The antics, quirks and other endearing qualities of my animals: Part 3


Pedro is the most recent addition to our animal family and has proven no exception to the personality rule. We found him at the Animal Welfare League as a three month old kitten, terrorising his brother in the cage they shared. I must admit that being black was the first thing that attracted us to him – it wasn’t a pre-requisite, but it just seemed nice and neat to have three black animals in the family – and that’s what got us in the cage with him.

He and his brother were both black with white chests and paws and were exceedingly handsome. The brother perhaps more so – his markings were perfectly symmetrical, whereas Pedro had a curly white moustache on one side of his face and nothing on the other. But when we reached out to touch the brother, he shrank away from us in fright. Pedro, on the other hand, pushed into our hands and purred like a little chainsaw in between tumbling around on the floor and trying to engage his brother in play. Plus, his Mexican moustachio was just irresistable, so he came home with us.

All the way home, he kept sticking a little white paw out of the hole in the box, trying to get out and start causing havoc as soon as possible. Far from being afraid of the other animals, he was already hissing at Jedi through the hole before we’d even opened the box. It took a total of about 10 minutes before he got over the last of his hesitation and was weaving around Jedi’s legs and walking under his belly.

Pedro settled into our family in record time. Right from the start, he flatly refused to sleep anywhere but on our bed, preferably on our feet or in between our legs – whatever is the most irritating. He was bossing Wednesday around even before he’d exceeded her in height and weight. But his true love from day one has been Jedi. He idolises that dog and is always following him around – rolling on his back and reaching out for his legs when he walks past, walking back and forth under his chin when he’s lying down, rubbing his face against him. Every night when we get home the two of them sprint up and down the hallway, taking it in turns chasing each other, Ped doing rather spectacular burn-outs around the corners.

I’ve never known another cat with Ped’s voracious hunger. No matter how strictly we stick to the 7am breakfast and 6pm dinner ritual, he always starts campaigning loudly an hour beforehand. He yells constantly when he wants food – even if we spray him with the water thing to try to deter him, he just frowns and blinks at us and keeps yelling.

He has a love for toast, and sits beside Jedi every morning waiting to get a corner of my toast, which he chews up with as much enthusiasm as if I’d just handed him a chunk of meat. But what he really loves is bacon. As soon as the bacon comes out of the freezer, he’s at our feet, yelling for it. He watches the microwave defrosting it like it’s TV, and while we’re chopping it, he’s trying to climb onto the bench and swiping at it with a paw. In his most death-defying stunt, he leaps up towards the bacon and clonks Jedi under the chin with his head. The most patient dog in the world would be sorely tried by such an incident, but Jedi, bless him, only ever takes a step back, or walks around to the other side of whomever is chopping to maintain his view. A lesser cat would have lost his head by now, but Ped remains unpeturbed.

He has a voice exactly like a psychotic version of Dicky Knee, and his vocabulary is littered with four letter words that cannot be repeated here (and which he will probably have to abandon once there’s an impressionable young human in the house).

Most cats I’ve had have been generally tolerant of but not overly enamoured with people. Ped is an exception to this rule. He loves hanging out with us outside, whether he’s sitting on our laps in the sun, walking around talking to himself or trying to race Jedi. If he finds himself shut outside without us, he’ll wail incessantly at the door until we let him in.

Ped is a complete dag. When it’s hot, he sleeps on his back with his belly exposed and his body twisted. Also rare in a cat, he enjoys a belly rub and never attacks us. And speaking of his belly, it was only after we’d got him home that we discovered his coolest marking – a perfectly symmetrical white patch on his belly shaped exactly like a bat.

Pedro is the kind of cat I’ve always wanted – acts a lot like a dog, likes people, but still has that special cat attitude that lets you know exactly where you stand in the world – as a somewhat irritating, occasionally useful servant with a warm lap.

The antics, quirks and other endearing qualities of my animals: Part 2


Jedi is the love of my life, after my husband, of course. We got him from the RSPCA shelter as a three month old, bumbling puppy who was supposed to be a staffy/blue heeler cross. I don’t know whether this was just an educated guess on the RSPCA’s behalf, but he just kept getting bigger and bigger, and we really have no idea what combination of genes created him. He’s tall, athletic and black, with a blue chest and four blue feet. He looks kind of like a mix of labrador, kelpie, pointer, staffy and god knows what else.
George had never had a dog before and, while he knew that me and a dog was never going to be an either/or deal, he was a little apprehensive about it. But Jedi knew straight away who he had to charm. As soon as we met him, he crawled straight into George’s lap and gazed lovingly up at him, begging us to take him home. George was smitten in an instant, and is now his biggest fan.

We’ve never quite been able to work out whether Jedi is extremely smart, dumb as a box of hammers, or just a little unhinged. On the one hand, he knows with one tiny finger gesture from me to back away and go around the other side of the coffee table before he knocks over a glass of wine with his tail. He also knows when someone’s coming over even if we do nothing differently to normal.

But on the other hand, he has some very weird and unexplainable habits. When I walk towards the front door when one of the cats is waiting to be let out, he yelps, then races out the back and around to the side gate (which is solid, so he can’t see anything). Whenever the neighbours are in their back yard, he trots up and down and stares at the fence for hours. And I mean hours. All day, sometimes. When we put him out the back before going out, he circles on the spot until we shut the door.

Running is his favourite thing to do, and the beach is his favourite place in the world. He is completely and utterly obsessed with fetching things, particularly tennis balls, but sticks, pine cones or sea sponges will do at a pinch. He has an extensive vocabulary, which began with ‘woo woo woo!’ and has continued to expand the more we laugh at him.

