Archive | July, 2012

The Cost of a Kitten…

18 Jul

So… How Much Does a Kitten Cost?

A few people have asked me how much my kitten cost. Well, I paid £30 for Holly. That’s right thirty English pounds – about the same as a decent main course and a few glasses of red wine in a middle of the road restaurant. Around the same price as a good t-shirt, or a bad concert ticket. Not a lot, really. However, I feel that it is my duty to make you all aware of some of the “hidden” costs of becoming a cat owner, costs which I could not have imagined when I forked out three crisp £10 notes for my little furry bundle of joy six weeks ago. So let’s start with:

The Kitten – £30

Yes, ok, I bought my cat from a Pet Shop. Read the first blog before you judge me – I’m over it, you should be too.

The “Cat Stuff” – £40 to £60

As we have established, kittens need “cat stuff”. Essentially, your new friend will need food, bowls, a litter tray and cat litter, a scratching post and a bed. If you’re feeling generous you may also want to pick up some toys for your new bundle of fluff, but as I have since discovered your kitten will probably be more interested in the scrunched up receipt which you accidentally drop on the floor. If you’re looking for cheap entertainment I can recommend fabric covered hair-ties, balls of tinfoil or plastic drinking straws. You know, the ones you usually reserve for the vodka when your credit card statement comes in.

The Carry Case – £40

As I learned at my cost, you can only successfully carry a kitten in a designer handbag for a few minutes. Any longer will no doubt result in an escaped kitten and more than likely a little brown present left at the bottom of your best bag. Cleaning this up and / or replacing the handbag will cost you considerable more than £40 so think of this as a sound investment for the future. Good news is the carry case also doubles as a toy – mine is under the couch and Holly spends hours trying to get it out so that she can chew on the mesh windows and plot her escape during her next trip to the Vets. Which leads me to…

Vets and Injections – £70

Vets are not cheap. People often think that it’s harder to become a Vet than a Doctor – not strictly true in terms of knowledge, however university places for studying Veterinary science are few and far between which leads to an organised cartel of people charging extortionate amounts for sticking a very large thermometer up your cat’s bum. I’d recommend pet insurance, not because it’s any cheaper but it just feels less painful when it’s removed from your bank in smaller chunks – unfortunately this method doesn’t make the thermometer experience any more pleasant for your cat. If you don’t wince when that baby goes in then you have no heart.

6 x New Blinds – £240

Now, in hindsight having Japanese paper blinds in my apartment has never been a good call. They’re essentially the opposite of blackout blinds, allowing any little bit of light into the apartment at any time of the day or night. But they looked pretty so I put up with the interruption in my sleeping pattern. Then Holly came along. It turns out that kittens like to climb things, and they learn to do this quite quickly. Very quickly. As in you get into the shower and the kitten is on the floor – you get out of the shower a mere eight minutes later and the kitten has not only found her way onto the windowsill but has also managed to claw holes in every single one of your blinds whilst using them as a ladder in a failed attempt to get to your not very interesting ceiling.

My Favourite Blanket – £50

Now I know what you’re thinking, I’m spoiling the kitten by giving her a blanket to keep her warm in her bed at night. Ah, isn’t that lovely? Not quite… The blanket in question was MY blanket, which was on the end of MY bed when Holly had an unfortunate accident. You see, she got the hang of using her litter tray pretty quickly, however she developed a very bad habit of standing in her little deposits whilst trying to bury them. This has resulted in many hours of fun for both of us, me chasing the kitten round the bathroom before washing her paws, releasing her and then disinfecting the floor, walls and on one occasion the ceiling. However on this particular evening she caught me unaware and having (unsuccessfully) buried her latest deposit she ran out from the bathroom and leapt onto the bed – depositing a big lump of fresh cat shit onto my favourite blanket with a flick of her paw. After catching her, washing her paws and cleaning the floor I threw the blanket into the washing machine on a hot wash. Which leads me to…

A New Washer-Dryer – £485

…When several hours later, the blanket had disintegrated in the washing machine, completely blocking the pump and the drain, and leading to…

