A Fluff Tonne of Fun with the Trotters

Fluff Tonne (see also: meowtric ton)

noun
A unit of measurement which indicates the immense and, paradoxically, immeasurable joy that can be derived from the company of cats.

  • “I had a fluff tonne of fun at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium”

  • “Abbie received a fluff tonne of cuddles from Rodney”

Not to be confused with cluster-fluff:
noun
The formation created by two or more cats engaged in play, spec. wrestling.

  • “I don’t know where Teddy ends and Pip begins, it’s a real cluster-fluff!”

That’s right. Abbie has been having such a delightful time with her foster kits that it’s moved us to coin a new term! It’s impossible to quantify the love and happiness that cats can bring to our lives, and now we have a word to reflect that.

***

Slow Blinks and Happy Tails

Rodney and Cassandra, two black and white short-haired cats, share a sofa.

As the General Manager of Lady Dinah’s, I have racked up a fair bit of experience with fostering cats! One of my greatest challenges in this area came last year when I took in Milly, a slightly traumatised moggy who was left outside of the café in a tattered cardboard box accompanied by a note and a cooked chicken leg. Even though the circumstances surrounding Milly’s arrival into my home were a tad bizarre, nothing compares to the current situation! My hope is that just as with Milly, who eventually found a wonderful forever home on a livery yard, everything will be alright in the end.

When our cat carers were considering which cats should go where, it was concluded that my home would be perfect for two of our Trotter siblings, Rodney and Cassandra. We wanted to place Rodney and Cass together because they seem to derive a lot of comfort from being around each other. They can often be found napping together in a fluffy yin-yang formation and they like to play together, whereas their brother Del Boy is a little bit more independent. My flat spans two floors, so is spacious enough to accommodate two indoor cats along with two self-isolating humans!

Adorable cat siblings! Rodney and Cassandra like to nap together.

Preparations for our temporary closure were underway when I returned home from a shift to see the Prime Minister on television addressing the nation, explaining that a lockdown period was about to commence. After this announcement, my partner - Redd - and I went straight to the café to collect our foster babies. While we had done what we could to prepare for this eventuality, new restrictions were being introduced quite suddenly and we didn’t want to waste any time!

Thankfully, Rodney and Cassandra were snoozing when we arrived at the café to take them home, so we were able to place them gently into a carrier without much upheaval. The trip back was uneventful as they lay beside each other, still drowsy from slumber. They became much more alert once we reached the flat; it didn’t take long for Cassandra to emerge from the carrier and start strutting around. As she appraised her new surroundings by sniffing everything, her brother started to gain confidence. He peered out of the carrier and eventually left it in search of her and to do some exploring of his own. At this point, they were only able to roam around the second storey of our flat as we didn’t want to introduce them to too much, too soon. In order to reassure them, we had taken their favourite blankets from the Emporium so that they could sleep on bedding that smelled familiar. We also cleared the tops of our kitchen cabinets in a bid to mimic the high shelves and bridges of the Emporium - cats generally appreciate having access to spaces that won’t be intruded upon by humans as it helps them to feel secure.

After having demonstrated a lot of bravery, the cats retreated under the sofa for a little while. Redd and I didn’t want to encroach on their safe space, so we didn’t hover nearby or seek them out. Instead, we played it cool by dangling a feather on a string where they’d be able to see it. The Trotters are a notoriously playful brood and have never been able to resist playtime! Sure enough, Cassandra’s pretty little face was soon peeking out from under the sofa and she was bounding around and chasing the feather in no time! Just as before, Rodney drew inspiration from his sister’s courage and also opted to come out from under the sofa. The only thing that threatened to set them back was the ominous rumble of trains zooming past, an alien noise which caused them to freeze when they first heard it. True to her intrepid nature, it didn’t take long for Cassandra to challenge her fear: she watched the trains passing from a window and realised that she wasn’t in danger! Within twenty-four hours of coming to stay with us, the Trotters had fulfilled all of their basic needs by eating, drinking and using the litter trays. We were really pleased by this progress as it showed that they were settling in!

Cassandra and Rodney peer through the grate of their cat carrier, then Cassandra ventures out to explore Abbie's home.

Over the course of the first few days, the cats familiarised themselves with the space and stopped taking refuge under the sofa whenever we came up the creaky stairs. They identified their favourite snoozing spots - Cass loves to be by the window so that she can keep an eye on those pesky trains and supervise goings-on in the street, while Rodney has grown very attached to a particular cat bed which we placed on our most comfy chair. Rod is so taken with this spot, in fact, that he will employ dastardly tactics to secure it for himself! Redd and I were very touched one evening when we noticed Rodney licking his sister’s face, but we soon realised that this was not actually an expression of fraternal affection: his true intention was to groom Cassandra to the point where she would get fed up and vacate the bed!

