Tuesday 26 June 2012

Advice For Kitten Owners (starring my new kitten, Roscoe)

When you get your kitten home, take it out of its basket, place it on a smooth, flat surface and ask it to stand very still and not make a noise. The kitten will be very disorientated in its new environment, so if it manages to heed your advice and not move for over twenty minutes, it’s a good sign that the kitten has a stoical character and will be equipped to withstand life’s setbacks with equanimity. After ninety minutes or so, tell the kitten it can relax, and reward it with a small snack: some muesli, perhaps, or three or four organically grown leeks. 

Don’t make the mistake of delaying introducing your kitten to books, just because you know a good seven or eight months still need to elapse before it will be able to read. Those it gravitates toward might seem inconsequential now but could actually serve as a useful early indicator of its future career, desires, temperament and worldview. 

Introduce your kitten gradually to the outdoors. Before actually letting it go out on its own, ease your kitten into the outdoor life it will very soon have by showing it carefully, realistically illustrated pictures of the outside of your house. Try also placing the kitten behind a locked window on a sunny day, standing on the other side of the window, waving to it, and pointing out exciting outdoor things, such as trees, hammocks and wood pigeons.

If you have an older cat, lock the older cat out of the house, then make it stare at the kitten through a window. This might seem cruel, but will actually make the old cat re-evaluate its life - something which it's probably been putting off doing for far too long anyway - and face the future more realistically, acknowledging the limitations its age now imposes on it, which will ultimately help it to get on with the kitten on a more honest basis.

A good early way to test your kitten's clinging power and agility is to throw your kitten extremely gently at a shed. If it sticks to the shed, that means it's a good kitten.

At mealtimes, don’t make things too easy for the kitten. Encourage it to stretch and work for its food. Ask yourself: Do I really want one of those nancy boy overprivileged kittens who only eat those weird poncey cat foods with all those sweetcorn and croutons and shit in them, and are always banging on about how the world owes them a living? Do I really think my kitten wants to BE one of those kittens? Remember: you're doing everyone a favour here in the end.

Kittens are huge music fans, and are often much more likely to come and get their food to the sound of a popular rock hit than a whistle or the singsong call of their name. It's important to remember that while kittens often tell themselves they like credible bands such as The Clash or Radiohead, they are often lying to themselves and in denial about their true love of 1970s progressive rock and acid folk. Once you've got your kitten settled, begin by playing it Pentangle's 1970 'Cruel Sister' LP or The Moody Blues' criminally underrated 'A Question Of Balance' from the same year, before moving on to the more bluesy, elongated and cosmic 'Overdog' from a year later by The Keef Hartley Band. If the kitten makes a face like the one below, that means it approves.

Once you've started to let your kitten run around outside, you'll notice it starting to get a little bit full of itself, thinking it's really shit hot for decking a twig, effeminately breaking a bee's wing or gleefully slapping about some of the more colourful, less invasive weeds in your garden. Try not to mock the kitten too blatantly for its efforts. Instead, subtly patronise it. Try phrases like "That's good - I'm sure a lot of other cats your age would feel that it was an achievement too, until they'd amassed more life experience" or "I suppose it's all about perspective: that twig probably seems quite 'Safari' if you've previously spent all your life in West London." This will mean that the kitten will be easier to control and subjugate once it begins to meow properly, gets proper claws and starts wanting to use your bedroom as a cat service station in the middle of the night.

By day five or six, your kitten will really be settling in, fully exploring your house and discovering its favourite plants to eat, places to sleep and objects to hang upside down from, sneaking up on other cats, and generally acting like a miniature version of Popeye Doyle in the early scenes of The French Connection. However, it's very important that you remind it at all times that is is, in fact, just a kitten. A good way of doing this is to place big objects near it or over it: feet and legs are good, as are bigger cats with shadowy portentous auras, inflatables, and oversized vegetables.

