Life with cats

Rocky, Ophelia and Shady

A small insight into my life with cats (and other animals in my earlier years), I hope you enjoy the pictures too.

I was fortunate enough to grow up with animals, dogs, cats, horse, donkey and even a pig. My parents had a boarding, breeding, training and rescue kennels in Oxfordshire in the late 70’s – early 80’s. I learned so much about life through caring for animals.

At an early age, it wasn’t just about having a pet, it was learning how to care and understand the responsibility that comes with having animals. My parents would make sure that my brother and I took turns with chores.

When I was 10 my parents invested in some property – we called it Lorndale Kennels.

At the time we had 2 German Shepherds, Thor and Shane, but we would soon have a household of dogs and cats.

Thor and Shane

It was a wonderful childhood, but also hard work. The family business meant that we all had to chip in, cleaning out kennels, feeding dogs, exercising them and also taking care of the rescues, among other things – but what an experience it was, I wouldn’t change it at all.

Dad built his training school up, and was breeding German Shepherds too. Mum was breeding Siamese cats and Shetland Sheepdogs too.

I love all animals, but Siamese cats quickly became my favourite. My mum got a Chocolate point girl, we called her Buttons and a Blue point male called Peanuts. They produced the most lovely babies!

Peanuts and Buttons as kittens, with Dennis our silver tabby rescue

Buttons very first litter was not at all as we expected – she contracted mastitis, and so we had to hand rear the kittens – all 9 of them! They survived and all went to wonderful homes.

It felt like we always had puppies and kittens around, and sometimes all at the same time.

Shetland Sheepdog pups and Siamese kittens

As you can imagine, life was busy. It was tough, we rarely had family holidays (I actually only remember 1, in 1976), but that was fine, taking care of animals was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I remember helping one of our German Shepherds when she was giving birth – she had a breech pup, and so I helped her out – it was healthy and fine, and she had two more after. This is probably one of the most profound moments in my young life.

German Shepherd puppies

So as the years went by, we sold the kennels, I left home and got married.

My ex husband wasn’t much of a pet person, and so for 25 years I never had a pet. In 2010 I made a life changing decision and left him. It was tough for a while, but I had a dream of getting my own place and getting a pair of Siamese – it would be 6 years before that dream came true.

I decided on cats for a specific reason – although my job was a virtual one (I worked from home), I also did travel to clients. I decided that having a pair would be good for when I was away (I have an amazing friend who takes care of them when I do go away). A dog is a huge responsibility, regular time outside for obvious reasons!

Many friends were upset with me that I was going to get my kittens from a breeder, but having been brought up with animals, I wanted to get good pedigree cats with a good genetic history. My mum and I searched the internet for local breeders, however the only one that appeared to be reputable was retiring. I eventually found a breeder that I connected with in Charlotte NC. She interviewed me (as I did her) and I was invited to visit her (I was in NC for business) in April 2016, she had a litter of kittens (all spoken for) who were around 10 weeks old. This was called the rainbow litter – each of the traditional colours (Seal, Chocolate, Blue and Lilac). It was a great opportunity to meet the breeder, the environment and the cats!

Rainbow litter (3 of the 7)
Blue point from rainbow litter

It wouldn’t be too long though before I would get to have my own kittens. I knew I wanted a brother and sister, the colour wasn’t something I was too focused on, but of course much depends on what the mother cat produces.

Zolita, mother of Rocky, Ophelia and Shady

15th September 2016, Zolita gave birth to 5 kittens. Soon enough we knew there were 2 chocolate points, 2 seal points and a lilac point. I couldn’t wait to get to meet them – but I had to wait until Thanksgiving. I was welcomed to the breeders house to spend Thanksgiving with Julie and her husband Ray. Then would be the hard part – which pair to pick…well it was made easy for me – Rocky chose me!

