Smudge is our eight year old moggy. He is not the average cat. He looks like he ate a couple of average cats. He’s massive and supremely fluffy. He’s also, despite his size, terrified of everything. Once he ran away from a falling leaf. He watched it for a while to make sure it made no unexpected moves and the pounced, proudly presenting Hubs with his best present to date. Even the sparrows in our garden have ganged up on him. When they are in the garden he is banished to the house to stare forlornly at them through the French windows.
However he does have one thing that he will attack vigorously and with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately that thing is me.
I’ve always thought I was okay with animals and they they like me and so I have always been desperate to win Smudge’s affection. I’m the person who feeds him, waters him and, my personal favourite, cleans out the litter tray. Maybe I try too hard as all I get in return is a disdainful flick of his tail at best and an ankle savaging at worst. Perhaps the food isn’t to his taste? Litter tray not gleaming? Hubs on the other hand can do no wrong. He gets the affectionate head bumping, purrs and if we are sitting down there is only one place Smudge is going for cuddles.
In recent years we have reached a truce. I look after him but do not try to interact with him and he ignores me. Then Nell arrived. I was very worried whilst pregnant as to what Smudge’s reaction would be to the impending arrival of a challenger for Hub’s affections and to possible interruptions to the timely supply of food from his servant (me).
I thought it could go one of the following ways:-
* He would be terrified of her leading to him getting stressed out.
* He would be insanely jealous of her and cause havoc of the carpet shredding variety.
* He would be overly interested in her use as a heated pillow.
* He would pretend she didn’t exist and it would be business as usual.
I was worried about several aspects of cat/baby co-habitation. Whilst pregnant I was given lots of “helpful” advice along the lines of “you should give him away before the baby arrives” and regarding how he was basically a walking germ factory. This kicked my anxiety into overdrive and I didn’t really want to go near Smudge for a while due to the possible health implications, however I think he was pleased by this turn of events. In particular I was worried about a parasitic infection called Toxoplasmosis that cats get from eating small animals or birds. I think that I once heard that it can affect the brains of humans and they think that ‘crazy cat ladies’ may in fact be suffering from toxoplasmosis; all in all worrying stuff. It can increase the chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects such as blindness, deafness, epilepsy and hydrocephalus. The parasite can be passed in the cat’s poo and that is why pregnant ladies should avoid changing the litter. I have to say I didn’t mind passing this duty over to Hubs for the duration! Additionally, as cats use gardens as litter boxes too all veg and fruit should be thoroughly scrubbed to remove soil traces. I scrubbed until there was practically no vegetable left.
I was also very worried by people telling me that Smudge would definitely try to use Bubs as a hot water bottle as she was sleeping and suffocate her. Like all cats he does like lying on warm surfaces and I was worried that in my sleep deprived state I would leave a door open and he would climb into her Moses basket with her. He did have previous form. I had caught him napping in there before much to my annoyance (a lot of sheet washing then ensued). Therefore I bought a cat net from Mothercare. As previously mentioned Smudge is a super-sized moggy (he’s part Maine Coon, a large cat breed, and not overweight!) and the cat net was particularly ineffective, his weight would have pushed it down to such an extent that it wouldn’t stay on the sides of the cot or it would sink so much in the middle that he would practically be lying in the cot anyway.
My worries were mostly unfounded for the first six months of Nell’s life. He did just ignore her for the most part. He occasionally came closer for a couple of sniffs before beating a hasty retreat if she moved, slightly alleviating my worries about him sleeping on or next to her. He didn’t seem overly jealous of her or particularly scared of her. The one thing that did really upset him was the loss of “his” space.
He had always used the spare room (now Nell’s room) as a place to hang out during the day whilst we were at work. Now he’s not allowed in unaccompanied as he sits on her changing mat and cot and covers everything in cat fur and litter (he has long fur between his toes that traps dirt and litter in surprisingly large amounts). The problem is he seems particularly attracted to anything that the baby used (as long as she wasn’t near it at the time). I had to cover her bouncer with a throw to prevent a serious amount of fur transference. If it wasn’t for his love for lying on baby stuff he would be allowed everywhere in the house to lounge around. We tried to create a new chill out zone for him in our room by putting one of his throws on the end of the bed for his use during the day. He could retreat there if he got a bit stressed out. However as he is used to having free run of the entire house he didn’t adjust well to being confined to certain rooms at certain times. He shredded the bottom step of the stair carpet in protest :(. The space issue aside though he coped remarkably well with the newborn Nell, the noise and the visitors.
Recently though Nell has discovered how fluffy Smudge is and is greatly interested in grabbing handfuls of fur whenever he gets too close. She also gets extremely excited when she sees him and tends to wave enthusiastically while shouting at him, which seems to be her equivalent of an over excited “hello”.
He’s been very stoic about it all. He takes her heavy handed affection with good grace and retreats to a safe distance if it gets too much. We always supervise cat/baby interactions to stop her from really upsetting him by pulling too hard on his ears or fur. She pulls my hair hard enough that I may develop bald patches and I don’t want to inflict that indignity on him! When she’s crawling he gets out of her way pretty swiftly as she tends to make a beeline towards him for ‘cuddles’.
Hopefully when she’s a little older and wiser they will get along just fine and Smudge will love her more than he does me!