New Laminate Flooring to the Hallway – £200

Now, flooding washing machines are nothing new to me. Usually I am quick to spot the water pouring out of the drain and jump in with my bucket, minimising the damage. Clean out the drain, throw some drain unblocker stuff down, rinse it through and all is well for another 12 months. Except on this occasion, somewhat exhausted from the bathroom / blanket episode and the subsequent chasing and cleaning, I’d fallen asleep on the couch. Fast asleep, which meant I didn’t hear the weird noise coming from the washing machine, or the subsequent “whoosh” of approximately 20 litres of water flowing out of the front door of the machine before making its way out of my own front door, into the communal hallway and towards the lift. In fact I had no idea what had happened until the next morning, when I woke at around 6am to discover the lost city of Atlantis in my hallway. Cue the kitten, hot on my heels and now believing that she was in fact one of those magic mops you see on QVC. Apparently Cats don’t like water. Which is probably true, but when faced with the decision of staying dry or making my clean-up job even more difficult you can guess which one Holly opted for. 20 minutes later, the kitten was rinsed off, dried and screaming to be let out of the bathroom, and I set to work trying to clean up the floodwaters with a few old towels and a large amount of kitchen roll. It was approximately 4 hours later when I lost the will to live, sat on the wet floor, cried and then called my Dad and asked him to come save me.

So, how much does a kitten cost? Well, in my case the first six weeks of kitten ownership have set me back around £1,175. In my past life, that’s a Chanel handbag, 2 pairs of Louboutins or 78 bottles of cheap vodka. You know those crazy cat ladies you hear about in America, who dress in tatty old clothes, and carry all their possessions in plastic bags but then leave $3 million to the cats home in their will? I get that now. Because there is no point spending money on expensive clothes or nice things when you’re faced with a beast whose sole purpose in life is to destroy them… And your sanity along the way. That crazy cat lady was probably worth $10 million when she got the damn cat!

So six weeks in and I already know that my little beast has cost me somewhat more than £30… And that I still wouldn’t swap her for all the shoes in Dior!!

Cats and Dogs…

16 Jul

As I’ve already mentioned, Holly was originally to be named Harriet,  given that I had assumed if I ever got around to actually getting my cat he would be a boy and he would be called Harry.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t specifically want a male cat – in fact I didn’t know if I wanted a cat at all – I guess I just assumed that all cats were male.  I’ve honestly never met a “female” cat. 

Now dogs – Dogs are obviously girls.  They bounce around so full of energy, they’re a little bit ditzy and ever so eager to please.  If a dog behaves badly and you tell them off or ignore them, they’re genuinely hurt, and will follow you around trying to apologise.  They crave any little bit of attention from those they love so desperately that they will literally roll over onto their backs with their legs in the air just to get their tummies scratched.  This behaviour reminds me somewhat of several of my female (human) friends.

However, cats are definitely male.  Clever and sneaky, walking around with their heads held high and their tails swishing even when they’ve just done something inexcusable, refusing to acknowledge that they could ever be in the wrong.  Your favourite skirt got pulled?  Don’t wear it within jumping distance of me then.  Pot plant on the floor and soil all over your new rug?  Don’t look at me, I was busy sleeping on the couch, where I will now insist on staying until you’ve cleaned that mess up.  Have you ever tried to discipline a cat?  Well, quite simply, you can’t.  No amount of shouting, nose-tapping or water flicking will work.  Try ignoring your cat – he’s just going to ignore you right back, and what’s more he will likely take the opportunity of your back being turned to wreak devastation somewhere else in your home when you’re not looking.

Like the original caveman they’re pretty focused on the important things in life – they dedicate their entire time on earth to sleeping, eating and hunting.  They don’t want to go out for walks in the woods, they don’t care about new clothes (God help you if you ever try to dress them up) and they really don’t like showing love – Just let them go hunting, allow them to sleep when they want and most importantly don’t forget to feed them.  In return for this, if they are in a good mood, they might show you a little affection – but only at a time which pleases them.  Interrupt their eating, sleeping or hunting and you can expect to have your head bitten off.

