Lily & Minnie

I begin by exploring the minutiae of acclimatising cats to a new home.
If this has never had to concern you you may find the reading a bit tedious,
so just look at the pictures.

Monday 11th January
Usually we would have left longer after the passing of Oscar, our previous cat, before contemplating acquiring new cats, but what with the strains of Covid Lockdown 3 one of us was feeling the need early and started monitoring the Cats Protection website before Christmas. We'd learnt that there were less cats needing homing currently because of the virus and people being more homebound and less mobile. But eventually Lily and Minnie appeared, looking sweet and needing homing as a pair. After two long homing phone calls, the second one involving payment and the ordering of equipment and supplies, delivery was arranged for this morning. Usually there'd be more visits and we'd need to go collect the cats, but what with the coronavirus, social distancing and all, the cats would be left on our doorstep like Amazon parcels, while the driver from the CPL kept his distance. Which was all fine by us as we don't have a car. We were told to expect a phone call in the morning telling us when to expect delivery, but the first we knew was the doorbell ringing around 10.00 and soon we had two new cats in the house.
Minnie is 5 years old and  Lily is 4, they are what CP call a bonded pair, but are they sisters? We were told that their previous owner had had to give them up because they could no longer cope with them. Oddly Lily had not been spayed or microchipped, so CP had had these things done over the Christmas hols.
We'd ordered two new cat carriers from CP as only one of our old ones was complete, and having them delivered in new carriers meant we didn't have to turf two probably-scaredy cats out of the CPL's ones to give them back. As it transpired Minnie was meowing to be let out as soon as I put the carrier down and when I opened the grill she was out and exploring all corners and surfaces. To acclimatise new cats it's advised to keep them in one room for a few days and then let them roam when they're settled, usually after a few days. We chose the back room and kitchen extension as it has hard flooring and access to the kitchen where they'll be fed and to the toilet in the shower room. They would be using a litter tray, at least initially, you see - we were told that they were cats who weren't used to a garden. Anyway Minnie was, as I say, immediately exploring, using the litter tray, nibbling a few biscuits, and finding the door to the rest of the house a source of real fascination. Lily stayed in her carrier, towards the back, peering through the slots, and later burrowed herself under the towel in there.
We'd ordered some biscuits and a scratching pad and litter tray from CPL, but they also give us a bumper supply of the toys, towels and mats, and even a cat bed, which the pair had used and so would find reassuring. It's all about scent and cats not really settling in until a place smells of them.
We weren't sure about the cats' names at first, but then I remembered Minnie Bannister, a character from The Goon Show, an old and wild radio comedy the joy of which I inherited from my parents and which I still love. For Lily I suddenly remembered what the symbol of the city of Florence is. And our niece is called Florence too, which adds a certain something.
In the afternoon we left them be in the closed room - Minnie to settle down a bit without our exciting presence and maybe Lily would emerge. Later I went and sat on the sofa and Minnie, who had settled in a box we'd provided came and rubbed around and stood to be stroked, rather than just allowing it in passing, and then lay down next to me to have a wash. Only much later in the evening did we come back from watching some telly after eating to find that Lily had come out of her carrier, but only to hide behind the sofa. Still: progress!

Tuesday 12th
Minnie continues to explore and Lily continues to hide. The explorer was given the run of the house, although the advice is to keep new cats in one room for a few days. She came and did some rubbing around and falling over and getting tummy rubs while I was doing my morning V&A course zoom sessions. I even managed a photo or two. She found a couple of places to settle during the day. In the afternoon I went upstairs for my siesta, couldn't find her, and when I lay on top of the bed I discovered an odd lump under the duvet. And in the evening she curled up on a comfy chair in the front room with us, soon doing whatever the cat equivalent of snoring is.
In the evening Lily was at one point found to have quit the space behind the sofa and to be between the radiator and the table flap, but later was found to have returned. As I was putting out biscuits and wrapping up for the night I thought I might try to lure her out by playing with her with the feather-on-a-stick toy that the CPL had given us, and it worked! She wasn't overly keen on the toy, but she did eventually slink out and circle around behind the table and emerge to sit and stare at me. My first chance to see the whole cat! She is white and black, I'd say, where Minnie is black and white, and her black patches remind one of those cows with black patches that look like maps. She then ate a good deal of biscuits while keeping an eye on me before limboing into the hollow space under the sofa, where she can stand up, and calmly washing. I thought I'd achieved enough to leave them in peace, with hopes for more progress tomorrow.

