A company of cats

In photo order: Aspen, Neville, Fizzy, Marmite, Oscar Charlie, Hercules and Merlin







 It was over a year ago when Hercules (and Marmite) had just arrived and I fell in love again. He and Marmite are the sweetest cats and have settled in amazingly well to their new life in Shetland, all having their own favourite places in the house. For some reason the two tabbies in the house (Aspen and Hercules) are my sofa mates whereas all the rest want to sit with Mike and its first come first served to get on his knee. We have made a few new ‘beds’ around the house so that when we’re not in the living room they can all find somewhere comfy and warm but our bed usually has a few cats sleeping quite companionably together. This includes the Neville (the Garage cat) who is as nice a cat as you could ever meet.  (His history and why he came to be the Garage Cat is another story). He is best friends with little Merlin and now has to sport a rather natty collar so that we can tell him apart from Marmite as they are so alike. 

Mike was determined to get Neville to live in the house with the other cats even though he seemed so comfortable and happy where he was, but he worried about him in the winter, so he tried bringing him in lots of times and sitting calmly with him in here (an excuse to watch sport on’t telly really) but usually he’d just bolt out after a while. Then one day be didn’t, but he stayed under the sofa most if the time keeping a wary eye on the comings and goings. He just started gradually to get bolder and now mingles quite happily with the other cats. He’s very clean and healthy despite his time living rough and, best of all (from my point of view) is his friendship with Merlin who was desperate to play with someone and who now has a WWF wrestling partner for silent bouts where they eventually disentangle and casually sidle away from each other, as if nothing had happened.  Neville washes Merlin, taking particular care to do his lugs, and it’s so sweet it brings a lump to even Mike’s gruff and manly throat.

You may have noticed there’s a strange collection of names with no logic to them … That’s because we’ve only named three out of our seven cats. How many!?!.  Yes, seven. Not our intention to have so many but one was needing a home in the country as he had decided he was not an indoor cat in a flat and as I knew he was a really handsome boy, we thought he could come to us. This was Aspen who came to us when we only had Fizzy the oldest cat and the only female  and Oscar Charlie, our lovely big Ginger Tom who came from a neighbour’s litter.  Fizzy, by the way, doesn’t like any other cats and never has. Oscar and Aspen were wary but soon settled into a friendly tolerance, and Aspen is a gorgeous silver tabby, very sweet-natured and easy to get on with. It was love at first sight for me. Then we’d heard our neighbour’s’ cat was having another litter so we said we’d have another Ginger tom if there was one, and of course there was. 

Next we heard my niece was desperately trying to find a permanent home for her two cats as she was moving to Australia and didn’t feel she could put them through the quarantines, travelling and change of life. She asked if I knew anyone that would take them but only someone that could be trusted not to ever let them end up in a shelter. So we did try, but in the end I said we would take them and my friend kindly arranged to include them with some specialist transport that was bringing her a rescue dog. So they travelled from Cheshire to Shetland, settled into our little bedroom and gradually started to explore the house and garden.  Hercules had always been a shy cat so we were prepared for him to hide under furniture but once I got his trust by sleeping in that room and talking to him all the time, he soon started to explore and now is, along with Aspen, my best buddy. We both fell for these gentle, friendly cats on the first day – Marmite, the black and white cat that looks like Neville (who was still living in the garage at that time) is a big, bold boy who soon settled in to life in Shetland and is quite self-contained and does his own thing but always sleeps at my feet overnight and strolls happily about the gardens on a nice day. Hercules is more introvert but the only time they both head for the hills is if someone new comes into the house and even then, they will often venture back in. 

It’s not been all plain sailing of course, nothing ever is. There have been trials and tribulations with food, as one of the ‘new’ members of the family couldn’t get on with the very specialised steam-dried food all the others were doing so well on. It was chosen because it has no fillers, grains, etc, and has improved the coat and condition of our others but with a combination of best quality natural chicken and fish, Marmite now seems quite content, although all the others now insist on having some of his too.  The other problem has been a “phantom widdler” which was causing a great deal of problems and we now feel we are on top of it but it’s meant the whole house (apart from bedrooms) has had a new flooring laid which is one of the new style cushionfloor vinyls which looks just like a wood floor, is non-slip, textured surface so it doesn’t have to be polished after mopping, and can be kept clean and sweet-smelling. We use rugs that can go in the washing machine, we have a sort of bacterial cleanser that eats any bacteria and removes any smells and we have a spray called Wee-away to put them off spraying in places that were “favoured”. One of these was the log basket for some reason, so we now have the logs by the fire in a tall wooden umbrella stand that is not easy for them to leap onto. The final change was the litter we used (not much used in spring and summer but vital in winter). A new type as recommended in my internet research has made a huge difference, and an added litter tray, rather a posh one so there are now three litter trays in different parts of the house, checked and cleaned several times a day.  

So it’s certainly been a learning curve and it was worth all the effort to have our little family all doing well together. In my adult life, I have helped to raise over £20k through exhibitions and events for wildlife charities and in more recent years I have continued to donate money and paintings to animal charities of all kinds (as well as children’s charities) but still feel I have never physically been out to “save” animals in the wild, so maybe I am subconsciously doing my bit in my own space. However seven is an auspicious number and we have both drawn a line in the sand! There will be no more but we will continue to care for our little raggle-taggle bunch of misfit names, friends and non-friends, mad-max nut cases and gentle little cuddle-bugs. All much loved. 


A Sketch A Day


Something that was raised by a member of the Wikd About Art club when we met yesterday was that she intended to do a sketch every day. Now I’ve been preaching this for ever but have I been doing it? No, of course not. Life gets in the way. However I am filled with renewed commitment and even though I was busy on a big canvas all day, and working on a watercolour under the daylight lamp last evening, I still took time to do a quick sketch. Here it is. Not very good. That’s the point. You get out of practise and the only way to keep your hand in is to draw every day. On this one the relative size of the chair to the cat is all wrong, but my sketches will get better, and so will yours if you practise.

I do sketch when I’m out, but not regularly enough, so I have made a point of putting a lovely small sketchbook I got for Christmas into my handbag and I’ll make sure I have , at least, a drawing pen  (fine or medium), and / or a mechanical pencil, so I don’t need a sharpener. Of course, for me a mechanical pencil is not ideal, it’s too fine and too light, but I did manage to find a pencil that took larger leads (I think it was a 0.7) plus spare leads. It still only gives the lightest of marks, so if you can manage to carry a 2B (B = black) and, say a 6B (very black), plus a sharpener, that would be even better. To be honest, I usually choose the pen anyway, because I like the freedom that a pen gives. You have to just go for it and not worry too much about mistakes as you can’t put them right anyway, so it has the unexpected effect of lessening the pressure to get things perfect. It turns me into a mad scribbler and I love that.  In a way, drawing with the tablet gives me the same freedom and you can maybe see the difference in confidence between the pencil sketch above and my tablet drawn cartoon here.


“Shetland ponies can often be seen sheltering each other’s faces by pressing their heads together in really bad weather and it always makes me smile”

Anne B

Sent from my iPad …

Anne B