Now ladies – in place of the word “hunting” in that last paragraph, insert one of the following – Watching football / Drinking with my Mates / Playing Call of Duty.  Remind you of anyone??

So imagine my surprise when picking a kitten to find that they also come in the female variety.  Now, I’m not so stupid that I don’t understand basic biology, but I did find this quite interesting.  If I bought a female cat – and she had female characteristics – would she in fact be, well…  a Dog? 

It seems not.  Sure, my kitten has some “girly” habits.  Holly is constantly cleaning and preening herself, and she’s a fussy eater who loves expensive treats.  She demands privacy in the bathroom and as we already know she likes the toilet seat left down.  There are times when she wants my affection but there are also strict rules to this – she will stay exactly where she is and cry until I come and see what’s wrong then give her a little cuddle – there’s no way she’s coming to me.  Overall, I’d say she’s a pretty typical cat.  

However there are a few things I’m learning from my new friend…  You see, despite being a crazy cat lady I do on occasion leave my apartment and venture into the big wide world.  Usually to the local cocktail bar.  Sweeping statement it may be, but the women I observe here seem to have lower self-esteem than the Men.  I don’t know why, but let’s face it, in situations like this women are usually the prey rather than the hunters.  If a woman has an issue (I don’t know what dress to wear tonight!?!), she will usually seek the opinions and approval of others around her (ooh wear the pink one, that looks lovely on you, you look really thin in that one…) before making her decision (wearing the pink dress and spending the rest of the evening feeling uncomfortable, then crying in the toilets after your fourth glass of wine because you think you look like a cross between Barbie and a cocktail sausage).  Men on the other hand seem to identify their problem (no beer in fridge), find their own solution (go to bar) and stick with it (stay until 2am, walk home, fall asleep with a half eaten kebab and / or next to a woman with low self esteem who you drunkenly mistook for a cocktail sausage).  There’s a born independence and confidence in men that women just don’t have – the same way you can never train a dog to behave like a cat.

Ladies, here’s a little experiment for you.  The next time you’re out, imagine you are your cat. Stalk into a crowded bar with your head held high and your tail swishing from side to side and immediately make eye contact with your prey.  Admittedly in my case this is usually the nearest barman promising a nice cold Mojito, but whatever you fancy girls…  You might just be surprised at the reaction you get.

If nothing else, I promise it will get you served more quickly at the bar! 

Important Lessons in Kitten-Keeping…

12 Jul

So Holly moved in…  We got home, I opened the handbag (no poo-poo, no wee-wee) and she climbed out, looking a little lost and slightly confused at the sight of her new home.  My apartment is not big, but to a tiny animal roughly the same size as my hand I imagine it looked like the kitten equivalent of Berkshire.  She looked at me, at the bag, back at me and then promptly disappeared under the only piece of furniture which was too heavy to move – a solid corner table next to the couch.  And there she stayed for the next 8 hours.  Now, I know that kittens need time to adjust to their new homes, but in my head I’d just brought home my furry new-best-friend and she didn’t want to play.  I felt slightly disappointed, a bit of a failure but mostly terrified of what would happen when she finally decided to move.  And so commenced the longest day of my life.

Of course, I had visions of my fluffy kitten running around, chasing sparkly balls with bells inside and pieces of string before curling up on my lap and sleeping soundly, full of happy little kitten dreams about tasty fishies and shiny things.  I did not expect to spend the majority of our first day together lying flat on my stomach with my head under the couch whispering “Come on kitty, come out from there, please…”.  If any of my neighbours had seen me through the window, I imagine they would have immediately called the police to identify a dead body.  I put her litter tray next to the table, and her food and water, and even a toy.  But no – all she wanted to do was crouch in the corner andstare at me with those big blue eyes looking all teary and frightened.

