Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Naming of Cats

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.

The Naming of Cats - T. S. Eliot

Much and more has been happening! We finally completed on the Upside Down House this week!

What a relief! We move in next week, so I will be spending the rest of the weekend playing several rounds of High Fantasy Tetris.

What’s High Fantasy Tetris, you ask? A game I invented when I moved up to York – I have a thing about getting all of the same series of books in the same box, no matter how many times I have to re-pack said box to make it so. This is usually fine until there’s more than ten books and they’re all doorstops.

Hello, packing the Malazan Book of the Fallen! We meet again!

However, something we didn’t particularly foresee happened recently too. We met a cat.

After losing a beloved pet there is an expected period of grief, but once you naturally come out of this there next comes a phase where the house feels perpetually empty for lack of a four-legged presence. As we are unashamed cat people, we soon realised there wasn’t a chance of us not looking to have another cat once we’d moved in.

We’d pretty much settled on the Cats Protection shelter in York, as one of the only ones we enquired with who were prepared to match individual cat to individual circumstances instead of having a blanket “no indoor cats” or “no cat flap, no cat” policy. There’s nowhere in the Upside Down House suitable for a cat flap, so we decided to stick to the one place that seemed sensible.


We’d been keeping an eye on a particular cat for a while on their website, and I had started to wonder what the unspoken facts about him might be. He’d been on there for a long time and was a young and very handsome tabby cat who was specified indoor only on his profile. The more weeks went by with him remaining unreserved, the more curious I became.

Eventually curiosity got the better of us both and we called to enquire about him. My instincts weren’t wrong – he is FIV positive. For the unfamiliar, consider it roughly the feline equivalent of the HIV virus in humans. This explained the restriction that he must remain indoors, and the shelter invited us to come in and meet him and discuss the circumstances involved in looking after an FIV positive cat.

As it turns out, it’s not as complicated an enterprise as you might think. There will be potentially a few more visits to the vet than with a completely healthy cat (but there are no guarantees an FIV negative cat wouldn’t need unexpected trips there either) and there is the possibility of a somewhat shortened lifespan. However, to my mind when you take on a pet you take on the painful inevitability that you will outlive them, and with love and care there is every chance of an FIV positive cat living a long and happy life.

What saddened me was that he had been there for so long because people heard this complication and ran. He might be very handsome, playful and loving, but he’s different. There’s a little more risk and a little more complication and the lack of a squeaky-clean bill of health, and so nobody wanted to give this little cat a chance. I’m not sure I entirely have the words for how saddening that was, particularly after meeting him and him being such a friendly boy. 

It goes to prove a point that continually annoys me - some people get a cat because they think cats are "easy" and don't require much looking after. Give them a possibility outside of their "easy package cat" box and they run for the hills. 

There’s a line in a film called Seabiscuit “You don’t give up on a life just because it’s banged up a little”. In the film that applies to both the eponymous equine and also the people around him, and to me it should indeed extend to people and animals alike. We’re all different, human and animal, and that means we all have different challenges. None of that makes us unworthy of a chance, and of a little bit of care and compassion.

The little tabby cat will be somewhat ill for the rest of his life (he’s only seven months old). What struck me immediately was that in actual fact, so will I.

Does that have to mean I’m doomed to be passed over in life in favour of healthier people because I’m that little bit more complicated? I sincerely hope not.

Happily, from now on neither will he.

(This is his Cats Protection photo - I will share some of our own soon!)

Newly-christened Fiddler the tabby will be coming home with us next weekend. 

Whether my own health experiences and my feelings about them played any part in the decision I’ll never be one hundred percent sure (I suspect they did though), but there was never really a much intention of us not giving him the chance of a loving home when so many people wouldn't. 

Especially not considering he made a bee line for me and after a quick cuddle proceeded to try and eat my coat buttons for reasons I can’t pretend to understand – there’s something just a little (read: a lot) endearing about that.

Wishing you all many spoons xxx


  1. I'd never heard of FIV before. He is a handsome boy though :) Glad you decided to give him a chance ^_^

  2. I love love love this. I can connect with this post on so many levels, it's crazy. My "firstborn" cat, Juneaux (pronounced june-oh) is a street rescue, as all of my cats have been (with the exception of one gloriously fat, painfully shy, very sweet black cat named Coraline), and he suffered some injury before I found him, unbeknownst to me. It damaged the growth plate just beneath his radius bone and so even though the radius grew normally, it couldn't grow *down* because the growth plate was now incapable of growth. It's called "radius curvus" and it IS fixable with surgery, but it's fiendishly expensive and I can't afford it. All this the vet explained to me some months after the initial rescue, when I came in concerned about his crooked foreleg that wasn't really crooked before. Now, looking back, I can see it even in his kitten pictures from just a few days after I picked him up, but as he's gotten older it's gotten more pronounced, and it is obviously painful to him especially when it's cold.

    I feel like we really understand each other in that regard. There was already a very strong bond and connection, but this just makes it a bit more special. Now one of my two newer cats (we call them "the kittens" still, though they're more like young adults now) is presenting with food allergies… just like me! Poor little guy. I did have one cat, another street rescue a year or two after Juneaux, that had epilepsy, though it wasn't apparent for a month or two. Apparently cats can sometimes have seizures from time to time and it's "normal", but if it is a more routine thing then it's epilepsy? That's what the vet told me, and he seems to know what he's talking about. None of my other cats have ever had seizures, thank god. It scares the piss out of me every time, and it literally scared the piss out of her every time. I had to give her half a pill twice a day, and when I tried just forcing it down her throat she would spit it back out. I took to grinding it up and mixing it with the gravy from wet cat food, but it was 75/25 on whether she'd eat it or not, or eat all of it, or eat enough of it to get an effective dose… eventually it was too much for me to handle and I had to give her away (especially after I moved halfway across the US--taking her with me in the car!--and into my grandparent's spare bedroom. They've never had a pet in my entire LIFE, so this was new to them.)

    1. It's great to hear from someone else not put off by an animal's health problems! After all, like us, it's not their fault. I wish you all the joy in the world with your feline companions :) xx