Soon after moving to Oxfordshire we started looking for two kittens, a Siamese brother and sister. We wanted seal point so we bought various cat magazines and found a pair the right age in Weston-super-Mare. This was not quite the nightmare it might have been in terms of getting them as we were able to view them on one of our weekend trips to Cornwall. It was a long way to take them in a covered basket, though, and I can remember a lot of screaming going on between Weston and Warborough. In the end we bought a cat basket with a wire frame that was much better and we have used that ever since, even though it is now rather larger than we need. We decided to train them onto leads so they could not escape onto the main road and because it would be easier having them on leads in Cornwall. Our cottage in Warborough was a very small end of a terrace of three and set at right angles to the main road but the main road was an A road leading from Wallingford to the M40. There was an unadopted road at the back of the houses which led to a field and we realised this would be a good place for walks. The first summer we took them out, round the end of house and down the lane to the field. Maui was quite happy to do this but not Rua because of having to walk round the house on the main road, albeit for about fifteen feet. Also the field was a very popular dog-walking place so after the first year we gave up taking them there. Instead we would put their leads on and then sit them on the garden chairs. The leads gave them room to wander in the flower bed. There was only one occasion when there was a problem. One summer Sunday they went into the flower bed where there must have been a frog which attacked Maui. We found him foaming at the mouth but he was otherwise unharmed.
When young, these two were very keen climbers. Typical Siamese. Their idea of fun was to get onto the roof of the garden shed. They also climbed inside the house and up me if I was standing cooking. Shimming up the curtains was another favourite. At great expense we had double French doors put between the kitchen and the sitting room so we could keep them off the good furniture but if we shut the doors we had problems with smoke from the fire not being able to circulate so we had to abandon that. In the end they completely destroyed the upholstery on the suite by scratching it. They also climbed a lot in Cornwall.
They were latch-key cats as we were out at work all day. Initially we had solid fuel central heating. As we were often out for twelve hours, John used to get dressed in old clothes and stoke the boiler before he put on his work clothes and went off to London but at least it meant they were warm. They managed quite well being left on their own for long periods. As kittens they may have got bored, though, and there was a famous occasion when I got home to find wool draped all over the upstairs, down the turning staircase, which led into the kitchen, and around the kitchen! They were introduced to trips to Cornwall (a six hour journey) very early and managed well with this. They seemed to enjoy Cornwall where the garden was long and untamed. We would sit them in the front garden and take them into the much bigger back garden although we did not generally leave them unattended.
Rua on the garden wall in Cornwall
In 1995 we moved to Blakesley in Northamptonshire. The house was much bigger and situated on a dead-end lane in a village. However, there was no gate and we quickly realised that we could not let them run loose as they had no road sense. Instead they were put on their leads in the garden and often sat under the large apple tree.
Maui, however, continued to fancy wandering so I used to put him on his lead and take him a short way down the lane to a field that he could walk round. There were other cats there, though, so it was a bit risky. He also enjoyed exploring behind the house across the road which had a positive junk yard behind it. On a couple of occasions he untethered himself and made his way across the road but of course he then got stuck and had to be rescued as his lead would become caught up in the rubbish.
Maui in Blakesley
In November 1999 we had a terrible house fire. Our first thought was to rescue the cats who were very frightened by the smoke alarms and started running all over the house, which had three storeys. Then we realised that the cat basket was in the garden shed! Ever since then we have kept it in the house, no matter how inconvenient. With the aid of one of the neighbours we managed to catch them and put them in the basket. Then we took them across the road to his house. It was Saturday afternoon so could have been much worse but we had to find somewhere for them to stay immediately as the house was uninhabitable. Fortunately I had a colleague who lived around the corner. She and her husband were cat lovers but our two were not used to other cats. My colleague took them in and managed to shut her cats in one part of the house and ours in another. However, it was not going to work. On the Monday my sister arrived from Shropshire. She very kindly offered to give them a temporary home so off they went to her house. She commuted and was at work all day. One day she inadvertently locked Rua in her bedroom. I am afraid the result was a ruined sheepskin under blanket. Fortunately at that time we had an excellent cattery where these two had spent two long ‘holidays’ while we went to New Zealand. They were able to take them at short notice so after a week we removed them from Shropshire and took them to Henley until we had settled in a rented house.
We were in this house for over a year. The cats were now twelve. At May bank holiday we brought them down to Cornwall as usual. At this point Rua took ill. We went to town one day and returned to find blood on the carpet. Of course we did not have a vet in Cornwall but she was taken straight to the vet when we got home. The ultimate diagnosis was cancer of the pancreas. She had surgery before we went on our summer holiday but we realised that she would not survive long term. In fact she kept going until the following January. We therefore started looking in cat magazines for Siamese kittens to be a replacement sister for Maui. We came to Cornwall for Christmas at which point Maui took ill. Again we could not do anything until we got home. He was very ill although he kept perking up so neither we nor the vet could identify the problem. (It turned out to be feline anaemia which can only be diagnosed post mortem.) We were still in the rented house which was fully carpeted and there were accidents. Not what we would have wanted. Finally he died overnight while in hospital. He never made it back to Blakesley.
In the meantime Rua continued to go downhill. When I went to work I used to leave her on the sofa with my childhood teddy bear for a companion. She outlived Maui by just ten days. On the Friday we moved back into Blakesley. We were able to carry her round the house and show her the huge changes but she was being fed liquids only and I now think she should have been put out of her misery sooner. Over the weekend we had a visit from a young friend who had known her all her life so she was able to say her farewells. On the Monday I took her to the vet for the fatal injection. We were then faced with the realisation that we could not replace the cats until my redundancy took effect as we would not be at home to settle them in. So it was several months before we acquired Nui and Iti.