Friday, 27 August 2021

The Daring Young Chip

Chip has continued to grow and thrive. He has even started to eat solid food. When not sleeping, he spends plenty of time play-fighting with Minnie. The two cats chase madly around the back yard and end up tumbling together, biting and clawing each other. It’s very rough play, but they enjoy it. It also seems to signify a subtle change in their relationship, as Minnie has now become more like a big sister than his protective mother. This does have its dangers.

Chip tries to follow Minnie wherever she goes. Our back yard has a four foot rear wall. Minnie can leap from the back garden to the top of the wall in one bound. Chip was stuck at the bottom, looking longingly upward. But later on we saw him following her along the parapet. We had no idea of how he got up there. The next day we waited and watched. Minnie jumped to the top of the wall. Chip bobbed his head for a while, as if sizing up the wall. He gathered himself and leapt at the pebble-dashed wall. We thought he would fall, but he managed to cling to the vertical face about halfway up. He was hanging onto the pebbled surface with his claws. Then he began to climb. He pushed one paw above his head, grasped the wall with his claw and pulled himself up. In a series of adept rock-climbing moves he reached the parapet, then ran across to the waiting Minnie. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t actually seen it.

But getting down from the top of the four-foot wall was a stiffer challenge. Minnie leapt down without any difficulty. She sat in the garden below and called to Chip to follow her. Chip stood on the parapet and looked down, bobbing his head. Minnie called him. But he turned back from the edge and wailed. We thought we should go and lift him down. Then Chip walked gingerly along the parapet, glancing over the edge from time to time. Near to the far end of the wall, he stopped and peered down. Minnie called him again. Chip launched himself from the top of the wall. He flew through the air like a ginger missile and hit the flagstones with a sickening thud. Minnie ran over to him. We did too. Chip got up, shook himself and bounced away.

It was an incredible leap for a small kitten. Minnie is four times the size of Chip. The equivalent leap for her would be from the apex of the roof of a bungalow. Minnie could probably do this if she really had to. But in order to keep up with her, young Chip is making this huge leap several times a day. Frankly, we are concerned that he might fracture a limb. So we have now put a large upturned cardboard box on the flagstones where he leapt down yesterday. We hope that Chip will use it to break his headlong dive.

Saturday, 14 August 2021

The Chipster

May I introduce you to Chip, son of Minnie and the late Ginger Dog, who was born in our back yard. At one week old his eyes and ears opened. At two weeks he began to crawl. And at three weeks he began to walk. At first Chip could only stagger on shaky little legs. But with Minnie’s encouragement, he became stronger and steadier on his feet. We have been completely fascinated.

Chip was so tiny when he was born. Minnie could carry him easily in her mouth. For the first week he and Minnie nested behind the bins in our back yard. Chip was either sucking milk or sleeping. Minnie kept going by eating enormous amounts of food and drinking loads of the lactose-free milk we gave her. She has six nipples, but with only one kitten in the litter, Chip had no competition for feeds.

After a couple of evening visits from Ginger Dog’s brother, who we managed to scare away, Minnie became quite anxious and started hiding Chip away from view. Each morning we had to search for him, to make sure that he was still alive. Her favourite hiding places for Chip were between two large flowerpots and behind the central heating boiler. We then encouraged her to nest in a cardboard box in the garden shed, which she did.  The shed was more secure because it smelt of humans and no feral cat would be likely to venture in there. This worked well and visits to our back yard from ‘the brother’ became fewer and further between.

When Chip began to walk, Minnie took him out into the back yard. She sat about six feet away and called him. He sat perplexed. She called him again. He bobbed his head at the expanse of gravel and weeds he would have to negotiate to get to her.  Chip opened his mouth and wailed. She called him again. He just sat there and continued to wail. Minnie remained unmoved. After a very long period of contemplation, Chip got to his feet. He staggered a few steps and then fell. He lay amongst the weeds and wailed. Minnie called him again. He slowly got up and headed towards her, before falling again. After a couple more falls, he finally reached her. Minnie bent down and licked his ginger head and back. Then Chip got his reward, a feed of milk.

This tough love continued for a day or two, until he was more secure on his feet. In spite of it all, or perhaps because of it all, Chip has more than doubled in size. He could well become a bruiser.