October 16th 2009 7:00 pm
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Greetings My Loyal Subjects,
Today is a special day in our family. My adopted brother Tidge is 5 years old! Tidge joined our family in April 2005, aged six months. It seems a long time ago now. I was quite happy being the only cat in the household, though I missed my true brother, Jet, a lot. Jet died in October 2004 after being hit by a car, coincidentally around the day of Tidge's birthday. I had got used to being the only one, but after six months without Jet, my family were ready to welcome a new cat to the household and the perfect cat for them- a cute kitten that had a very sad story and needed love- came along at exactly the right time. In April 2005, my brother Stuart turned 13. My sister had received me and Jet as her 13th birthday present in January 2004, so giving Stuart a kitten too seemed ideal. It was fate.
Tidge had a far harder start in life than Jet and I did. We stayed with our Mum right up to the proper weaning age, after being handed in at a rescue centre with her, soon after birth. Tidge was rescued by workers at the same centre at three months old, after a neighbour of the house where he had been left heard him yowling. He was living wild in the garden of the house where, based on his pitiful condition, the rescue centre believe he was dumped by his old owners to fend for himself, when they fled the house in a midnight flit. Given that Tidge had every parasite that can live in or on a cat when he was found and based on his weight, they believe this may have happened when he was just weeks old. If not days old, even.
That he survived at all is a miracle. As well as the parasites, thousands of them, Tidge was dehydrated, malnourished and painfully thin, while living permamently outdoors during an extremely cold January. No one knows how he scavenged for food and water or managed to swallow it, as his teeth and gums were hugely affected by gum disease. The centre began to nurse him back to health and after three months they succeeded in making him suitable for rehoming to us. But it was very difficult. A number of times, he seemed near to death and a worker sat up all night with him wrapped in blankets on her lap. He was always ill somehow or other in the first few months after he joined us and really it was two years before he was healthy and as recovered as he ever would be. Two years!
The reason for Tidge's recovery was shocking. His teeth were a constant issue for him and forever becoming infected, when his gums would be red raw and he would drool constantly. Even in the better times, they were a disgusting yellow colour and his breath was so awful you would not believe it. After repeated visits to the vet for dentals, special toothpastes and antibiotics, the vet decided the only way forwards was the radical step of removing Tidge's teeth. He had just turned two. He had the surgery and was left with gums and only two of his teeth. His lower canines were left in as they support the jaw and removing them is very problematic. The rest were removed and apparently they were all loose and rotten.
To me, Tidge was at first an unwelcome intruder and subseqently, an irritant and a source of mess and smell. My sister-typing this- recalls how she accidentally allowed us to meet for the first time and we did not get on. This tetchy bonding was due partly to Tidge's poor health and partly the fact I had been the only cat for six months. Tidge also had none of the natural instincts of a cat, having not been raised by his mother. Mum had to teach him how to eat and use a litter tray and I, another cat, was like an alien to him. He had no idea how to interact with me and establishing a pecking order was hard.
Now, we get along fine. We don't have much to do with each other as we have such different personalities and preferences and different daily routines. Tidge is a house cat and I am not but when we're both in the mood, we will play and wrestle together and have mad games of chase and tag, as I once did with my brother. We will also sit and sleep near each other and rarely, will cuddle up. Tidge sometimes likes to try and wash me and I generally tolerate it now his breath doesn't stink. But I will put him in his place if he crosses a line. Mum breaks up our fights when they get aggressive. I have also been known to teach Tidge things. And to lead him astray.
Mum fondly recalls a time at our old house, where the kitchen window was a swing window which opened outwards from the bottom, with the largest gap- for feline entrance and exit purposes- at the sides. Dad's motorbike stood parked outside the window and I often used it to come and go, sitting on the bike to attract attention if the window was shut and I was locked out. Mum and my sister were chatting in the kitchen one day, Tidge sitting on the kitchen windowsill, looking out of the partially-open window, as I arrived home. I leapt up to the bike seat, in the middle of the window and startled Tidge a little. He put his nose up to where the window was open- in the middle where the gap was at its narrowest- and then sniffed a bit before trying to climb through to me.
Of course, he couldn't do it and he tried to nudge the window with his head to make the gap wider, but that didn't work either. As he looked up to me with a questioning look, our faces level on either side of the glass, I shuffled very slowly and deliberately along the motorbike to where the gap was wider at the side, sniffing and butting my head at the gap. My Mum and sister now realised that I was trying to show Tidge the best way out- insert an awww here, I'm the perfect big brother, I know- and they watched with interest. Tidge moved to sniff the larger gap so our noses almost touched but didn't quite catch on. He finally learnt the trick a week later, when I went out through the window and he followed on my tail.
As I said earlier, I have also been known to lead Tidge astray, entirely unintentionally, you understand. Tidge seldom ventures out during the day but is a lot braver at night. The logic of his adorably naive brain tells him that if he can't see the danger, it's not there. He likes to get a sniff of fresh air at night and will sometimes venture out for a roll in the grass. It was a summer night and because it was so warm and still and there were some very interesting noises in the air, we were both a little hyper.
We had a kind of manic giddy session, chasing invisible demons, playing hide and seek and wrestling. Then I had to get on to my serious work of the night, a few hours mousing on the nearby golf course, about ten minutes away. Tidge started following me as I darted through the alleys of our estate, which is laid out in the most illogical way, with the houses arranged in blocks, to the despair of delivery men. When he realised how far afield I was going, Tidge decided to head back and apparently he got lost. Mum found him half an hour later, after taking a torch and pounding the streets in her pyjamas, calling for him.
All of this happened before a crazy black and white mutt entered our lives. I'm sure Tidge will never forget the day the family brought him home for good, after the family they had fostered him for decided a few weeks after getting him back, that they didn't want him back after all. Tidge was the one who first saw he was back, coming downstairs to find him stood at the newly installed safety gate, peering out. He immediately took up residence under my brother's bed, where he stayed without once emerging for four days. Since then, Zack and Tidge have become more cordial and they will meet around the kitchen door, with the gate open and rub noses or stuff like that, as long as Zack doesn't get too excited. But I digress...
It's been fun to have a playmate again. And as scatter-brained and skittish as you are, you must be a tough little guy to survive all that you did, Tidge. It's nice to have you around.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LITTLE BROTHER!
Lots of love,
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