Rocky chose me

Rocky would come and sit on me and sleep right on my chest – he has been a mummy’s boy ever since. But now to choose the sibling. I watched closely who Rocky was closest to and interact with – now I really wanted a girl, but at the same time I also wanted the kitten that was bonded with him already. To my joy, it turned out that Ophelia was Rocky’s partner in “crime” – it wasn’t just how they interacted, it was how they slept together.

Rocky and Ophelia sleeping together

So now I had to convince Ophelia to like me, this wouldn’t be easy. She wasn’t much into snuggling

Ophelia in a rare pic with me on my first visit

So now I had to wait until New Years Eve before I could bring them home. I had a countdown clock, and Julie was wonderful at sending me pictures regularly.

Once I returned home, I got busy making my apartment kitten safe, and ordering beds, toys, food and researching litter / litter boxes and then rearranging space to put the litter box. I ended up purchasing the Scoop Free, self cleaning automatic rake system. And four years later it is still going great!

I rented a car just after Christmas, and a dear friend agreed to accompany me for the 1200 mile round trip.

We arrived in Charlotte early evening, I was so excited to see the growth and progress of the kittens. Julie and Ray were again amazing hosts and my friend and I stayed overnight.

The next morning (New Years Day 2017), I was up very early and ready to hit the road. I had put cat litter into a black bin liner, and then into a box, just in case the kittens needed a bio-break! I had some food and water too for them. And just like that, we started our 600 mile journey back to Brooklyn, NY.

Ophelia (left), Rocky (Right – ready for our journey home

Our journey home was rather uneventful (thank goodness) – we did make frequent stops, just to make sure the kittens were ok, give some water and food etc., They slept most of the way, waking up and starting that famous Siamese meow when I hit the Staten Island Expressway. I dropped my friend off, and then it hit me – I was alone with my new kittens – just me and them! As I drove away from my friends apartment my head was spinning – would I be a good cat mum, what if the cats don’t settle, what if…if…if…

We got home, I made sure a few doors were closed, and then opened the cat basket….Rocky was first out, and sat right on my lap. Ophelia stayed in the cat basket for a few minutes, then jumped out and ran under the sofa.

I got some kitten food sorted and Rocky ate well. Ophelia finally came out and had a nibble. They stayed “glued” to each other as they started to explore the apartment. I was so tired though – the drive home (with breaks) took about 11 hours. I decided to sleep on the sofa for the first night. Ophelia went back under the sofa (right under where I sat), and Rocky followed her – that is where they slept the first night.

First meal at home
First night under the sofa

And so now it was just us! I was a cat mum. I introduced Rocky and Ophelia to social media, and they soon got used to having the camera in their face.

Thankfully it would be a few months before I had to travel to a client, so I could spend some quality time with the kittens and truly bond with them.

I was keen to start harness / leash training them, ready for the spring. I started with literally 30 seconds at a time. I would make it fun too – let them play with the leash etc. Each day they would wear the harness a bit longer and longer, and we would walk around the apartment.

harness training and playing

Every day was filled with fun and new things, I have captured so much on camera / video, and love to look back on how tiny they were. They still do the silly things, wrestle, chase each other, Ophelia is the queen of hide and seek, always catching Rocky out. She is a diva too! Oh and she is the boss!

I also wanted them to not be afraid of the cat basket, I have a soft-sided one. I put the cat basket next to my bed, they would play in it and sleep in it too.

I made sure they were not scared of the cat basket

The fun would continue, and to this day I am so thankful for this pair of amazing, loving and playful siblings.

The day came for them to be “fixed”. I decided to do them both together. My vet is literally just 400 feet away, so it was a very short walk. I am not one of those cat mums that gets anxious easily, I knew they were in great hands. The vet had done some additional tests to make sure their hearts were strong enough for the anesthetic. I dropped them off at 10am, and picked them back up around 6:30pm. They were still quite drugged up when I got them home, but they were starving! The vet had given me soft cones to ensure they wouldn’t mess with their affected areas.

Home after operations

I slept on the sofa that night, taking extra care with Ophelia, as her operation was quite major, and it took a lot longer for her to come out of the affects of the drugs and anesthetic.

