Whizzing around the house at death defying speeds - was Charlie being 'operated' by remote controlled radios from behind the sofa by Biggles and Garfield? 

Garfield and kitten CharlieWhen Charlie arrived his tail seemed to be in a permanently upright pencil-like position with a curl like a question mark at the tip. He spent his every waking minute haring around the house, doing the wall of death at the speed of light taking in the curtains, the wallpaper and even the ceiling occasionally on his manic trips.

As his tail often resembled an antenna, I did wonder if Biggles and Garfield had remote controlled radios with which they operated him from behind the sofa or somewhere I couldn’t detect them. It did seem very suspicious!

He was very tiny and the first thing he did when he was introduced to Garfield was to look for a nipple which surprised the pants off Garfield. Coughing loudly with as much ‘butchness’ as he could muster, Garfield said in a deep, masculine type voice: ‘I say old chap, you won’t be getting anything from them!’ Biggles just giggled because he thought it was hysterically funny that Garfield should have been mistaken for a mummy cat, but then Biggles, having just spent a leisurely half an hour or so indulging in the delights of catnip, would have found anything hysterically funny.

Undeterred, Charlie then raced into the kitchen to Hoover up the remnants of Biggles and Garfield’s last meal. He sat neatly by the empty bowls, a look of expectancy on his little ginger and white face. His eyes were still quite dark, not yet becoming the amber for which ginger cats are renowned. I put some kitten food in his red dish and he ate with relish, not stopping until the bowl was completely empty.

He took in the surroundings with a half-quizzical, half bemused look and, deciding that ‘time waits for no kitten’, set off to explore now that he had a full stomach for whatever lay ahead.

Next to the kitchen, he found the bathroom with the high-sided bathtub. He wanted to look over the side but was far too tiny. He tried to jump up, but still he couldn’t see. So he backed up a bit to give himself some room, and, in the manner of an athlete about to tackle the long jump, took a running leap.

His strategy worked, and just managing to hold onto the slippery lip of the bath with his chin and front paws, his back legs and tail spread out behind him. He dangled like a ginger starfish stuck onto the side panel of the bath and this is how Garfield found him a few minutes later when, accompanied by Biggles, he came to see where Charlie had got to.

Garfield asked Charlie what he was trying to do. Charlie grunted. If he had spoken he would have lost his chin hold on the bath and quite frankly, he was a little embarrassed - not that he would admit it. Biggles just giggled - the effects of the catnip not having worn off yet.

Garfield thanked Charlie for his excellent marine impersonations and gently encouraged him to come down. Relieved, Charlie carefully released his tenuous hold on the bath. ‘It’s hard work doing starfish impressions when you’re only a few inches tall,’ he muttered to himself, as he gratefully slid down the side of the bath with as much dignity as he could manage.

Once down on the comforting safety of the fluffy bath math, the pile of which almost reached his knees, he had a quick wash before meeting Garfield in the doorway of the bathroom. Biggles just waved a paw in his general direction before heading to bed to sleep off the effects of the catnip. Suddenly a nap was the most important thing that Biggles felt like doing at that moment. He hurried to his favourite chair where his cushions were arranged the way he liked them. He settled down leaving Garfield to show Charlie around the rest of the house.

'Don’t mind him,’ Garfield whispered to Charlie as he led him up the hallway to the living room, where Biggles was already fast asleep. ‘He’s creative,’ Garfield added, by way of explanation. Charlie nodded trying to look intelligent. Truth was, he hadn’t the faintest idea what ‘creative’ meant.

Garfield thought that Charlie had had enough excitement for the time being, so he showed him to the other armchair and suggested that he took a nap. Charlie wasn’t that tired but he thought he’d better do as Garfield told him. He climbed up the side of the armchair as if he was an intrepid mountaineer climbing the north face of the Eiger and he settled himself in the crook of the arm and the back.

Garfield smiled approvingly at him and warmed by the obvious friendship he offered, Charlie had a quick wash. Within a few minutes he was fast asleep and when Garfield was satisfied that Charlie was, indeed, asleep, he settled down himself.

When I peeped in the room a bit later, all three cats were sleeping soundly, Biggles in his favourite armchair and Garfield and Charlie in the other one. Charlie had moved from his original position and was now in the protective curve of Garfield’s front paws. Every now and then Garfield gave Charlie a reassuring lick or two and Charlie’s purrs in response were loud and appreciative.

I lay down on the settee and began reading, but after a while the magazine slipped from my grasp and I fell asleep. When I awoke Biggles was lying against my knees, Garfield was sharing the cushion near my face and Charlie was wedged at the back of my calves. I hadn’t been aware of any of them joining me on the settee and wondered if they had a secret signal whereby they all rose at the same time to take up their positions alongside various parts of my body.

I put the television on to watch FIFTEEN TO ONE, a general knowledge quiz show. Garfield advised Charlie that it would be of benefit to him to pay attention. He stressed the importance of a good education and suggested that he watched as many documentaries and general knowledge shows as possible.

Charlie watching a quiz show to improve his mindCharlie sat on the floor watching the television; Garfield sat next to him and explained the rules of the game. Charlie, however hard he tried, soon lost interest and asked Garfield if he could be excused. But before he could get up and into possible mischief, I changed the channel and found some cartoons. Charlie sat enthralled and mesmerised. Garfield looked over his shoulder at me and smiled his approval.

Over the next few weeks Garfield showed Charlie the best places to hide in the house and the various spots where he could catch the late afternoon sun as it cast long shadows across the carpet. 

He took his education in paw and became his mentor. Biggles showed a passing interest in what was going on but he let Garfield take the firm paw when dishing out discipline where necessary. Under Garfield’s firm but kind policy and tutelage Charlie blossomed into a beautiful, well-mannered, well-behaved cat.

The golden autumn days soon gave way to the short, dark winter days and the bad weather often made it impossible to hang the washing out. When this happened, I hung my ‘smalls’ on a clothes-horse shaped like a wigwam under which all three cats spent many hours lying asleep with my underwear drying round about them in front of the fire.

Garfield often sat like Sitting Bull in his wigwam, undaunted by rows of knickers surrounding him. Both he and Biggles were used to this weekly sight during winter months of rainy washdays and for them it was just another interesting place to hide and sleep.

One memorable evening I arrived home from work in time to see Charlie galloping sideways, as kittens do, up the hallway, a pair of my pantyhose streaming out behind him like a scarf. I went into the front room where I had left the clothes-horse with all my underwear earlier that morning, and found three pairs of knickers on the floor, a short distance from the clothes-horse.

An equation came to mind. Three cats + three pairs of knickers = transvestite cats?! I laughed to myself as I imagined them trying on my underwear wondering whose idea it might have been. Biggles and Garfield, at seven years of age, had never done anything like this before, so it was tempting to blame Charlie. But as he continued his crablike gallop up and down the stairs, his head in the gusset of the pantyhose with the legs still billowing out either side of him, I roared with laughter.

I had survived his abseiling down the curtains and climbing up the chimney-breast and now he was encouraging Biggles and Garfield to dress up in my clothes. What had I let myself in for I wondered? I picked the washing up and replaced it on the clothes-horse. I finally rescued my pantyhose from Charlie and was relieved that no damage had been done.

I had a feeling that this boisterous kitten with the adventurous spirit was going to turn our lives upside down. How right I was!

© Pauline Dewberry 2003


A Cats Purr

"Cats make one of the most satisfying sounds in the world: they purr ...

A purring cat is a form of high praise, like a gold star on a test paper. It is reinforcement of something we would all like to believe about ourselves - that we are nice."

Roger A Caras

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