If there was such a thing as a Krypton Factor for cats Dave would be a champion. A few nights ago there was a commotion in the kitchen at around 2am but thankfully it was not burglars, it was Dave attacking the cat proof food recycling bin. I put the bin safely out of his way and trudged back to bed. The next morning I came down to find an open food recycling bin and an work of abstract art made from tea bags and crusts set out on the kitchen floor. Dave gave me a penetrating look and I was left in no doubt that he disapproves of cat proof containers. He doesn't eat tea bags and he's not fond of crusts, he was just proving that as far as he is concerned nothing is cat proof. Cats are such wonderful communicators, it only requires a look or an almost imperceptible flick of the tail for Dave to convey absolute contempt.
As I picked up the debris and then cleaned the kitchen floor I realised how much of my time is taken up attending to the needs of an assortment of animals. We only have three cats, but my mum and stepfather are both frail so I help them with their animals too. Their elderly cat Jessica is beautiful, but she's as wild and unpredictable a tiger and it takes nerves of steel (and protective clothing) to get her into the cat basket when she needs to go to the vet. Shopping for the cat takes far longer than anyone would believe possible because because mum has to examine every flavour and brand of cat food to decide whether Jessica would like it. Then after lots of deliberation she buys the same combination of brands that she always buys!
Lucy is my favourite of mum's three dogs, when she came from Wood Green Animal Shelter she was pathetically thin and afraid of her own shadow, but now she is healthy and happy. One of her parents was a Shih Tzu and the other a Border Collie - an improbable liaison which probably involved a step ladder! She combines the intelligence and behaviour of a (rather neurotic) Border Collie with the build and colouring of a Shih Tzu and despite her difficult past she has a lovely friendly nature. She seems to be especially attached to me, she follows me like a shadow, sits next to me whenever I sit down and when I stop stroking her she nudges my arm with her nose to get my attention - which often results in spilt tea and a disgraced dog!
Bobby and Misty the other two Shih Tzus are a little younger than Lucy, and completely bonkers. They are brother and sister but Bobby is twice the size of Misty, he is gentle and friendly but Misty is a little spitfire and what she lacks in height she makes up for in attitude. Taking them to the groomers is a nightmare, it's like having chimps in the car, Bobby cries because he has left my mum behind and Misty spends the entire journey telling other road users to go away! She also objects to the car radio, if I turn it on she barks frantically and searches for the people hiding in the car. Needless to say, I prefer not to take them out in the car more often than absolutely necessary!
Shopping for their food is a nightmare, Bobby is a solid little chap and despite being reassured by the vet that he is the correct weight for his size my mum worries that he doesn't eat. Getting him to eat seems to have become an obsession for my mum, so we loiter endlessly in the dog food section looking for new possibilities to tempt him to eat. Lucy eats reasonably well (as long as no one looks at her) and she is the easiest of the three dogs to shop for. It probably only takes about 15 minutes for my mum to consider every option and then decide to buy her regular brand of dog food!
The other member of the household is Fred the tortoise who has been part of the family since my childhood. He is probably the most pampered tortoise in the county and there are times when I envy his lifestyle! In October he retires to his winter quarters and sleeps until the spring when the days become warmer again. His summer quarters, an open fronted hutch in a large pen has to be moved around the lawn so that he can enjoy fresh grass and plenty of dandelions (his favourite). Throughout the spring and summer he munches his way through a monumental amount of salad and such like. Mum insists on having a bird net over the pen to stop them from stealing his food and every time it rains my mum covers his run with a tarpaulin so that he will not get wet, then when the sun comes out she adjusts the tarpaulin so that he has plenty of shade. So as you can see one small tortoise manages to dominate the daily routine of the household!
A couple of years ago we made the mistake of buying a multi hanger bird feeder for my stepfather so that he could enjoy watching the birds through the window. It was a success, in fact it was too successful, feeding the birds seems to dominate their lives! They get through unbelievable quantities of seed, sunflower seeds, fat balls and assorted pellets and every couple of weeks I'm dispatched to the pet superstore to buy a trolley load of supplies for the birds! Judging by the amount of food they eat it is a wonder that any of the local birds can still fly!
I wouldn't be without my pets, but they are not quite as pampered as my mums. If the people who believe in reincarnation are proved right I hope that I will come back as a tortoise because Fred seems to have a happy and untroubled life!