Regular readers may already have come across Daisy and Poppy and will have gathered that we think they are rather special.  I’m sure we’re not the only humans owned by cats who think their cats are special but I’m going to try and show over time why “our” two girls are extra special.

We were both first taken over by cats many years ago.  I use the term “taken over” advisedly.  As Paul Gallico reports in The Silent Miaow, the cat view is that they “can think of no better phrase to apply when we move in upon human beings.  Overnight everything is changed for them; their homes, as well as in time their customs and habits, are no longer their own.  From then on they belong to us.”  Scientific research has shown (sorry!) that cats don’t actually need humans in order to survive, though other research claims that cats can form attachments with their humans that are as strong as those of dogs.  I’m sure Daisy and Poppy laugh at us when we talk about them being “our” cats – that’s why they protest so vehemently when we attempt to do something affecting them they have not agreed to or arranged in advance, like taking them to the vet!  While the research shows that cats extract maximum benefit from their relationship with humans I doubt any humans owned by cats would disagree that there are tremendous positives to sharing their lives with these funny, adorable, independent and at times frustrating animals!

Daisy and Poppy on the sofaDaisy and Poppy took us over some years ago now, so they’ve got us almost trained.  They still haven’t persuaded us to open one of every available make and flavour of cat food at each mealtime so they can parade up and down the expensive cat buffet and select which dish is nearest to being suitable for their tastes, but they’re working on it.  Daisy is, and always has been, a very vocal cat and makes her requirements very clear to her domestic servants (us).  Poppy is learning from her example and is becoming more vocal, as well as learning that different calls can elicit different responses from her humans.  Our every day begins with Poppy chirruping for cat biscuits, strategically kept on the bedside table, and every time we go near a room where Daisy knows there are biscuit stores she does her utmost to persuade us she is dying of hunger!

(Incidentally, as we explain to groups when we talk about cat care, while kittens meow to let their mother know they’re cold or hungry, once they get a bit older cats no longer meow to other cats. They do, however, continue to meow at people throughout their lives.  Since cats haven’t (yet) worked out how to open tins and packets of food a cat is dependent on its human and quickly learns that humans are no good at picking up the scent messages or the body language the cat is attempting to use.  So the meowing develops into a second language to communicate with humans.  Some scientists would go so far as to say that cats have refined their meows specifically to manipulate people!)

Daisy, the “princess” in the title, was being looked after by a small animal charity.  I’m pretty sure she found her attendants wanting, but was prepared to wait until a suitable palace was found for her!  Being a cat she completely ignored us when we arrived to meet her, but she did eventually raise herself from her pretend slumbers and walk away from us to the other end of the cattery to have a bite to eat.  Actually, I say “walk”, but Daisy glides around the house like a princess should - unless she’s annoyed with us, in which case she struts.  We sometimes refer to her as “daughter of Sophie” because Sophie, a previous much-loved rescue cat, was Princess-in-Chief – and it’s almost as if she has passed the mantle on to Daisy!  She is a beautiful long-haired Calico cat for whom the words “airs and graces” were invented.

 (Science tells us that a cat’s colouring has nothing to do with its personality, but there is lots of anecdotal evidence that calico cats are more fiery, strong-willed and altogether more temperamental than cats of other colours and colour combinations.  Calico cats are often said to have more attitude than cats of other colours.  Simply put, they have “cattitude”.  Daisy has gone for this in a big way.)

Poppy, in contrast, is still developing.  She’s like a work in progress, developing and changing herPoppy personality as she gains in confidence.  I realise I’ve used the word “personality” here – a sign of the anthropomorphism (giving the characteristics of humans to an animal) all animal lovers tend to employ, but the dictionaries don’t yet include “catality”!  Poppy was living unhappily in a different animal rescue centre where all the cats lived (existed, rather) together in one huge room.  The biggest, strongest and boldest cats were first to the food, commandeered the few comfy sleeping places and attracted the most interest from the visiting humans.  Poppy was one of the smallest, weakest and most timid – but that was exactly what endeared her to us.  She has no airs and graces and her catality is simple – she loves everyone and everything she comes across.  She also has a rather less luxurious tail than Daisy – hence my references (less frequent these days) to her as Pointy Tail. 

DaisyAs Daisy took on our ownership first, you might expect her to have been annoyed at the unwanted intrusion of another cat.  This was understandable on several levels, and is largely a product of ancestry.  Cats Protection, for whom we give talks, produce a very informative “essential guide” to cats living together which begins (rightly) with a look at inherited characteristics.  Our moggies (sorry, fabulous feline friends) share a common ancestry with the African Wild Cat – still found in North Africa today - which maintains a territory to keep other cats away.  Our so-called domestic cats also have an inherent desire to be solitary hunters and maintain a territory, but they can live well together in circumstances when they perceive each other to be in the same social group and there are enough resources provided for them to avoid competition.  We stress this last point continually – it’s no use expecting two cats, especially if they come from different backgrounds, to share food bowls, litter trays or sleeping places!

So Daisy wasn’t, at first, that happy to have this tabby and white interloper in her realm.  If Poppy had had the same personality (sorry, catality) as Daisy there would have been serious conflict, but her subservience served her well until she found the confidence to stand up for herself a little – cue one surprised Daisy!  We had to help and work at the relationship too.  Many would-be and existing cat people misunderstand what cats need from their relationship with us.  They try to introduce new cats into existing cat households, or to get cats and dogs to live together, without understanding what the research I mentioned at the start shows – that most cats are securely attached to their humans in the same way that dogs and babies become attached.  OK, they may see us as food-givers but that is certainly not all.  Just like most of us they need safety and security.

So Daisy and Poppy get along reasonably well, and even – on occasion – appear to be very fond of each other.  They’ll never end up grooming each other, as brother and sister cats do, and Daisy still has first go at feeding time (even though they get identical servings!)  I don’t think a day goes by without one of us saying to the other “I love our cats”, and we do believe they love us too.  As Paul Gallico again reports in The Silent Miaow - which, of course, he discovered and recognised as the work of a cat of superior intelligence - “(humans) have this strong and wonderful thing they call love, and when they love you and you love them, none of the other things seem to matter.”

Andrew Lane

The Very Best Toy for Cats

"Of all the [cat] toys available, none is better designed than the owner himself. A large multipurpose plaything, its parts can be made to move in almost any direction. It comes completely assembled, and it makes a noise when you jump on it."

Stephen Baker