In early Feb 2005 we went back to see Estelle. This time we were to have two kittens from a recent litter – our first babies for almost 3 years. Cally and Jenna were Burmeses, like Thalia, but smooth-coated where she was rex. Their mother was Thalia’s half-sister. The only appreciable differences in appearance were that Cally had one white hand, and her eyes were a little more prominent.
As babies, they were extraordinarily cute, and a photo of them submitted for a competition (some years later) did actually win in the “Cutest Kittens” class. They were bouncy and friendly with everyone. We felt that they would be a bit much for Jet, as she was getting on a bit now, so we kept them separate for the most part – though there were occasional playtime encounters.
Once Jet had gone, we started to think about introducing them to Iona and Thalia. Thalia had of course assumed that she would be boss in a cage of two, and was therefore unimpressed when the little ones were added to the mix. Actually, that would be an understatement. She sulked for days. However, within a couple of months we saw Iona’s untimely death, and Thalia accepted that the company of annoying youngsters was better than no company at all.
When they were about a year old we were getting ready to uproot and move across country again. Thalia was ill with CHF by this time so went back to Estelle rather than suffer the journey to our new home. Cally and Jenna coped admirably with the move, despite being stuck in the travel cage rather longer than anticipated. We had booked the removals men to come on the afternoon of the preceding day to load up, planning that the big cage would wait until the next morning, but they arrived at 9am – 4 hours early – and threw us completely. And they wanted the cage in the van sooner rather than later. So the girls went in the travel cage on Thursday morning and were in there till the Saturday, due to the chaos ensuing at the other end. They managed fine.
The new house was actually a bungalow and way too small for our needs – we’d taken it as the best of some poor options with very little time to shop around. One of the worst things was that after we had paid our deposit and started the whole thing going, the landlord announced that he was afraid of rats and so we would have to pay a pet bond – an extra £200 had to be found at no notice. In vain we explained that the rats were caged, that they never came out of the cage unless we were there, that they didn’t run round on the floor and wouldn’t chew the skirting boards. At some point further on in the tenancy the landlord actually called round, and did peer nervously into the cage. The girls were on their best behaviour and just sat there looking adorable, and he said “Oh, they’re quite sweet really, aren’t they? It’s the pink-eyed ones I can’t stand.” £200, for that.
We started to worry as the girls approached 18 months old that we needed to make sure we didn’t end up with a lone girl again. So we adopted 4 girls from a rescue (Leda, Lyra, Aurora and Selene) hoping to have a nice big happy colony. Cally and Jenna hated them on sight, and the intros took 5 months. Eventually we wore them down, and they all ended up together in the big cage, but there were times when we didn’t think it would happen. Cally was especially difficult – she was always a stubborn girl. The breakthrough came one day when we had them all out on the bed. J was lying across the bed with the rescue girls snuggling up to him, and Jenna started slowly creeping towards them, as though she wanted to be part of this lovely warm rat pile but wasn’t sure if she’d be welcome. She was – the gang of four were always very welcoming to strangers, all the difficulties before had been started by Cally or Jenna – so once she had cuddled up with them (with Cally on my lap, refusing to have anything to do with them) we took a deep breath and put them all in the big cage.
We needn’t have worried. From that point on they were fine. The irony was that we had taken on the 4 so that neither Cally nor Jenna would be alone – and yet they outlived all the 4 except Lyra.
They reached their second birthday still reasonably fit (though a little tubby, and with one or two lumps) and eventually succumbed, to a combination of lumps and old age, in May 2007. As with a lot of girls, they were never exactly affectionate or cuddly – they’d sooner wander off to explore than sit on your lap having a fuss – but they were friendly, good-natured girls.