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Rafa Gets a Reprieve

7 Jan

Two days ago, Rafa was his normal effervescent self, racing through the house, playing with Poppy and his toys, helping to take the decorations down. He found unwinding the tinsel from the tree just as much fun as when it was being twirled into the branches before Christmas.

He’s nearly 5 months old now so we made the call to the vet to book him in for the operation that all boy cats must go through if we don’t want them prowling the neighbourhood and yowling for kitty girlfriends to join them behind the bushes.

The operation was booked for Wednesday but this morning Rafa was completely out of sorts. Poppy was quite worried and tried to nudge him out of his lethargy.

Having previously looked to refuel with a tasty bowlful of chow every couple of hours, Rafa was not interested in eating. He refused breakfast and went straight to his bed where he spent most of the day, either fast asleep or very subdued.

By late afternoon, with no improvement, we took him to see the vet. He was quiet again in the car, with only a couple of hardly audible mews on the journey instead of his usual wails of protest at being confined in the pet carrier.

The vet found a slightly raised temperature and gave him an anti-inflammatory injection to help reduce any infection. But he clearly was not well enough to undergo surgery this week so his operation has been cancelled for at least ten days.

By the time we reached home he’d already cheered up. He tucked straight into a plate of tuna fish and has been much more chirpy this evening. Was it just the veterinary treatment, we wonder, or was it perhaps that good news he overheard?



Toy Boy

1 Jan


Christmas is over and Rafa has exhausted the tree, tinsel, baubles, presents and wrapping paper. He’s had great fun tapping at the cards until they fell like rows of dominoes and checked out every last gift bag to make sure he hasn’t missed anything destined for a special little kitten.

He looked so cute, some of our guests would have happily taken the gift bag with him in it back to their own homes.

Now looking for a fresh source of amusement, he’s discovered Poppy’s overflowing toy basket in the corner and tipped them all out.

Then he has a good game of rough and tumble with each of the toys. After they all have been given a thorough mauling, the basket itself is just as good for playing with. He can even roll around the floor inside it  – as good as a fairground ride.

His favourite toy is the tiger which he loves to toss into the air before he beats the hell out of it with teeth and claws. You can’t blame him – no kitty siblings to roll around with any longer and our grown-up cats Treacle and Zanzi refuse to play at all. He still chases after them mercilessly until they turn and growl at him in fury adding a few angry paw swipes for good measure.

Seeing Rafa with one of her toys Poppy has decided that the tiger is her favourite too, and taken it off to hide in her bed, Funny that!

Step Into Christmas

25 Dec

Poppy is ready for Christmas.

Time for the bling collar and festive ribbons

Having stripped naked our small artificial tree we thought we’d wait until Rafa had fully explored the big fir tree before we dared add the decorations.

At least he didn’t have any trouble getting up and down this one. He’s certainly put in plenty of practice over the last few days.

Now we’ve added the tinsel. baubles and lights. `So far, they are still mostly in place …

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Dangerous Hydrangeas

21 Dec

Since joining our household it seems that Rafa is trying to use up all his nine lives before he reaches adulthood.

Apart from his great tree-climbing escapade, our great explorer has walked the tightrope of a narrow rail on our balcony, and found all sorts of hazards to challenge himself with. A couple of days ago we were horrified to find him licking tiny fragments of cheese from a grater we’d carelessly left on a worktop. Somehow he managed to avoid shaving the skin off his tongue.

Later he climbed into a kitchen cupboard and found a small hole used to access the stopcock for our water supply. After squeezing through this hole and venturing further he then found himself trapped in the space beneath the kitchen cupboards. Luckily Rafa has a very loud wail which usually alerts us when he is unable to find his way out of difficulties. After unscrewing the plinths, we found him crouched under the cupboards with as many cobwebs draping his face as old Miss Faversham in Great Expectations.

This time it was Rafa who needed his own wash and brush up in the sink where he likes to sit and watch.

But the most frightening time so far was when Rafa ate a poisonous plant. Like every other kitten, he has to explore every new thing so when I was unpacking a box of baby hydrangea plants, he was like a child at Christmas, desperate to see what was inside. Before I could remove the pots he pounced on one of the plants, breaking off a leafy stem and making off with it in his teeth. Bemoaning the now much reduced plant, I took the others out of reach but on returning found no sign of the stem he’d been chewing. A strange choice for a carnivore, I thought. When an hour or so later he suddenly vomited in the kitchen we first thought he’d just gobbled his food too fast. The second time he gave a piteous meow and convulsed his stomach before throwing up. He’d never been sick before and I went cold with fear, suddenly remembering the plant he’d eaten.

Grabbing the laptop and checking for hydrangeas we were shocked to find them listed as poisonous to cats (along with almost every other plant to be found in the garden). As this was a Sunday we had to ring an emergency vet’s number. He suggested we contact the National Animal Poison helpline. Although Rafa was by this time running about again and didn’t seem distressed, we were so worried about our little fellow that we paid the £30 upfront fee without hesitation. We found they didn’t yet have much data on the effects of eating hydrangeas (they even asked us to update them on the outcome so they could use it to help other owners – should they have been paying us?) but we were reassured by the advice that if it had been highly toxic it probably would have had a more serious effect sooner. Thankfully, the vomiting seemed to have cleared it from his system and he was soon playing with his toys and chasing after our other pets as normal,

It reminded us not to be complacent though. We know that lilies can be dangerous to cats, mostly because they may rub against the blooms and the pollen is poisonous when they lick it off their fur. Less toxic but still poisonous enough to make them ill is the popular poinsettia. Clearly we must be extra vigilant and keep these away from our pets however much we like these flowers. For young Rafa it seems there are just too many hazards.


