Yep! It's a year since young Austin decided to move in and adopt us as his life's work. So I suppose now is a good time to take a moment to reflect on what both parties have learned from this merger, this fusion of two cultures. The word culture as we all know means "to grow a living organism in a controlled environment". Yeah right!
From the first glimpse of him, scratching frantically at the glass of his cage in the rescue centre, to this moment (as he rampages the neighbourhood with young Tabby - who now tells us he wants to be called Tigger after his hero in Winnie the Pooh!), it has been a steep learning curve and I am still not sure which culture has the preeminence. I do wonder sometimes what life was like for him before he was found, badly injured, trying to keep warm in a car engine. The nice people at the rescue centre were not forthcoming as to how he got his injuries, but I cringe at the possibility that it was because someone started the car engine before he had a chance to escape!
How long had he been on the road? Was he from a discarded litter of kittens? What was it like for him out there? Perhaps he's a reincarnation of Dicken's cat William (who turned out to be Wilhelmina anyway!)? Or maybe one of T.S. Eliot's that didn't quite make the cut? Or worse, perhaps he lost his job as understudy to Mr. Mistoffelees because he wasn't black enough and has been unable to come to terms with his mixed race antecedents and decided to end it all by throwing himself into the oily embrace of Wankel. I shudder to think about it now. They said he was about 6 months old, but judging by how quickly he gained weight after we took him in, he was probably nearer a year old, but very undernourished. That would make him about two years now.
He settled in very quickly and adapted himself well in his new environment. As I have noted before though, it was about 4 or 5 months before he would venture outside - and even then needed a bodyguard to watch his rear while he availed himself of the facilities. Even now he prefers human companionship out there. When I open the door to let him out, he looks back and chirrups and I have to say "It's ok buddy, off you go, see you later", and he trots off quite content that all is well with his world. I have often complained here that he hates to be picked up and cuddled and I have now put it down to his fear of being confined, maybe because of his earlier experiences. He just becomes one big claw. However, if he decides that cuddles are the order of the day, then it doesn't matter what I am doing, he will plonk himself on top of the most accessible bit of me and start his shiatsu technique and drools all over my person. And my laptop is in danger of being waterlogged!
He is a creature of habit, most definitely, and his body clock is to within a couple of seconds. Even the hour going back hasn't fazed him. He tolerates visitors, but like most cats will always go to the one person who hates cats and has allergies! Anything new has to be sniffed and patted and sometimes watched from a distance, until it finally passes his strict inspection criteria, which is far more rigourous than any government health and safety regulation.
We have come to an agreement over housework - I do it .... and he watches from a safe distance. He is intrigued by the vacuum cleaner, which to him is a dragon with a very long tail and every so often it lets out smoke and fire (when the bag needs changing - and I forget!). Fireworks are an infringement of his cat rights and he is trying to get legislation passed to ban them forever. He has been lobbying to get his accommodation upgraded to something that includes central heating and excludes Tabbies - except when there is an R in the month. He always comes when he is called- except when he doesn't. He knows his name and responds with a sound that I swear is catspeak for "yes my dear mistress, I am yours to command". Despite his phobia about being picked up, he likes to follow me around and then falls on my feet with grunts and sighs when I stop for a cuppa - I do believe he thinks he's a dog. He's even followed me up the road. I know that because although I never saw him actually walking behind me, each time I turned round, he was always exactly the same distance behind, sitting looking bored and feigning interest in a discarded cigarette butt or a gazing languidly at a leylandii that's currently a bone of contention between two neighbours. No door can be closed to him and the issue of catflaps has been under discussion for a while now. However, seeing as he uses the small vent window thingy in my bedroom to go in and out when he thinks I'm not looking, a catflap is not a matter of urgency. NB How does he manage to get in through about one inch of open window I have no idea?
So to sum up I would say that Austin has successfully made the transition across to big school and has fitted in well with the class (mostly). However, he must learn not to daydream and stare out the window during lessons and sleep through afternoon lectures. He shows tremendous leadership qualities but must curb the tendency to yowl, spit and punch when he doesn't get his own way. He has been registered for anger management classes to help him deal with this and also his inclination towards the gang culture (see above) as personified (or is that catified?) by Big Ginge and his merry band of feline thugs. This is a work in progress. Austin must try harder. But I am hopeful. Given his expertise at entering and leaving through small windows, I am sure he would do well in a future career as a cat burglar!