No, I’m not pregnant, but I am in danger of turning into a crazy cat woman! I love cats, but I never planned on caring for three of them and I’m not particularly pro-cats in New Zealand, since they are an introduced species. New Zealand’s only known native land mammal is the bat. The Maoris called them ‘peka-peka’ and they were the subject of an old native proverb predicting evil. They are named, respectively, the long-tailed and short-tailed bat.
New Zealand native species evolved without mammal predators such as cats, dogs and ferrets. Therefore native species didn’t develop defences (like flying) to protect themselves against mammal predators. When mammal predators were brought to New Zealand by people they hunted native species, particularly birds and big insects. The populations of some native species fell, some species became extinct and many species have become endangered.
So when a stray-cat turns up on my doorstep I feel obliged to take it in and make sure I can help limit the damage it will otherwise inflict on native species. The Department of Conservation (DOC) provide the following advice on managing pet cats to assist on balancing the forces of nature:
# Have your cat neutered or spayed so they can’t produce unwanted kittens.
# Keep your cat well fed and have moving toys for it to play with, so it is less inclined to chase birds etc.
# Keep your cat indoors overnight so nocturnal insects and lizards have free reign of your garden.
Our first cat, Simba, was a stray in Wellington’s Botanic Gardens, where I worked for WWF-New Zealand (the conservation organisation). My husband and I had just bought our first New Zealand home and this cat was in dire need of a good home. The then Conservation Director had a few thoughts of his own as to what should happen to this cat (and needless to say he wouldn’t have been a hit with The Cats Protection League!). Simba is all character and a typical ginger tom. He’s most certainly not a lap-cat, preferring to hide under beds and leap out at unsuspecting ankles. We believe he is a dog trapped in a cat’s body.
Simba (left) and Blacky:
Our second cat, Blacky (the name doesn’t really suit her, but this was Charlotte’s choice), arrived on the doorstep of our second home a month after we’d moved in. Dan says she’s a cat that doesn’t work. I call her a purring rug. She will let the children pick her up, fuss over her extensively and never wave a paw. She purrs at the slightest hint of affection.
The third? Simba seems to approve.
And the third? Well, we’re not entirely sure if this gorgeous kitten is ours yet. We’ve reported the kitten on ‘Lost and Found‘ and are planning a local mail-box drop. If no owner comes forth then it looks like our cat food bill is going up, as are our vets bills! Charlotte is in favour of the name ‘Moonlight’ after a beautiful book, called A Kitten Called Moonlight, about a little girl called (coincidentally) Charlotte finding a lost kitten and giving it a new home.
What do Simba and Blacky think about all this? Simba seems in favour of the kitten as it is male and a ginger like him. Blacky is not at all pleased at the kitten seems to have the hots for her. This must be karma for all the times Blacky has tried to push Simba off his own turf.
‘Moonlight’ (left) and Sophie with Blacky and Simba: