Tom, George, and Sam

We have three children, therefore we have three cats. Once each. Simple. We acquired them from a farm house when they were kittens – the last three brothers of a litter. They are ginger, they are huge, and they are almost identical. We knew they were going to be big when they were little – they each had huge ears, and huge feet.

I can still remember the first few days we had them – the entire house was a playground – particularly the stairs. The dirty washing basket on the landing was a magnet – somewhere to hide in, somewhere to stage surprise attacks from, and somewhere warm to curl up.

Each cat essentially chose a child of their own accord – strangely none of them chose an adults. During their formative days they automatically chose a bed, or bedroom to settle down in each night. Perhaps the funniest was Sam – the biggest – who has never been particularly friendly. He chose our eldest daughter – the quietest of our children – and could often be found curled up asleep in the cavity underneath her bookshelves. We suspect he chose her because she left him alone.

During their first year, George, always the most outgoing, used eight of his nine lives in one go when he was hit by a car outside our house. After a few nights in hospital he eventually returned home with half his fur shaved off, and two impressive lines of stitches on his thigh and hip. They had essentially re-constructed his hip, and removed the top section of a femur. Apparently cats can deal with having half a femur missing – they are so loose limbed, and so packed with muscle, their body compensates. For a year or so he swaggered around the house like John Wayne, and lost the “spring” from his jumps, but over time it has all returned – he can make the leap up the back gate, or onto the fence as easily as his brothers.

We thought Tom was seriously ill for a while. At about a year old he started to develop black spots on his lips and gums. A quick look on the internet told us that Ginger cats often get freckles, which present as black spots in their mouth. For a while we could use the freckles as an easy method of telling him apart – until the others also developed them. Tom has always had the most though.

Telling the cats apart has always been a struggle. When they were young we bought them collars – many collars – but they became more and more expert at removing the collars. One particularly memorable weekend I returned from the pet shop with three collars yet again, tied one around Tom’s neck, and five minutes later he re-appeared in the house without it. We spotted it on the flat roof later that evening while putting the children to bed.

Our youngest daughter has always been able to tell the cats apart – and we’re not entire sure how. She can name them at the slightest glance. Perhaps mysteriously, she is also the child with developmental delays – she has trouble talking sometimes – so perhaps there’s more going on between her and the cats than meets the eye. We have always wondered if she would end up working with animals – when she was a toddler she would walk around the garden in a “Jessie” cowboy hat and glittery wellington boots, invariably with one of the chickens tucked under her arm. If we ever needed to get the chickens in, we would send her because she could gather them far more quickly than anybody else. Again – we have no idea why or how.

Most mornings when I wake up – I’m usually up first - the cats appear from all corners of the house, and sit at their pre-researched places that they know will be in the way. This is their silent method of demanding breakfast. If I ignore them, they will begin following, deliberately trying to trip, and meowing. If that doesn’t work, one or other of them will jump onto the kitchen work-tops (they are not allowed), and get shouted at instantly. Attention typically gained. If however you continue to ignore them, a funny thing happens – they pick fights with each other.

It would appear that if you place a number of cats in a room and ignore them, after about half a minute one or other of them will thump another in the head for no apparent reason what-so-ever. While waiting for the toaster one morning I saw one of our cats walk up behind his brother, who was standing a yard or so in front of him, and bit him on the arse. Hard.

Our cats live on dry food – they have never known anything else. Years ago my other half had a cat called Simpson that lived on meat/wet food, and it was a nightmare, so we’re kind of glad we made that decision. Strangely, as soon as the food hits the bowls in the kitchen, the cats stop fighting and quietly choose a bowl on a first-come-first-served basis. When they finish eating, they immediately vanish outside for a while (no doubt to compare meals with the rest of the neighbourhood cats).

We suspect Sam has a rota of houses he visits, because he’s twice as fat as the other cats. We’re considering buying a collar with “Please do not feed me” written on it – although if he is stealing the food from other houses, there isn’t much we can do. We’re sure Sam’s weight is also behind his prodigious ability to purr. We’ve never heard anything like it – on a good/bad night (depending on how you look at it), he sounds like a motorbike. Typically he doesn’t purr, but if you touch him, stroke him, or talk to him, he starts and doesn’t seem able to stop again.

Most evenings we don’t see the cats at all after we’ve fed them – they will sneak off upstairs and find a child’s bed to curl up on. All except George (he of the “one life left”). He usually appears from the back garden at about 11pm, and hangs out with us in the lounge until we go to bed. If you dare fuss him, he starts purring like a motorbike too.

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