The Bear and friends…

Last Christmas, I spent much of the two-week break from work happily ensconced in a chair with a string of Tom Cox books, one after the other. I can’t remember who in my family had first come across @mysadcat on twitter but we had been screenshotting and sending each other pictures of The Bear, “the world’s most melancholy cat” (and of Shipley and Ralph, @myswearycat and @mysmugcat) for months if not years before we finally got to grips with the charm and warmth of Tom Cox’s books devoted to tales of his life with his characterful feline friends. I had given my dad The Good, the Bad and the Furry, and he had in a similar vein given me Close Encounters of the Furred Kind. Those cosy days between Christmas and New Year are so often spent in suspended time, judging a day’s progress only by when darkness falls or when the collective group is hungry enough for more turkey sandwiches. We tend to spend it rotating around our various family homes en masse, making ourselves cosy not just in our own but each other’s too, and it’s the perfect setting for the sort of intensive chain-reading the rest of the year doesn’t always allow for, all merrily reading and swapping at that same uniquely leisurely rate all Christmas activities absolutely must done at.

 

 

These books have so much heart, and I would recommend them to anyone. They shine a light with humour and sentimentality in equal measure on all that sharing a life with pets entails. At a first glance they could be taken simply for stories about the cats themselves, entertaining enough as that would be, but they are so much more than that. As in real life, and as I know to be true with my own beloved collection of animals, there is always more than just the day-to-day care of them going on. Our wider lives, with their soaring highs and devastating lows, play out alongside the daily opening of a tin of food; and time and time again we find that they are anchored by that daily routine, and given sometimes much-needed perspective by the affection and companionship offered by our pets.

One of my favourite treats wrapping up a week on a Friday afternoon is a coffee and a read at the Tom Cox website, where so many lengthy and some shorter blog posts appear, rambling through life in the countryside with the cats, a well-used pair of walking boots and an assortment of wildlife. Tom writes about so much that I love to read, and that inspired me to get involved in the blogging world – books, music, long walks, family dynamics and peaceful evenings in the middle of nowhere. Most of all though, he writes with such affection in both his books and online about the cats:

“The Bear is not so much a cat as a polite, pacifist poet who happens to be trapped in a feline body and is making his best of a bad situation. The Bear has never gone in for the petty squabbles or attention-seeking power plays of other cats, and chooses to “meeoop” gently at me or nod subtly in the direction of the food cupboard when he wants to be fed. When Shipley has tried to square off with him or challenge him to an arm wrestle, his response has usually been to scuttle off and hide in the nearest cardboard box. When he looks into my eyes, as he does often, it feels less like he is asking for food and more like he is asking me for solutions to the world’s problems. I haven’t got any of the latter, so I settle for the former: usually as much of it as he wants, because he’s nearly twenty, and I feel blessed to have been able to know him for the last decade and a half.”

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There is such a gratitude in Tom’s writing for the privilege of living a life with these animals, one I know very well in my own life, and the different personalities are wonderfully painted in all his pieces. Along with so many others, I have followed with baited breath George’s journey as he moved with ups and downs from a homeless stray to settled housecat; Roscoe’s recovery from her terrible injuries last year, overjoyed to see her fighting fit again; Shipley and Ralph entertain the twittersphere with their angry and beautific expressions respectively; and, most of all, the very special The Bear, who reached 21 years old last month, age so very gracefully. (Now almost entirely “retired” from social media (still popping up now and then with photos with his fellow housemates), The Bear is an amazing age and enjoying a quieter pace of life.)

“What has changed about The Bear recently is that he’s gone a bit deaf, although this hasn’t made him any less polite, just polite in a louder kind of way. His two main noises – the “meeoop” and his half-meow chirrup, both of which were always very soft and mild – have evolved into a completely new noise. This noise is quite hard to describe but I think the best way I could put it is that it’s the kind of sound a particularly friendly bumblebee would make if it was a foot high and came to live in your spare room. The Bear, of course, has no idea he’s being newly loud. When he meows at the fresh bowl of water I keep on the bathroom floor for him, which for some reason he seems to be in love with, he believes he is singing the water a gentle, private lullaby. He has no idea that, not far away, people are breaking off their conversations and asking “Who is that mournful old lady that I can hear wailing to herself? I wonder if she recently lost her husband.””

