It’s springtime, and those of us with a moggy or two think of helping the young birds in our gardens. Our cats like a portion of fast food from time to time (it’s just in their nature), so we try to help out if we can. By putting a bell collar on our cat we can give a birds a fair warning that somethings moving nearby – in this case a moggie on a mission. The stalking and final attack can be thwarted by the noisy jingle long before the final pounce.
It is amazing to find a reference to the ‘belling of a cat’ in an early poem: ‘Piers Ploughman’ by William Langland. This poem was written in or around 1377! Thats 1377 – I didn’t know they had pets back then!
Photograph: © Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr
The poem is said to be a significant work and is allegorical (meaning it is fictional but contains hidden meaning). In it, the poet falls asleep and has dreams and visions leading him to understand how to live a good life. So, of course, a verse or two mentioning a cat would be in there!
With that there ran a rout of rats at once,
And small mice with them more than thousand,
And came to a council for their common profit;
For a cat from the Court came when he liked
And o’er leaped them lightly and caught them at will,
Played with them perilously and pushed them about.
‘For dread of divers dangers we dare not look about;
If we grumble at his game he will attack us all,
Scratch us or clutch us and in his claws hold us,
So that we loathe life ere he lets us go.
Could we with any wit his will withstand
We might be lords above him and live at our ease.’
A rat of renown most ready of tongue
Said, as a sovereign help to himself:
‘I have seen men,’ quoth he ‘in the city of London
Bearing bright necklaces about their necks,
Some with collars of skilful work uncoupled they wander
Both in warrens and wastes wherever they
And otherwhile they are elsewhere as I tell you.
Were there a bell on their collars by Jesus, I think
Men might know where they went and get out of their way!
And right so,’ quoth that rat ‘reason me showeth
To buy a brass bell or one of bright silver
Make it fast to a collar for our common profit,
And hang it on the cat’s neck then we may hear
When he romps or rests or runneth to play.
And if he wants play then we may look out
And appear in his presence the while he play liketh,
And if he gets angry, beware and shun all his paths.’
All this rout of rats to this plan assented.
But though the bell was bought and on the collar hanged,
There was not a rat in the rout for all the realm of France
That dare bind on the bell about the
Nor hang it round her ears all England
They held themselves not bold and their counsel feeble,
Esteemed their labour as lost and all
their long plotting.
Good luck to all who are going to put a bell collar on your cats this spring.
Photograph: © Unknown, c/o The Mary Evans picture gallery
Now, Norman was quite a tough nut when it came to Fireworks Time, but we still didn’t let him out in the evening around this time of year (no matter how much he stalked the door and looked all dewy eyed and needy to get out).
As the bangs, crackles and thuds went on he barely raised his head off of his favourite cushion. Norman always maintained though that some of his cousins (and doggy friends) wern’t as strong as him, so he still hopes that you’re keeping your beloved four (and two) legged friends safe and warm.
Reader, here are some tips to keep Moggy and Pooch safe and sound at this time of year. O.k you’ve heard em all before, but doing some of this stuff might save a creature from months of trauma or even an injury… well worth a refresher then! … what say you?
Practical things you can do at firework time:
Provide a hiding place: When animals are scared they may want to hide somewhere. Ideally, you should move your pets to a calmer and quieter environment long before they get scared. Bring cats and dogs safely indoors where possible. If space is not available then use a shed, conservatory or garage as their shelter. (the latter is not ideal though as sound can be made louder in a garage which is empty). Anyway, make sure there’s a safe, dark place available anywhere in your home. An example might be a cupboard with the door left partially open, a soft blanket under a bed or under the stairs might also be good. Ideally somewhere they have hidden before such as in a cardboard box or on their usual pet bed, moved into the middle of the house perhaps.
Keep the noise down: Try and reduce the noise of the fireworks as much as possible by closing the curtains, shutting doors and windows and/or putting a TV or radio on with some soothing music or gentle talking.
Keep ’em indoors: Make sure ‘Mister Tiddles’ and ‘Rex’ have had their toilet breaks before it gets dark. If they are very nervous then plan to go early in the morning or to a quiet place you know (this will be long before the kids out for fun have started gathering). Also, keep outside windows and doors firmly shut to prevent escapes, just in case pets are startled by loud bangs and try to run away.