Wednesday 13th
No new developments during the day, apart from Jane getting her Covid vaccine jab. Lily remained in hiding and Minnie continued her very vocal wanderings. She is, to coin a phrase, into everything, and repeated her miraculous hidden lump under the duvet trick from yesterday.
Then as I was wrapping up thing for bedtime, similar to last night, Lily allowed herself to be coaxed out, with the help of Minnie encroaching on her space as I sat on the floor, to make a less looming and threatening aspect, don't you know? This time she was out for longer, doing more sniffing and exploring, and even came and sat next to her sister on their carpet and gave her a sniffing and a licking. They both sat and watched me, then Lily ambled around some more and guzzled some water. At this point Minnie headed off for some litter-tray action, which would need dealing with sooner, and so as I gently and experimentally stood up Lily shot back to her hidey hole. Slow but solid progress methinks.

Thursday 14th
This was another day of no startling daytime developments, but with yet another bedtime luring out of Lily and stunning progress made in her not needing to keep an eye on me the whole time, as she explored and I patiently sat on the floor, whilst still being attentive to any noises that might signal my moving closer. She also chanced heading into  more distant corners of the adjoining kitchen and even jumped up onto a chair to sit and watch me. She also didn't scarper when I discreetly stood up and I was able to leave with her having a good wash on the sofa, rather than under it. Phew!
In other news, I got a voicemail message in the late afternoon inviting me to ring back and book a Covid vaccination appointment,

Friday 15th
What a day this turned out to be. I rang the surgery, waited on the phone, from 12th in the queue, got through, was offered 10.30 this morning, got there 10+ minutes early, swiftly processed, jab given before 10.30! No change in cats' behaviour at first, but I did manage a photo of Lily, helped by us pulling the sofa out a bit.
Jane had made an impromptu cat bed out of a cardboard box with a hole cut in it, and put it out of the way in the non-functioning fireplace. After a couple of days Minnie had started using it, as she could curl up inside and still keep an eye on what was going on. And she was in there when I was making my lunch, but then after lunch I noticed two faces peering out. Lily was out from behind the sofa, in daylight! They remained snoozing in the box the whole afternoon. Later she returned to her hideout, when Jane came back from an afternoon out, but while we were eating nearby she emerged, giving Jane her first sight of her, ate some biscuits, and got into the box with her sister, where mutual washing ensued and some powerful purring, which had not so far been heard from either.
What a day! And as I type this I have a reassuring soreness in my arm where I had the jab.

Saturday 16th
A day of consolidation, with Lily mostly in the box bed and Minnie continuing to prowl round and meow. After some afternoon peace we went out for our 4.00pm constitutional, which after recent dingy days was surprisingly daylit. It was a longer walk than lately and when we got back around 5.30 no cats were to be found downstairs! Lily hadn't ventured out of the kitchen before, and now she'd made it into the passage, up the stairs and was under my bed!
But unfortunately she was still there when we were going to bed, the time when we traditionally confine our cats to the kitchen to guarantee an undisturbed night. Trying to scoop Lily from under the bed resulted in failure and a very painfully clawed, bleeding and bitten wrist. So we had to leave her there and Minnie roaming. Minnie likes to wander the house and howl, and when she did this enough at around 1.30 to make me turn my light on and search for the earplugs I checked and found that Lily was no longer under the bed. I eventually found her in the front room, which was reassuringly exploratory of her, and after she scarpered back to the kitchen and the back of the sofa Minnie joined us and I was able to shut them in and a full night's sleep was had by all.

Sunday 17th
This morning I licked my wounds and we reviewed our cat confinement and freedom of movement options, to prevent a repeat of last night's trauma and bloodshed. What a week! But today was a day of consolidation rather than progress.

Monday 18th
This morning, after yesterday's lack of progress, saw Jane, up first for breakfast, sitting in the kitchen whilst Lily wandered and explored for ages, and was even heard to make chirping noises. The photos are the proof! She made an unexpected appearance in the evening too, at one stage just sitting and purring, then...
Tuesday 19th
saw more random surprise outings from the bed box just for the exploratory fun of it. And then on
Wednesday 20th
she was out first thing for breakfast biscuits and then suddenly strolled out of the kitchen along the passage, explored the hall and front room, and continued to do so as we sat in the front room eating our breakfasts with our mouths open in amazement. She ventured up the stairs a bit too, and as we sat on the sofa would approach us, if still warily, but this is such an improvement on always scarpering away. Such a sudden increase in bravery was very cheering and brightened up an otherwise dark and cloudy morning. It continued through the day and in the evening Lily even joined Minnie on her armchair for some mutual grooming, purring and relaxation.