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http://www.tom-cox.com/2015/08/oh-whistle-and-i-wont-hear-you-mlad.html

There is such a richness to the way these wonderful characters are documented and shared with the world through both the turning pages and the scrolling screen, and I would recommend them to all.

Hope everyone is having a lovely week. x

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello from our Winter Wonderland… ❄️

… Just checking in from our very wintry corner of the world. Mornings at the moment in our house seem to be spent mainly crunching up and down the frosty leaf-covered path to de-ice the cars, warming hands round coffee mugs and adding an extra wee something to the rats’ morning feeds; with evenings having settled into a home-as-quickly-as-possible routine: hat and gloves pulled on at the farm, Charmer walked carefully over the glistening yard and tucked up in a deep-banked straw bed, before heading home to get settled in for the night.


This morning we woke to our thickest frost yet, some new challenges tossed in to the farm routine with frozen pipes and padlock on the gate, Charmer more grateful than ever for a big breakfast to get him warmed up for hitting the icy hill. There’s something I love so much about these really crisp winter days – they are so much brighter than the muddy trudges of a rainy winter, clean and clear, nights under the stars and the moon lingering in the morning.

 

Picked our way step by step out to the field and when finally mastered our way in the fluffy pony stood by patiently while I smashed the ice from the water bucket ready for a new day.

 

At home, all has settled well, and Harvey, Ty, Reuben and Perry are all doing fine. We have put the brakes on the bonding we were doing between the four of them at the moment as, although most of the time things were peaceful, we did have a bit of an issue with Ty being overly aggressive at times and Reuben also being overly nervous, which was proving to be a bit of a stressful mix for all of them. Decided we didn’t want to persist at the moment while Reuben and Perry were so new to us and didn’t have the same sense of security. We will likely try again a bit further down the line, and might consider having Ty neutered if that would help, as generally the older two did seem glad to have new friends and I do think it would be best for them to be in a bigger group as they get older, but the scuffles when they did break out were just a bit too intense at the moment and didn’t want any of them to be hurt.

 

So, for now we’re back to a two-tier system in our pet corner, with Ty and Harvey making themselves at home in the Savic Freddy they started their life in with Chae and Winnie, and Reuben and Perry, since Perry in particular is very active with boundless energy, in the slightly bigger Mamble. Looking forward to furnishing both more coming up to Christmas with more wheels and toys and optimising the height of both cages, but at the moment all are happy and settled in their new homes, and I’m enjoying having two lots of cuddles every night as they all come out to free range in stages!

Hope everyone else is having a lovely wrapped-up week. ❤

 

Holiday adventures with the fluffy pony and our mischief of rats.. 💙

A long and lovely holiday from work has drawn to a close in our little neck of the woods, and although it’s always great in a way getting back to routine again, it’s been absolutely wonderful having time off to spend with each other and with the pets.

Our new wee boys Reuben and Perry have been settling in very well and at over a week with us now are really starting to show their personalities. They are absolutely lovely with each other and with us and are just a joy to be getting to know. One of our main focuses this week has been on bringing them and Harvey and Ty together too.

There’s been a few ups and downs already in the intros, I always find them so nerve wracking, but all in all things seem to be going well. After several short stints and then a couple of longer ones all together in the smaller cage we have for hamsters, the Ferplast Mary, the boys have all now been in the main rat cage, our Mamble 100, for a few days; and, while still keeping themselves to themselves a bit more than rats we’ve introduced in the past, are all living at peace.


Everybody taking a corner in the Mary cage in an earlier stage of intros, no one quite sure who would make the first move

Perry and Harvey quickly making friends – to date Harvey has been nothing more than my usual unflappable dumpling, not a hint of aggression and simply happy to eat and sleep regardless of who his roommates are!