Ophelia after her operation

I knew that Ophelia didn’t like the cone, so I remembered that when I was younger, my mum would use an old sock with the toe cut out to create a body stocking – Oh Ophelia loved it! She was a rockstar, a true diva, strutting around from day 2! The body sock served two purposes – 1 to stop her from trying to pull her stitches, and 2, to also ensure that Rocky didn’t catch them while they played.

Ophelia and her body-sock

Our first day outside was so much fun, they had got used to the harness and leash, and so for our first outdoor adventure into the back garden – well that backdoor step!

First day outside

Rocky and Ophelia were very helpful as my co-workers. They always need to be close to me, so I put one of their beds on my desk!

Helpful coworkers
Bed on the desk

And so life continued. One of the most endearing things that happened the first time I had to travel, and something I didn’t see until I arrived at my destination, was the little toy mouse that was dropped in my computer tote. Ophelia had done this (she loves her little mice toys!). And to this day, whenever I travel she will drop a mouse into my tote or more often into my case.

Mouse in my work tote
Mouse in my case

And so our life continued, with so much love and fun. Rocky and Ophelia are my life! I just couldn’t imagine being without them. They are so intelligent too. They love to play fetch, they know when I am not feeling good, and will snuggle down with me. They are also very talkative. I started a youtube series “Conversations with Cats” – just some lighthearted fun.

Our lives changed towards the end of the summer in 2019. I had become friends with other owners of Siamese, and especially from the same owner. One of these friends passed away the end of the summer. Her partner was struggling, it was just an awful time. They each had a Siamese cat, but Vee was struggling with Shady and the loss of her partner. Julie, our breeder, posted a message in our Siamese cat group. With a heavy heart Vee needed to re-home Shady. I was hesitant, but called Julie and we had a long conversation about how we thought Rocky and Ophelia would be, to accept another cat. One of the things that Julie always does if one of her owners needs to re-home one of her cats, they can go back to Julie and she will either find them a home, or she will take them back. She doesn’t want them going to someone she doesn’t know. The conversation ended with me deciding to give it a try. Shady was 4, and Rocky and Ophelia had just turned 3. They all share the same parents.

So our lives changed forever on 20th October 2019, when I picked up Shady from Pennsylvania and brought him home.

The first night, I put Shady in the spare room. Of course Rocky and Ophelia knew something was up, as I had the spare room door closed (no doors are closed in my apartment).

Either side of the bedroom door
Shady’s first night

The next morning, Rocky and Ophelia (as usual) were asleep on the bed with me. I got up and shut them in. I went to check on Shady – all was good and he was giving me lots of head-bonks and purring away. I opened the door and I let him explore the apartment. We spent about half hour wandering around, then I put Shady back into the bedroom.

Shady exploring the apartment

During my conversations with Julie (the breeder), we spoke about the personalities of Rocky and Ophelia, and how we thought things would unfold. We know our cats! Rocky was excited and happy to have a new brother pretty quickly, Ophelia was more cautious and ensured Shady knew she was the boss.

I bit the bullet at lunchtime – and opened the door – Rocky and Ophelia were right there – there was a bit of hissing and growling, perfectly normal, but I kept a close eye on them all, but didn’t interfere with how Ophelia was letting Shady know she is the boss. This is very important, I needed to make sure Ophelia knew I had her back, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure the situation didn’t escalate.

First meeting – Ophelia is the first to encounter Shady

I spent the rest of that day making sure all 3 knew I loved them equally. But for the most part, I let them get on with their own way of integrating.

Late afternoon of the first day together

Shady kept close to me, and I made sure he knew he was safe. He had recently lost his momma, I have no clue how cats react to a sudden loss of their owner, and so I just gave him a lot of love – and Shady had a lot of love to give too.

Shady is a lover-boy

Within a week all three were best friends. Ophelia still likes to remind Shady from time to time that she is the boss. But equally she loves to cuddle up to him too.