The time-honoured "Tree Night" is a harsh but necessary stage in a kitten's initiation. The big misconception about it is that it has to involve a big tree: an Oak or Giant Redwood really isn't necessary. A moderate Ash or Fig or a slightly decrepit Silver Birch will suffice. The kitten might look fearful as it climbs towards the upper branches but, behind the veneer of pain, you will be able to see in its eyes that it knows you have its best interests at heart and, as it reaches the pinnacle and finds a spot to rest for the next nine hours, it will achieve a special kind of meditative calm and find itself truly living in the moment like never before. The following morning, you will be all the better off, as the kitten greets you, shivering, at the top of your ladder and smothers you with kisses and compliments, and you will finally know that the difficult early stages are over, and you and your kitten are ready to properly start your new life together.

For a full set of kitten advice, read  The Good, The Bad And The Furry


Unknown said...

Your kitten looks totally psychopathic in that first photo - I personally wouldn't let it anywhere near me if I wasn't 100% awake and alert!

@PillsterCat said...

Dream on.

That cat's got the measure of you. You're just where she wants you. Definitely an intelligent, quick learner.

And if you think that "face" is because of your human music tastes, think again. I mean, what is that white and beige thing beside her. We cats have taste you know.

Juscoll said...

Particularly impressed with your insight regarding Moody Blues being underrated. MY Justin is named after their lead guitarist with whom I have been in love since 1970.

Kellymarie said...

The "stillness" photo is simply "ehvul (evil) kitty" personified. Madamoiselle Roscoe is only sitting still because she is taking in the plans and schematics of her new playhouse...

Jacqueline Pye said...

This advice will be helpful for us, so thank you Tom. However, we may soon be joined by a pair of kittens, so you need to address issues such as their collaboration in order to be comprehensive.

Unknown said...

Heartening to see a comprehensively organised fiction shelf. Did Roscoe help with that, or were you a criminally under-appreciated library assistant in a previous existence? :)

Unknown said...

Heartening to see a beautifully alphabetically arranged fiction shelf. Was Roscoe the genius behind this, or were you a criminally under-appreciated library assistant in a previous existence? :)

Natalie Lyndon said...

Possibly my favourite 'new kitten' notes ever. Also, nice bookshelf!

Magnificently expressive kitten, too. The music approval photo? SO great.

PS: I would like to apologise for mistaking Roscoe-the-Female-Kitty for Roscoe-THAT'S-A-BOY'S-NAME-Kitty on Facebook. I grew up with a male Beverly and my sister owns a female Frank. You'd think I'd be better at this sort of thing.

Jane said...

'Tiny Acts of Rebellion' indeed.

Anonymous said...

I just possed here after reading your bopok Under the Paw. A lovely book that was funny, whimsical and teajerking in different places.... A good read! Just thought i would say Thanks for writing it :-)
Parts of it took me back to the loss of my beloved cats in the past, it's hard to read through the tears ya know... And parts of it had me on the edge of my seat when The Bear went missing etc, when cats pas away I guess it always brinmgs cat people together as they kno the huge hole that is left by their passing :'(
I only have one cat left at the moment... She is one cat that probably wouldn't take to a newbie mog so she is happy being a weird spotty feline queen of the house...


Jazz said...

Luckiest kitty in the world - this post makes me so happy & proud. She obviously loves it there - the space and the greenery no doubt.

Oh, and good luck with not letting her get too cocky and subjugating her (haha...hahahahaha!). If she's anything like her ancestors, she'll have the house under her control in no time... only kidding!.... maybe.

Minnie said...

She's got you sussed. You know that, don't you?

Sparky Spitfire said...

well, I bet that worked out well. how much are you spending on cat therapy these days? also, "greets you at the top of your ladder...with kitty kisses?!" right. I'll be you still have scars.
p.s. that was a fun read. thanks ;-D

Unknown said...

My Felix...5 yr old Tuxedo is now a member of Mensa!
He's one very smart kitty!
I have all my cats "clicker" trained...they LOVE freeze dried chicken breast treats...Felix is addicted to it, to near obsession level...just don't dare click your tongue accidently...else 5 cats, 1 ShihtSue comes running!
anyway...enjoyed your blog here!
But I'm in Boring Oregon, so go figure! LoL
High Paws!