Our “Shy Ty” however, now re-nicknamed “The Tyrant” after this week, completely shocked us by making a strong play for top dog. He has always been so submissive with Harvey, and previously with Chae and Winnie too but when introduced to Reuben and Perry he was our main problem, definitely displaying a strong dominance. 


Really he wasn’t too aggressive at first, just unsure, but the new boys are quite nervous and as their squeaks seemed to frighten him more it led to a good few stand offs and tussles.


Eventually though, agreements seemed to be reached between Ty, Reuben and Perry (Harvey still snoozing oblivious and enjoying all the food everyone else ignored!), and we all made it into the Mamble cage. For the most part so far, Reuben and Perry spend time in the hammock and on top shelf, while Ty and Harvey are on the bottom, but Ty, now being more submissive but still being treated very warily by Reuben and Perry after his earlier assertions, does make frequent attempts to get into the hammock to sleep with them both, which has led to the odd scuffle over the last couple of days.


In general, however, everyone seems to have achieved a level of peace, and hoping that they just continue to become more comfortable with each other as time goes on.


Perry and Reuben in the hammock, with Ty and Harvey on the shelf just beside them last night, all looking relaxed.

It’s been really nice spending so much time at home, pottering around, enjoying the break and keeping an eye on proceedings with the boys, but I have also enjoyed lots of time out with my biggest fluffliest boy.

Charmer has been all caught up this week on appointments – we now have teeth rasped, new shoes on, annual vet check and flu jag done, and have had some lovely walks too. One of the interesting things to come out of the vet visit was the assurance that despite my boy’s assertions to the contrary, his eyesight is not at all deteriorated since this time last year, so these “can’t possibly go on” displays in the woods might just be a dose of the cheeky Charmer of old – and with shiny new shoes, any sharp teeth resolved and this new knowledge we strode out on a lovely ramble this weekend, exploring the woods, fields and tracks happily once I had the courage of my convictions not to misconstrue any laziness as compromised vision and to shift him on!


Had a lovely walk, enjoying the November views and the new wrapped-up feel riding has in these cold days, always now followed by a hot chocolate in the barn while my boy polishes off his dinner – now with a splash of warm water added to it.

It has been a wonderful, home, cosy and animal-filled week off, and as it draws to a close have loved every minute.
Have a lovely week all. ❤️

Introducing the two newest members of our family, Reuben and Perry… 💙

It’s been a big week in our little house as for the first time in almost two years we added to our little family, bringing home our new rats Reuben and Perry, two boys who are settling in beautifully and who are already deftly showcasing just how special they are.

It’s early days of getting to know them yet, but Reuben, a hooded mink dumbo with the gentlest eyes and nature, and Perry, a top-eared hooded agouti with so much playful energy, seem the loveliest, most engaging boys. They are both 8 months old, and have previously lived in a group of 4, but were looking for a new home now as their owner was moving.

We decided it would be a good time to expand our little mischief because Harvey and Ty are now 22 months, just a bit older than our older pair at the time Chae and Winston were when we introduced H&T as youngsters to them; and we hope to be able to have all four in together with the newbies keeping our boys youthful and on their toes, and Harv & Ty playing the reliable older-rat roles! 

Over the past few days we have mainly just been letting Reuben and Perry acclimatise on their own and spending some time with them ourselves too. Reuben particularly is so incredibly affectionate and a lovely boy to get to know, while Perry is so curious and is making short work of exploring everything around him! 

We have started some very tentative introductions to Harvey and Ty too, just in brief bursts, and although it’s always nerve-wracking introducing rats, especially adult males, all seems to be going ok so far which is great. 

So happy to have welcomed two such lovely new additions into our home – just a few pics of their first couple of days, and will of course write more soon to update on how they’re getting on…
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(From clockwise: Reuben coorying in, both having a discussion!, curling up to sleep, Perry’s fixing gaze!)