Ophelia fully accepting Shady

The integration was fast, and I often wonder if the cats genes of the same parents have played a part in this – I have no scientific information to back up my thoughts, but after hearing so many stories of cats not integrating well, even after months, makes me think that they somehow know they are related (even though they are 1 year apart in age).

Day 4 – all sharing the chicken

Life has been so much fun since getting Shady, he is the perfect addition to the family. He has a great personality, and is so loving and playful. I started leash training him after the first week, and took him outside a month after joining us. He is a quick learner, although he will walk then lie down after a few steps, but is making great progress.

Shady leash training

Today it feels like all three have always been together. It is just 10 months since Shady joined us though. I think it is also testament to the great breeding from Julie, as well as my laid back character with my cats. Yes they are spoiled, with many toys and all access around the apartment. I may be the typical “Crazy Cat Lady”, and I am fine with that title. We can be seen taking walks around the neighborhood in our cat stroller – all three enjoy watching people, birds and especially enjoy going to the park.

Walkies!

They love to cuddle with each other, it is something that warms my heart every day.

Integration complete – 1 week

Shady loves a lot of attention, and loves to just come up to me and give me a head bonk and some licks and love.

Shady love

All three love being outside. I have a play tent for them, although most of the time, they just chill out in it. If they are out of the tent, they are closely supervised. Rocky and Ophelia are used to it, however I keep a strict eye on Shady right now. Summer afternoons (when it isn’t too hot) are enjoyed by us all

Chilling in the tent

Shady loves “Cat TV” – he now owns my iPad! Every day we have to have some cat tv time. He especially loves squirrels and chipmunks. If he could, he would turn it on himself!

Cat TV time!

I am so blessed to have such great cats, and now I have a pair of feral tuxedo cats that live outside. First is Ronnie (possibly Veronica) and the other is Half-and-Half. I have a little kennel built for them, and they come every day and sit patiently outside waiting for their breakfast (and again later in the day for supper).

Each day we build a little more trust, Ronnie has been around longer than Half-and-Half and no longer runs away when I open the door.

Ronnie – his kennel and feeding area are on my back porch (with a cover)

Building trust is something that takes time. It has been about 2 years now with Ronnie, and we are becoming good friends – although I am yet to give him a fuss.

Selfie with Ronnie

Half-and-Half (named for the half black / half white face), is still learning to trust me – he will sit out on the back porch waiting for food, but will run down by my shed, until I have shut the back door. Hopefully he will learn, like Ronnie, that I am not going to hurt him

Half-and-Half waiting patiently

It is all a learning process, I found that it is better to move the food bowls a little further apart, and so now Ronnie and Half-and-Half enjoy breakfast and supper together.

Ronnie and Half-and-Half

I hope you have enjoyed this little look into my “Life with Cats”. I look forward to sharing more animal stories from my childhood with you soon.

We could learn so much from animals

Published by laurah66

Born and raised in England - moved to the US in 1998 - traveled all over. Animal lover, love to knit, write. Enjoy music, cooking, and since 2021 I have changed my lifestyle to include exercise as a priority in my life. I believe in humanity

5 thoughts on “Life with cats

  1. Thank you for sharing this post, I have known Rocky and Ophelia since day one and what fun its been! The day Rocky crashed into the wall I tried not to laugh but when I heard you laugh I did knowing he was okay! Enter Shady, at first I thought oh no it will change the awesome relationship of Rocky and Opheila but it didn’t it enhanced it! He’s such a
    Loving boy too!
    Then we have Ronnie and Half and Half they are part of the family now, its so much fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your Ophelia looks so much like our Desmond. Desmond and his sister, Molly just turned 18 this week! We also have our tuxedo cat, Mittens , but she has her own space because the Siamese twins are not fans. And, like you we feed various strays that come along. Right now, we feed a uniquely marked blue-eyed calico (we call her, Callie). So glad you all survived the fire! Love your cats and their stories.

    Liked by 1 person

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