After their first week with us, the cats were so confident in their new surroundings that we decided to leave the door to the downstairs level open for them. Within a couple of hours we found Cassandra sitting happily in the bathtub and Rodney “making biscuits” (kneading the duvet) on our bed. We thought it might be a good idea to remain separate at night so that the cats would still feel like the upper floor was primarily their territory, but Rodney had now developed a taste for the Big Boy bed and sang the song of his people as an early-morning protest! We have now given them free rein, and it seems that they really enjoy our company since they often choose to be with us. All of the Emporium cats are sociable and accustomed to being around people, but it is part of their routine to be left alone at night in order to conduct their super secret cat business, so we were pleased to find that Rodney and Cass are equally happy to share a bed with us. We often wake up to slow blinks (that’s cat speak for "I love you" or "We're friends") or requests for playtime!

A triptych of images of Cassandra enjoying her foster home.

A triptych of images of Rodney, including a photo of his splayed toes and pink toe beans.

Aside from sleeping, Rodney’s favourite thing to do in our bedroom is play “whizzy bed.” This is Redd’s term for a classic form of playtime, though it sounds like something out of a Roald Dahl story! In this game, Rodney’s objective is to capture the attachment to a dangler toy (e.g. a feather on a string attached to a rod), which Redd conducts so that it jumps and whizzes all over the bed. Once Rodney catches his prey he likes to play tug of war, and then, having triumphed, he parades his kill around the flat. He likes this game so much that he’ll even wake Redd up in order to play it! My heart melted one morning when I saw him dragging the toy downstairs to Redd, who was asleep in bed.

Of all the cats we’ve fostered, the Trotters have been the quickest to settle in. It didn’t take them long at all to feel at ease in our home, and they aren’t shy about asking us to fuss over them. They both hum with purrs when we brush them or give them chin scratches, and they have lots of energy for games. We’ve done our best to keep them stimulated so that they will return to the Emporium in good shape. Cassandra makes a point of reminding us when food is due by squeaking at us, but we’re careful not to feed them too much! If you’ve visited the café in the last year or so, you might know that Cass is infamously greedy and is often on the prowl for butter or clotted cream. She’s still a bit of a glutton but her manners have improved! She now waits patiently by our kitchen worktop when we prepare meals for her instead of jumping up and sticking her face in the bowl before it’s ready.

(Editor’s note: The cats may be keeping fit, but I’m not sure the same can said of the staff! I have been in the same semi-recumbent position for days and am constructing a nest out of chocolate wrappers)

Black and white cats Rodney and Cassandra. Rodney pads across Abbie's pad and Cass washes her face.

We’ve loved sharing our home with these two, it has been the best possible silver lining in a rather menacing storm cloud. We’ve admired Cassandra’s courage, delighted in Rodney’s playfulness, and been comforted by their affection. They found themselves in a new situation that was potentially quite scary, and they’ve been able to make the most of it by being brave and supporting each other. We find their ability to adapt quite inspiring! They make us smile and laugh every day with their silly antics and sweet mannerisms. We will miss them when they return to the Emporium, but we’re grateful for the time we’ve spent together, and we know that we’ll still be able to see lots of them. “Whizzy bed” will be a thing of the past, but who’s to say that “whizzy Redd” won’t catch on? Or “wheezy Redd” if he has to run all around the café with up to fifteen cats chasing him!

BONUS

Abbie has taken so many gorgeous photos of her foster kits by windows that we thought it would be a shame not to share them all! At Lady Dinah’s, the cats generally enjoy tuning in to “Pigeon TV” from their “catio” or watching passers-by, but in their foster homes they’ve been able to act as Neighbourhood Watch. We call this collection “A Room With a Mew” and we dedicate it to everyone who is following government guidelines by staying indoors:

Cats sitting on a windowsill. Rod and Cass practise social distancing while observing goings-on in the street.

Cats sitting in a window. Rodney's tail is voluminously fluffy and Cassandra's is draped elegantly over the windowsill.

Cats looking out of a window. We see Rodney's silhouette against the blinds as Cass stands on her back legs to see what he sees.

Cats sharing a windowsill. Rod and Cass look at the camera.

Cats sharing a windowsill. Rod and Cass have their back to the camera. They are watching another pair of cats through the glass.

1 comment

  • Very pleased to say Rodney and Cassandra have settled into their new home in Chesham, Buckinghamshire very nicely. They arrived on Easter Saturday, but Rodney promptly gave us the fright of our lives when he disappeared the following day. We’d got to the blind panic stage, when I heard movement from under the kitchen cabinets. That scare over, they’ve proved themselves the most entertaining pair, Rodney with his habit of fetching his feather toy to us when he wants a game, which cannot be denied him. Cassandra is a lot more self contained but very vocal in her demands when she want attention (food).
    Both are real people cats in the sense that they will always gravitate to the room wherever either of us are, and real attention seekers.
    We love them to bits – THANK YOU Lady Dinah’s and particularly fosterer Abbie for adding some character once again to our household, quiet since we said goodbye to our Russian Blues a couple of years ago.
    We look forward to our booked visit on Monday 9th, when we will bring a photo album.
    Charles and Liz

    by Charles Biggie

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