I took an awful lot of persuading, but in the end it was the sight of rats romping round the garden which tipped the scales in favour of adoption.
I made the telephone call, filled in the forms and underwent a home inspection. We passed! We were free to adopt a cat from the Cats Protection League.
I was quite adamant that I didn't want a house cat. We agreed that a feral cat would be ideal. CPL agreed that this was perfectly possible. Indeed they had a couple of semi-feral cats which would seem to be ideal for our purpose of living outdoors (with shelter and food provided) to hunt down and kill mice and rats.
We arranged to go and meet the cats (female, I had wanted males) and found that one was reasonably friendly but the other was a hissing, spitting, scratching bundle of fury. One out of two ain't bad, we thought.
We were told that they had to be kept contained for three weeks, so we had to hastily construct a house for them, build a run and make sure that it was cat proof. We finished hammering in the last nail just as the cats were delivered. With a hiss and a spit (the cats, not us) they were 'helped' out of their travel baskets and left to rest and settle.
For three long weeks they were kept prisoners and during that time we tried to think of alternative names to the ones they came with - Bennie and Sparky - but we found that those names really do fit them. All Pip could think about was cat food and how could she break in to get some.
Bennie is laid back, relaxed, patient, quietly affectionate. She is my girl. Sparky (the hissing, spitting bundle of fury) became a very loving, loudly purring bundle. She is still more nervous than placid girl Bennie, fine with us but she really dislikes children. Deeply affectionate, she performs the most amazing feats of acrobatics to have her tummy tickled in just the right place. Sparky is much more George's girl. They are both lovely cats.
Joy of joys, they are brilliant with the dogs. The dogs are used to cats - we have always had at least one, up until five years ago. The cats are not shy with the dogs but they do have a healthy respect for their heavy feet and clumsiness. It is a delight to see Toby romp around the wood, with the cats racing around chasing up and down the trees, cats pretending to be dogs, one dog wishing he were a cat..
(I won't bore you with yet more photos of the dogs and cats - see yesterday's post for a couple.)
What they are not, is feral. Nor are they semi-feral. They made that quite clear the first day they were given their freedom. They wanted to be inside with us, eat inside, sleep inside, play inside... so of course they have found their way into our hearts and our family. They have only been with us three or four months and yet they are completely at ease, relaxed, happy, cats, who earn their keep.
They are brilliant hunters and we haven't seen any sign of a rat since we let them loose. We have seen lots of smaller furry bodies, most days they line a few up for inspection. Those two little cats have brought so much fun back to the dogs lives - and a lot of love into ours. I guess I have to say thank you to the rats.