Finally, she poked her tiny head out from under the table.  She took a few bites of her food, a few sips of her water, a few steps forward…  And promptly shit on the floor before running back to her corner.  Ok, so I didn’t expect her to be litter trained but if this was a sign of her opinion of me then we still had some way to go before we were the perfect duo from the Whiskas ad I had imagined.  I cleaned up her little present for me, disinfected the floor and then returned to my position under the couch.  I’m not sure if it was the excitement of the day, the sheer stress-induced exhaustion or the fumes from the cleaning products but at some point I must have drifted off.  Only for a few minutes, but when I came round – Holly was gone.  WHAAAAAT?!  Shit, oh shit, where’s the kitten?  Where’s the KITTEN?!?!  27 seconds of sheer panic followed before I finally located her, fast asleep, behind the couch.  If this was pet ownership I feared I had perhaps made the wrong move.  Surely having a child would have been a more sensible choice – after all, you just strap them into a basket / pram / chair and that’s where they stay, right?  Where’s the kitten equivalent of that??  A-ha!  The bathroom, yes, I should put her in the bathroom, it’s tiny in there, great idea.

Now, kittens may be small and cute but they are also incredibly fast, and quite violent, especially when they don’t really want to be picked up by a strange person who in their eyes is roughly the same shape and size as King Kong.  Attempting to retrieve her from behind the couch could only result in one thing – a serious injury, most likely to be mine – and it was at that point I received my first kitten bite.  Man, no-one tells you that these cute balls of fluff have mouths filled with hot knives and needles.  Several attempts and a few puncture wounds later, the fluffy terrorist was secured in the bathroom.

Which leads me back to the title of this post, and the fact that there are certain bad habits which you have to change when you get a pet.  Those little clear plastic tags that drop on the floor when you open a new packet of socks?  You have to pick those up and put them in the bin now.  The door to the washing machine?  That needs to remain tightly closed at all times.  The new pair of shoes which you leave on the floor when you get in from work?  Unless you want them to look like a pair of 80’s stockbroker style perforated brogues the following morning you’ll put them away in the cupboard.  Feeling slightly smug that the kitten was now in a place where she couldn’t cause too much trouble, I set about dressing my wounds, making a cup of coffee and doing the washing up.  Wondering how my little terrorist was getting on in the bathroom, I returned to take a peek through the glass door and caught sight of my tiny kitten perching precariously on the edge of the toilet seat, looking as though she was seriously contemplating a suicide jump into the water below.  Cue utter panic, and with the reflexes of a newly qualified ninja I swept her off the seat and onto the floor.  I’m not sure who was more shocked – I’ve never moved that quickly in my life and she certainly wasn’t expecting to be interrupted.  Thus one of my first lessons of kitten-keeping was learned:

You must – I repeat MUST – remember to put the toilet lid down.

A Cat Called Holly…

11 Jul

6 weeks ago, I found Holly.  When I say “found” – now don’t judge me – I purchased her from a pet shop.  I know, I know, there are thousands of abandoned kittens in shelters across the country needing a good home.  But you see, I didn’t want a cat.  Well, that’s not entirely true – I had a mad idea that I wanted a cat at some point in the future, but I certainly didn’t plan to get one that day, and certainly not from a pet shop… But I challenge any of you to resist a sign in a window which says “KITTENS INSIDE!!”.  So I went in and there she was, nestled in amongst her brothers and sisters, the most beautiful calico kitten I have ever seen.  She was the quiet one of the litter and whilst her siblings were screaming at me she just sat in the corner and looked at me with her big blue eyes.  I asked the owner if I could have a little cuddle with her, he picked her out of the cage and as I held her in my palm she looked up at me with those bright blue eyes and I asked her “Do you want to come and live with me?”  She gave out the tiniest little “Mew” and that was it – I was in love.  I had to have her.

Reality kicked in as I realised I live in an apartment wholly unsuitable for a kitten.  Not the fact that I live in an apartment you understand, I have been doing my research and the experts of the internet tell me that cats can be perfectly happy in small spaces – in fact the life expectancy of a cat kept indoors is far greater than one who ventures out into the big mad world.  What I mean is my flat was full of, well…  Stuff.  Things on the floor, bits of forgotten fluff behind the couch, small gaps down the side of the fridge leading to Narnia.  None of this being compatible with a 6 weeks old kitten, I asked the owner if he would mind keeping her for the night whilst I prepared my home.  He looked at me like I was clearly insane and asked me “What do you need to do?  It’s just a cat”, shook his head and said I could collect her at 10am the next day.