In the case of cats, keep the litter tray especially clean at this (sometimes) stressful time of year. If it’s not clean and up to scratch they will often choose (as most of you will know already) an inappropriate place instead.
For all our animal companions please make sure they are identifiable. Using a collar with a name tag on is not always comfortable (for cats anyway), but at this time of you might want to have a collar available (these are also useful to attach in the BBQ months when she might stray with the propspect of a free chicken drumstick – Our Norman is notorious for this, bringing all manner of chops and drumsticks to the back door here, and who can blame him!) Of course the modern way to identify your companion is to get him/her micro-chipped.
Visit the Vet: If your pet is particularly nervous then please contact your vet about the many possible temporary calming methods available, including clever pheromone sprays and mild sedatives which can help. However these may be a little pricey for some pockets!
Keep a distance:
Having your own family bonfire? You might want to think about buying fizzing or cascading fireworks and sparklers rather than the noisy bangers and ‘roman candles’. Also, be sure to build your bonfire and let off fireworks as far away from your home as possible, thus minimizing any adverse effects on confused and (sometimes) terrified animals indoors.
Check your bonfire area:
Of course this does not mean that other wild animals will not be affected so please always check in and around your bonfires before lighting them to ensure that no small animals are curled-up asleep inside. You might even want to make a bit of a natural racket to scare creatures away before you start the proceedings.
… and Relax:
Try to ignore the nervous behaviour of your animal companion as much as possible, but do let them sit by you if they so wish. If you give them too much attention when they’re scared you’ll be reinforcing the message that there is something to be scared of out there.
Reward: Giving a favourite treat (a nice piece of fish or a tender bone perhaps) may well help to keep their minds off the things going on outside. A little at a time might be a good idea, so they don’t over indulge. However, don’t be surprised if they don’t eat it! Above all when it’s all over and they re-emerge from their den, give them some extra fuss (and another treat) for having been so brave.
So, A very happy (and safe) Happy Guy Fawkes Night, Diwali, Independence Day, New Year …. to you all from Stormin’ Norman (god bless him up there), the new Little Oscar, and yours truly.
First Published: Nov 5th, 2011
Cat of the Month ~ September 2017
Blackie is a faithful 3 year old domestic cat with great hunting ability. She lives in County Roscommon in the republic of Ireland where life is peaceful and slow for most. But if you are a bird or a mouse you’d better have your wits about you when Blackie is about!
She is often seen depositing little presents on her cottage doorstep, accompanied by great howls of “look at me” and “a’rnt I a clever puss”.
Hey Osc, you could learn a thing or two from this here puss
In the doghouse at xmas
My human keepers are a little concerned that I am getting a bit chunky lately (hello…talk about pot and kettle!) so therefore my food is being carefully measured out into neat portions every day, to keep me on the straight and narrow.
The hunger pangs have become so bad that I have now had to take matters into my own paws by scouring the local neigbourhood to find bits ‘n dabs to supplement my enforced diet (…and it’s Christmas time too to boot…. Bah Humbug to the mean so’n so’s!)
No food up here
But what delights I have found and brought home? Bits (and sometimes even great chunks) of bread that the neighbours have left out for the birds (not that tasty but my it does fill my tum up nicely). No sooner have I gotten through the door with my spoil….that the said snack has been whipped off me tout-de-suite.
…or up here
Why, on this very day, when I reached up into the fridge and grabbed a small piece of chicken from my own special dish (which of course I recognise as ‘the blue stubby one’), I was told off in no uncertain terms and landed up in the dog house!
Still, I will never give up in my quest for more food – well I am a cat after all!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all you cats out there and may we all be fit and healthy enough to climb trees in 2017 to ours hearts content!
Merry Christmas Folks and Moggs … I just had a load o’ Turkey and now I’m sorted
Cat of the Month ~ November 2016
Ebony the cat is a gorgeous girl who enjoys having a clean, glossy coat and if that means that her humans have to help with the beauty equipment well so be it.
A girl just has to grab the opportunity for a free treatment to look her best!
Kitty is a stray cat who lives in the Roscommon area of Ireland. Here are some photos of Kitty and her recent offspring.
Cat(s) of the Month ~ September 2016