Thursday 21st/
Friday 22nd
Lily is emerging more, and is looking to be cat who likes to chase reflections, Minnie seems to have a thing for finding and dragging odd things around, her current favourites being tissues out of the bin, and elastic bands.


Saturday 23rd to Wednesday 27th
The photo below was taken Friday night and on Saturday Lily sat and watched us go about our business from the chair and sofa in the kitchen, alertly but not run-and-hidely, several times. This culminated in her watching us eat dinner lying on the sofa, even as we walked back and forth, even seeming to casually snooze, and then both of us managed, separately, to stroke her. Amazing! And this set the pattern for her increased bravery and exploration in the following days...






 February 2021

Thursday 5th
...which continued, and she even now purrs and does cute head-rubbing-and-rolling greeting things in the morning. She's still going to run away if we're too near, especially if we're standing up, but she's coming along, and definitely spends much less time hiding.

Sunday 7th
And then today, after a somewhat fraught morning spent on the phone getting an emergency plumber to help us get our boiler working, Lily was actually sat on the back of the front room sofa, as we came in and sat down on it after lunch, with teas and a hot cross bun, and stayed there, even while I took photos, and later just curled up and snoozed there! For the whole afternoon! Minnie has taken to the stairs for relaxing and keeping watch, as you can see.


Monday 8th to Saturday 13th
Lily progresses apace, and her fascination with reflections becomes more evident, it being a sunny week, if exceptionally cold. She also does that thing where although fascinated by reflections from phones and tablets and such she also stares at what's causing the reflection, making one suspect that she's not really fooled. Her laser pointer toy drives her a bit bonkers too, and the small signs she's trusting us more come thick and fast.



Sunday 14th - Saturday 20th
The photos speak many words.


Sunday 21st - in the garden
The advice is the keep new cats indoors for a month to acclimatise before letting them explore your garden.
So, on a day when the sun came out and temperatures were comfortable...




By now we have two pretty acclimatised and relaxed cats who have accepted the garden as part of their territory.
Lily is still prone to hiding and swiping at you if you try to stroke her when she isn't keen. But, especially as regards the hiding, which is usually brief,
this seems to be mostly now out of habit. To rest and snooze she now chooses comfy spots rather than hidden ones. Minnie is still the friendly one, though.
Leaping for and chasing after bugs in the garden is a new game.


May & June

Six months on ... we went for a holiday! To Norwich. It was our first together in a year and so entailed the first employment of Joel, our cat feeder.
We warned him he wouldn't see much of Lily, unless he peered down the back of the sofa, as she still runs from visitors and the doorbell.
But miraculously he was posting photos of his finger getting sniffed and stroking her head on the second day! And a video on the third!


August to Christmas
In August Lily started sitting and snoozing on Jane's lap, and continues to do so daily, especially when Jane is wearing a towelling bathrobe. The best I've managed is her (Lily) snoozing against my thigh. Once. It's arguable that a bit of pairing has developed, as Minnie often comes to find me when I'm at the PC, for rubs and the traditional stomping on the keyboard. They still eat little but their biscuits, although Lily likes a bit of chip-shop fish, and is now usually to be found waiting on the dining table by the time we've unpacked our Deliveroo from the chip shop. She has also become what one might politely call a chunky cat (see photo right). When they are together stroking Minnie's head invariably starts Lily purring, which is sweet.

Strangers in the house still make Lily run and hide, but although deliveries and Deliveroo drivers tense her up she now rarely makes it behind the sofa before they've gone, and if she does she's out and about pretty soon. For Minnie strangers in the house are mostly a cue for investigatory sniffing.

Lily still likes chasing the laser pointer, and reflections generally and Minnie still likes to bring gifts and has a special tone of meow to signal this. These gifts are now mostly from the garden, usually bits of wood, or twigs, or the like. Squirrels and sparrows and pigeons are the sources of fascination and stalking and dashing, but no creatures, thankfully, had been presented until the first dead mouse on 30th December. But then on the 31st I had to deal with  five baby mice in succession, all alive, and taken back into the garden, so the five might have included some repeat appearances.

January 2023

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the socially-distancing chap from Cat's Protection leaving Minnie & Lily on our doorstep the pair of them kindly posed for celebration portraits. They've settled in fine. Lily hides behind furniture hardly at all, and they both desire our company more, but not all the time, of course. Lily likes to chase lights, even more than before, and Minnie's habit of bringing us twigs persists. But nothing alive has been brought in since the multiple-mice event mentioned above.




Venice // Florence // London // Berlin