tempt Daisy, who he adores, to play.  Daisy does chase him every now and then, so we hope he is helping her stay active and happy.  We notice that Tiggy will often be in when we come home but immediately go out, and we put that down to subconscious memories of his early months.

Daisy and TiggyIn the end, it is lovely to have two beautiful cats again, and we love them both to bits.  We’ve just put the Christmas tree up and have no idea how Tiggy will react.  Wish us luck!

Andrew Lane

Andrew and his wife Gill are Education speakers for Cats Protection, which offers free talks to schools and community groups of all ages.  For more information go to https://education.cats.org.uk/

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)