The Life We Choose to Lead

How it is

My daughter and I have shared a house for a considerable number of years. She now has her own child, who also lives with us. This three-generation family works well in the main although there are times when no matter how much physical room we have, there always appears to be someone or something in the place we wish to be. In self-defence I had an outside office built and an extension to the house for a playroom. However, we also share our home with two very lively ‘labradoodles’ and three house-cats – two sphinx and a snowshoe. We also have in the house a tortoise with its own heated tortoise-table and a chinchilla who is sixteen years old and who has seen off two ‘wives’ and a number of babies. So you see, space can sometimes be at a premium.

Outside isn’t really much better; we have a miniature pony that thinks she is a shire horse, several hens and two ducks. Fortunately we do have a small field as well as a garden.

Anyhow this arrangement has worked reasonably well for a number of years.

All change

A few weeks ago we travelled to London as a family to a concert. As the day was very hot and the time we would be away was considerably longer than usual, we had someone come to the house to let the dogs out and to make sure they had water to drink.

The following day my daughter went to the person’s house to pay her for her time. While she was there, the woman’s stepson came rushing in with a very small kitten which he and his friends had found in the field where they were playing. Despite searching for other kittens or a frantic mother cat, there was no evidence to suggest where the kitten had come from. My daughter offered to ‘look after it for a short time’.
She called me as she drove home and announced that she was bringing a stray. I wasn’t pleased. I made it very clear that there was no more room for another animal in our home, especially as I am the one doing most of the cleaning, feeding and general maintenance.

She took the kitten to the vet and had her health checked. The kitten suffered fleas and mites but apart from that was doing well, considering she was in a field all alone. I suspect the mother cat was either moving her kittens to a safer home and this one went wandering all by herself and ended up lost, or someone’s cat has a litter of kittens and they weren’t taking enough care of them. The vet also made it very clear that kittens were oversubscribed this year and no one wanted one. In fact people were bringing in litters of kittens to be euthanised. There seems to be apathy about the responsibility of a good cat owner in ensuring that no unwanted kittens are born. Spaying and neutering solve the problem permanently.

Despite my best intentions

So we now have ‘Nettle Goblin Witch’, whose name was discovered as the fairy name of my grandchild. She is the feistiest of creatures. If she hadn’t been found she would have survived, I have no doubt. The other three cats try their best to intimidate her or run away quickly. Nothing works. She has discovered what she considers to be her rightful place – at the top of the food chain.

Why tell us?

My reasons for telling you this is, I suppose, to rationalise why we appear to be unable to say a firm ‘no’ to making room for just one more animal. Despite the problems of finding someone to house-sit when we go away, our home is exactly that, an overflowing place for pets and children to rub along together, discovering what each will tolerate and how kindness sometimes has its own reward i.e. not being bitten or scratched. Through these pets, my grand-daughter learns to ease back from squeezing too hard or pulling tails. She sees that most of the animals in the house love her unconditionally and she accepts that this is how it should be. We spend a lot of time learning about the world together during home-school and this enhances that knowledge for her in a practical and real way.

She learns to have a healthy respect for other people’s pets and not rush in to hug or stroke a strange dog or cat. She learns to ask permission from the owner before reaching out. She has learned that not all animals enjoy the company of a shrill-voiced overly active child and in fact some disappear until she has gone to bed!

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Whilst there are times when I complain loudly about the amount of work I have to do to keep everything and everyone happy, well-fed and clean, I do appreciate the amusement and joy that a little paw on my face can generate or the sense of achievement when the dogs sit without having to be told more than once. I love to see the cats lie on the floor with my grand-daughter in peaceful co-existence. Small things I know, but so precious for the memories.

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