Winter is approaching fast, so we’ve started using the fire again. The fire (a wood-burner) has a huge heat output, actually rated slightly too high for the room it’s in, so when we have it on we open all the doors to the rest of the house to let the heat circulate. It’s great – we don’t need to use any other heating, so we keep our electricity bills nice and low.
Now, as I may have mentioned once or twice before ;-), we’ve got three cats. And they really really like to sleep on the bed. Unfortunately, two cats (there’s never three at once, because that would breach the complex peace treaty between George and the other two) and two humans don’t really fit in one bed, so if we let them sleep there MrPloppy and I tend to wake up bent into weird back-pain-inducing positions, and generally with a few claw marks where Ming has expressed his displeasure at any attempt to nudge him into a less central part of the bed.
So usual rule is that the cats are banned from the bedroom at night. In summer, that’s easy enough – we just shut the door. But in winter, there’s all that lovely heat coming off the fire, which we’d miss out on if we shut the door. So our solution has always been to shut the cats in the kitchen at night, where they’ve got access to their food and the catflap to go outside, and we can leave our bedroom door open.
But we’re both big softies when it comes to the cats. And it’s so cold in the kitchen when the door’s shut. And the cats really don’t like being moved from their nice warm spots in front of the fire, and complain vociferously about it (especially Ming, who usually backs up his message with claws and teeth – he REALLY doesn’t want to spend the night in the kitchen!) And Ming and Saffy are getting so old that it’s feeling like a real cruelty to make them sleep in a cold room. So we’ve been trying to find an alternative.
And a few nights ago we thought we’d found it. I discovered that the cutting mat I use for crafts is just wider than the doorway, and just tall enough that we thought Ming and Saffy wouldn’t be able to jump over it (they’re both getting a bit stiff in their joints in their old age, so don’t like jumping up on things as much as they used to). So we tried a little experiment. We covered the bottom part of the doorway with the mat, using packing tape to hold it in place at the top, and a couple of door-stops at the bottom. Which left the top half of the doorway open to let the heat through, and was still low enough (just) that we could both step over it (ok, so it let MrPloppy step over it easily, and let me just step over it if I stood on tip-toes). We left the cats in front of the fire and went to bed.
George quickly discovered that he could leap over it, so we had a companion for a while, but that was ok, because he’s not a bed-hogger – he just settled down at the foot of the bed and went to sleep. We heard Ming scrabbling at the mat for a while, trying to move it (he knows how to open cupboards by catching the bottom edge of the door with his claws, so he tries the same technique on anything else that gets in his way), but after a while he got bored and gave up. So night one was a success.
Night two, and Ming had another go at shifting the mat. He did manage to move one of the doorstops a bit, but not enough to get past the mat, so eventually gave up. Or so we thought – a few minutes later there was a scrabble and a thud, and Ming appeared on the bed. Obviously the temptation of the bed overcame the difficulty of jumping such a high barrier.
Ming on his own isn’t too bad a bed companion either (it’s only Ming and Saffy in combination that have the power to bend a spine through 720 degrees, as they take position on either side of you and slowly edge forwards in opposite directions), and he and George keep a respectful distance from each other, so if one is on the bed the other will stay off, nicely avoiding the “two cats, two humans, one bed” problem. So we were still counting the experiment as a success.
Until last night. At around 3.30 an almighty crash woke me from a deep sleep. My first thought was that another car had hit the house. Then I thought maybe the glass front on the fire had exploded. When I got up to check everything was ok, I discovered the culprit – the mat had fallen down, knocking over one of the very heavy metal doorstops. The combination of the two hitting the floor at once (the mat is quite heavy on its own) had produced the incredible bang.
From the fact that Ming and George were sitting in the hall looking bemused but not particularly worried, and that Saffy was nowhere to be seen, we worked out what must have happened. Saffy, who has trouble jumping up onto a chair, had obviously tried to jump over the mat, and couldn’t make it so grabbed hold of the top edge. And she’s not a small cat. In fact she’s seriously overweight. So her hanging from the edge of the mat would easily have pulled the whole thing down on top of her.
So, our plan to keep the cats from annoying us all night wasn’t exactly a success – I think it took me about an hour to get my heart rate back to normal after that rude awakening! Time to develop a Plan C, I think…
Ok, so this whole entry is going to be about the cats. Sorry, but I just have to report George’s latest trick. He’s obviously an intelligent cat, and has no trouble communicating. If their water bowl is empty he makes sure you know about it, sitting patiently beside the bowl until someone comes into the kitchen, then meows to get your attention and looks pointedly at the bowl. The other day he did this when I came into the kitchen, but I was in the middle of doing something else, so I said “I’ll be back in a minute George” and walked out again. A few minutes later I went back into the kitchen, and he meowed again. He was still sitting beside the water bowl, but the bowl had moved – he’d dragged it from the corner where it normally sits to the middle of the kitchen floor, where I couldn’t miss seeing it. The look he gave me I’m sure would translate into human as something like “Are you blind or just stupid? Look, my bowl’s empty!!!” 🙂