So I went home, and started the biggest spring clean my apartment has ever seen.  I cleaned for 7 hours solid – moving as much as I could, clearing the storage boxes out from under the couch and the bed, mopping every inch of the wooden floor, cramming pillows and boxes into the smallest of gaps to prevent any curious exploring…  My apartment had never looked so clean.  In fairness, I’m not domestic, and there are various stages of clean for my apartment.  They range from ‘New Boyfriend’s First Visit’ which warrants a good tidy, destroying any evidence that I am anything less than angelic – through ‘Parents Visiting’ which means getting the vacuum out, doing the washing up and hiding any evidence of parties the night before – to ‘Girls Night In’ which just about warrants putting my dirty underwear in the laundry basket and lighting some candles (because candles make everything look ok).

But back to the cat.  Finally getting to bed at 3am, I was so excited – the feeling you used to get on Christmas Eve, before that year when you looked out of the window and realised that the Santa Claus who built your new trampoline was in fact your Dad and his friend, slightly merry after a few too many pints in the local.  I never did trust that trampoline.  Anyway, you’re thinking that’s why she’s called Holly, right?  No.  That would make sense – my first cat as a child was called Santa after my Mum and Dad found her on Christmas Eve.  But Holly was in fact originally called Harriet – mostly due to the fact that I had decided that if and when I finally got my cat “he” would be called Harry.

Just like Christmas, I woke up early the next morning and promptly realised that I had nothing for the kitten.  Kittens need stuff, right?  They need food, and a little bowl to put the food in, and another one for water, and a litter tray, and litter, and a scoop…  And, and, and…  Gah!!  I promptly threw on the nearest pair of jeans and a t-shirt and drove off to the closest 24 hour supermarket to investigate the pet aisle.  Now, I’m pretty good at shopping generally and I’ll most certainly qualify for the national Olympic team when they  make it an official sport, but the last time I was in a pet aisle was accidentally, on autopilot, when Tesco moved the wine.  I mean, I had pets as a kid but Holly is my first pet as a grown-up (that’s still questionable) and I really had no idea what she would need.

Out came the iPhone – big mistake.  I read hype from pet food manufacturers promising shiny coats, articles about making your own organic pet food (I need to cook for her?!  I don’t even cook for myself!!), the dangers of onions and potatoes…  None the wiser.  Eventually I determined anything with the word “KITTEN” on it and a cute picture of a fluffy face was required.  I picked up way too much food, a litter tray and all that’s associated with it (including scented nappy bags to dispose of the, erm, waste), dangly toy things, bowls, kitchen roll, dettol for any accidents, a scratching post…  I spent more that morning than I do on my average weekly shop (and that’s including the wine!!)

So – cats are expensive.  Ok, I can deal with that.  One less pair of new shoes every few weeks in return for a fun, fluffy friend to cuddle = reasonable sacrifice.  Feeling smug that I now had everything I needed at home for my new arrival, off I went to the pet shop to collect my little furry friend.  I’m sure the guy was thinking “Oh great, crazy OCD kitten lady’s back” when I started asking about flea and worm treatments and vaccinations and vets.  He told me she’s been wormed and to take her to the vets in a few weeks and that was it.  Except for one thing.  One simple, important thing I had forgotten.  I didn’t have anything to carry her home in.

Now, I’m not a snob, but no kitten of mine is travelling in a Tesco carrier bag.  So, Holly made her way home, wrapped in one of my cardigans, carried in a Longchamps handbag with her little head peeking out of the open zipper trying to figure out what the hell was going on.  The irony of this situation being that I have more than once openly and loudly made fun of those Paris Hilton-esque girls who carry their dogs round in their handbags.  And here I was, with a 6 week old kitten in mine, saying in my most soothing voice “Please don’t wee-wee, please don’t poo-poo”.

Crazy cat lady had arrived.