Poppy and Fluffies

17 Dec

This blog started off as a way of recording the adventures of our rescue dog Poppy. Now it is continually being hijacked by our cats! Rafa seems to have taken over lately as he gets up to all his mischief. So today’s post is going to start with a photo of Poppy, the most good-natured dog anyone could wish for and who tolerates so much from the fluffies!
Here she is with Treacle

… letting Zanzi take over her bed

… and sharing with Rafa.

After a hard day keeping watch over her furry family, time to take a well-earned rest

The Great Tree Challenge

13 Dec

Rafa is still spending the night in our room so that our other cats are free to go in and out of the cat flap as they have always been used to. At bedtime he runs up the stairs and lies on the pillow until we climb in. Unlike the torties, he loves to be petted and stroked, just as Jaffa did. He usually sleeps in any available hollow on top of the duvet or at the foot of the bed. Very quiet, he doesn’t disturb us during the night but in the morning he likes to wake us with a soft tickle from his whiskers as he gently rubs them against our cheeks. Then he crawls under the duvet for a morning cuddle.

However, as soon as we are up and about, Rafa turns into a demon, dashing about the house and leaping up and over furniture as if he’s practising for the Cat Grand National. He has solved the mystery of the cat flap at last and now he entertains himself by zooming in and out repeatedly, relishing the sound of the flap clattering behind him as he streaks through. We are wary of letting him roam out of sight and have been keeping a close watch on him. We certainly don’t want him going out in the evenings while he’s still so young and hasn’t learned the layout of our garden or where the hazards are. The heartbreak of losing Jaffa is still very present.

But with all our caution, it seems we can’t prevent the inevitable tree climbing catastrophe (no pun intended). It’s just a pity Rafa chose one of the tallest trees in the garden for his first climb. And like every other young cat in the universe he discovered going up was much easier than coming down. And so continued to climb. At first we just had no idea where he’d gone. An hour of frantic searching followed. We called and called but there was no response. We looked around all the garden, checking trees and outbuildings, the barn and stables. Nothing! We stared in trepidation at the pond and even waded in, hearts pounding, to search the water in case he’d fallen in.

At last we were relieved to hear a faint mew coming from above. Following the sound we tracked him down to a very tall and bushy conifer.

No chance at all of seeing him there as we realised he must have climbed right up the centre. There was nothing for it but to fetch ladders and saws to start cutting away the heavily fronded branches, starting at the bottom and gradually clearing the trunk so that a ladder could be fitted against it. Two hours later we found a single ladder was nowhere near long enough. Rafa must have climbed even higher as the mewing was coming from a long way up.

Another hour and we were still hacking branches, with no sign of our kitty – only the mewing had now ripened into a loud wailing.

Finally enough branches had been removed to allow for an extension. Two fifteen foot ladders were fixed together and a very gallant ascent was embarked on by the master. By this time it was almost dark. We were flashing torches through the branches, hoping to catch a glimpse of a whiskery face. It was nearly the limit of the ladder’s reach before a movement several feet above revealed a scared ginger kitten peeping out of the dense foliage.

Rafa was eventually coaxed within reach and once grabbed, clung on with all the strength his claws could muster.

Left to his own devices, would he have eventually got down by himself? The fire brigade insists that cats always find a way down when they get hungry enough. But could we have left our little chap out by himself in the cold and dark? Of course we couldn’t.

Was Rafa traumatised by the experience though? Not a bit of it. Despite all the wailing and the worried face on the descent, as soon as he was back in the house he wriggled free and shot straight out of the cat door again. That has been closed off again now so he must be getting a headache trying to butt it open with his head. Sorry, no more unsupervised exploring just yet, Rafa. Our hearts can’t stand it!

Brave New World

9 Dec

It’s a sunny day today and Rafa is venturing out for the first time. It’s much later than any of our other cats went outside as kittens but they were all born in the early summer and our garden is full of hazards: dozens of tall trees, a pond, fountains and all sorts of other things that could prove dangerous for a young boy whose ambitions exceed his current agility. All three of our previous kittens climbed too far up trees and had to be rescued. The trees have grown even taller now and I’m not sure we have ladders long enough to reach a too adventurous kitten.

Our garden is a huge and bewildering prospect for a kitten who has never seen the outside of a house before. At first he is wary and keeps close to the house, fluffing out his tail against any possible predators. Then he darts out a little further but keeps running into the bushes to hide.

Eventually he gains courage and explores further, stepping onto grass for the first time and investigating the rockery.

Poppy is very solicitous and watches him continually, getting worried every time he disappears into foliage.

Our other two cats turn up to watch too, though I’m not sure they are being solicitous. Zanzi sits imperiously in the middle of the fountain watching his progress. Would that be to rescue him if he fell in, we wonder (though of course that’s no longer possible since we covered the top with strong wire mesh). Or is she planning to hold the annoying little imposter’s head under water?

Now Rafa’s had his first taste of freedom, he’ll be wanting to be out in that big new world all the time. Many more heart-stopping moments to come, we’re sure!