Our final two cats were the two girls we got when Iti died. It was now 2009 and we had two problems finding a breeder. The first was that we had moved to Cornwall and knew no breeders down here. The second was that the recession had hit so a lot of breeders had stopped breeding. We did not want to be travelling miles to find cats but were uncertain how to go about finding breeders. After spending some time looking at magazines and websites, I suddenly remembered that when we first moved down at the beginning of 2006 I was still doing some work in London. This meant finding someone who would cat-mind for us. This person no longer did cat-minding but I then remembered that she had mentioned someone who bred Siamese in St Ives so I contacted her and got the breeder’s phone number. The breeder did not live in St Ives town but in the country nearby. I was initially told over the phone that there was a waiting list for these kittens who had not been born at that point. It all sounded a bit like getting your child into Eton College but we added our name to the list of hopefuls and waited for the kittens to arrive. Interestingly by the time they were born the waiting list seemed to have more or less disappeared.
It is normal with pedigree cats to visit them when they are about six weeks old although it is not usual to let them leave their birth mother until they are about fourteen weeks old. If they are very small they will be left with nasty habits and this was certainly true of Tiki whom we got at six weeks and who was always ‘making butter’ on our knees. When Pania and Hinemoa were six weeks old we went to meet them and their siblings.
They lived on a farm and there was a huge plastic container where they could almost all sleep and play. The cat had had six kittens rather than the five that were expected, though, so the tiniest (Hinemoa) seemed be a bit out in the cold. The breeder had been given a cat ‘igloo’ and this is where she appeared to stay. We just wanted one girl but when we got there the breeder told us about the ‘extra’ kitten and said we had twenty-four hours to decide if we wanted one or both of them. The smallest one struck me as looking as though one puff of wind would blow her away so my inclination was to take the slightly bigger one. We came home and consulted several people about taking two rather than one. The general advice was that if we took both of them they could play together and did not need to involve Nui in their games unless he wanted to join in. This turned out to be very true although he and the tiny one (Hinemoa) bonded particularly closely.
We therefore agreed in principle to take two kittens. Now it was back to naming them and I was beginning to run out of Maori names, other than names of trees. Then I remembered that we now lived in a digital age so we were able to consult lists of Maori girls’ names on-line. As a result we chose Pania for the bigger one and Hinemoa for the little one. The name Pania had associations for me because she was a mythical Maori mermaid associated with Hawkes Bay where we lived when I was little. There is a bronze statue of her on Napier seafront. Hinemoa was a sort of Maori Juliet who is famous for swimming across Lake Rotorua in pursuit of her lover. Problem over and names sorted.
These cats have led rather different lives from our others as they have never had to travel. We maintained the rule of house cats so they could only go out in the garden when there was someone to keep an eye on them. This did not stop Pania being quite adventurous and climbing up the wall at the back of the garden so that she got into the neighbour’s garden and the one next to that. Hinemoa has never shown the slightest inclination to wander. On summer evenings they were allowed to wander in the yard because the gates (which are six foot high) were closed and they really enjoyed going into the studio and wandering around among my textile things. During the day they would sleep in 'doughnuts' in the conservatory or next to the radiator in my bedroom. At night they used to both sleep with me. All three used to snuggle up and although we were careful about introducing Nui to them, they have always been a very close family!
Nui finally died the day before his thirteenth birthday. We were able to have a ‘home death’ which was wonderful although neither Pania nor my husband could bear to be in the room. Hine and I sat on the sofa with Nui next to us.
Writing about it these cats seem to have had their share of illnesses. Pania developed feline asthma. There was one beneficial effect of this: my husband gave up smoking in the house. Then she ended up in hospital on a drip. We were able to visit her every day because the vet is so near and she did come home again.
Things changed in 2016 when I ended up in hospital and my husband had to take sole responsibility for them. He started feeding them upstairs in the conservatory and they began to sleep with him. Then while I was in hospital for the second time, Pania died. She collapsed and died quite quickly. I do not know the details of her final illness but I thought she had been fading away over the previous few months. Her ashes are still waiting to join those of Nui and Iti in the garden.
In February 2017 Hinemoa managed to slip a disc. This was disastrous as the same day I had had a nasty fall so we were both immobile. I phoned the vet as the surgery is only five minutes’ drive from us and they sent someone to collect her. She was kept there as an in-patient for several days and threatening noises were made about taking her to Exeter for an X-ray. Fortunately this never happened but she was then sent home on ‘cage rest’. We were lent a large cage by the vet but it was not big enough for her to have her cat litter and food in. We put her in the conservatory which is very near my husband's bedroom so he found himself getting up several times a night to check she did not need anything. During the day we let her sleep in his bed. She also howled a lot in a very Siamese manner. I would not want to go through that experience again!
Hinemoa has adjusted well to being an ‘only’ cat although she was always used to having someone to play and sleep with. She still eats upstairs and spends a vast amount of time in my husband's bed but sits on my knee while we watch TV. She also enjoys a game with him every evening and is very fond of the ‘strings’ she plays with at this time. This is the only game she is allowed and she is no longer allowed in the airing cupboard in case she tries to jump out. As she is now a middle-aged cat she does not need to run around so much although in the summer she still likes to go in the garden when my husband is there to bring her in again. I have explained to him that if anything happens to him she will have to go into a cattery short-term and would have to be re-homed as I cannot look after her at all. For example as a Siamese she throws up about once a week and I cannot bend down to pick up the vomit aand I cannot feed her upstairs. We have realised there will be no more cats but Hinemoa could outlive us so we have made arrangements for looking after her and told our immediate friends and family.