He adores our cats, and is always gentle with them despite being rowdy. The youngest cat, Pedro, has grown up with him and they’re the best of mates. They occasionally play fight, as shown in this video I managed to get when Ped was quite young. They hang out together and follow each other around the house. They’ll even lick the same plate with no jealousy or aggression.

Jedi also loves water, especially after a vigorous session of ball/stick fetching, so during the warmer months we have a clam shell exactly for that purpose.

He’s the biggest wuss when it comes to pain – if he gets a three corner jack in his paw, he’ll stand and dangle his foot pathetically, begging one of us to help him. But as soon as we touch said paw, he gets all panicky and jerks it around, making the whole operation far more difficult and painful than it needs to be.

Jedi is tolerant of, but not generally keen on other dogs, with the exception of two beagles called Winston and Buddy. Winston in particular is Jedi’s all time hero, and he goes into raptures of joy whenever he sees him. No matter what, they never get angry at each other. They’ve even been known to sleep on the same bed together. Awww.

It’s safe to say that Jedi is very spoilt. He sleeps on the comfiest bed in the world, right next to our bed, and we take him with us on any errand we can. He has had a walk almost every day of his life, with the occasional exception of foul weather and injury. But despite all this, he’s very well mannered and generally pretty obedient. He’ll never steal the cats’ food or any other food (with the single exception of the New Year’s Eve when we had a party at our place and foolishly left three chicken carcasses on the kitchen bench – he held off for hours until he could no longer resist the temptation, leaving nothing but three lemon halves and a whole lot of grease on the kitchen floor). He usually comes when he’s called and does what he’s told, just for the pleasure of being called a good boy.

The best thing about Jedi is how much he loves us. He’s never happier than when he’s had a morning walk, a whole day of hanging out with us in the backyard in the sun, and ends the day curled up on his bed in the lounge room between us. He doesn’t even like it when we’re in separate rooms, and spends the whole time walking from one of us to the other, looking dejected. He’s a great companion, listening to every word we say and never answering back.

I could write all night and still not be able to cover all the awesome things about Jedi. Suffice it to say that he’s the greatest dog I’ve ever had, and he’ll be an important part of our little family until his final day.

P.S. I just walked towards the front of the house and he sprinted at high speed out the back, yelping all the way. Nutter.

The antics, quirks and other endearing qualities of my animals: Part 1

Since the day I was born I’ve been around animals. Apparently, at the ripe old age of two I chose our dog, Sally, from the animal shelter. The fact that this dog turned out to be borderline psychotic, chasing cars, eating snail bait and almost poisoning herself, biting anyone my dad got mad at, did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm and love for animals. Despite her crazy tendencies, that dog was the most loyal, gentle and loving friend any kid could hope to grow up with.

But it does seem that my first choice has set me up for a lifetime of selecting pets with weird quirks. I’m not sure if everyone’s pets have similar strange tendencies, but mine have all had very strong, very individual character traits. Anyone who thinks animals don’t have their own personalities should, quite frankly, be shot. Repeatedly.

If I went through every animal I’ve ever owned, these posts could be endless, so I’ll stick with those who are currently part of our family. This post is devoted to Wednesday, the first pet in my collection after I’d moved out of home.


She turned up on the street outside my friends’ place as a three month old kitten, a little black stray with vivid yellow eyes. She came into my life at precisely the right time, as I was about to spend a year living by myself, a move that turned out to be a challenging one for me, but one that I only got through with the company of my little black cat. George named her Wednesday, but for some unknown reason, we have only ever called her The Kitty.

Wednesday is the sweetest, prettiest cat you can imagine, and she’s been a charmer from the first. One day my neighbour confessed to me that, on her day off, Wednesday had been coming over to visit her for a few hours. This habit had begun when her young daughter said to her: ‘Mummy, the cat got in!’ As she held the door open for her.

Despite being almost 12 years old now, she still has a penchant for those little toy mice you can buy from the vet, scurrying around after them and doing backflips to try to catch them if you throw them over her head. She almost never drinks out of the bowl set aside for her and the other animals, but every night she tries to drink out of George’s water glass when we go to bed. He’s now taken to putting a beanie over the glass until he’s drunk enough that she can’t reach it.

Despite being almost excessively timid of every movement, loud noise, person or animal, Wednesday is very fond of our dog Jedi, who is at least ten times her size. Whenever he’s near her, she licks his ears and his face. Sometimes she’ll bat him on the nose if she believes he’s being impudent.

Our other, younger cat loves to terrorise her, and she is appropriately frightened by him, but when it’s time for them to be fed, she takes advantage of the distraction to sniff him all over and lick his face. She runs from him if he tries to chase her, but whenever he actually approaches her politely, she’ll glare at him and then give him a few slaps around the head.

She is obsessed with heat. She loves to roll in the driveway in the sun and catch cockroaches on warm evenings. Years ago she used to lie in front of the bar heater until she got so hot she’d get up, whimpering, turn around and bake her other side. She even enjoys licking our bowls when we’ve been eating something spicy.

She loves to be outside, but for some reason our backyard fills her with terror. Out in the real world, however, she’ll go anywhere. We used to go on midnight walks around the block with Jedi, and she would always follow us. Even now, when I bring her inside every night, she forces me to go through an elaborate game before she’ll allow herself to be caught. She always hangs out around the units next door, but if I walk straight up to her, she’ll skitter away at the last minute. Again and again. So if I ‘pretend’ that I’m just going for a walk, she’ll start following me up the footpath until we’ve gone an appropriate distance before I’m allowed to turn around and pick her up.

She has the softest, most pathetic meow – in fact, it’s more a ‘meep’ than a ‘meow’ – and yet somehow she manages to channel all the pain and despair of the world into it when she wants something. She’s got George wrapped around her paw, and where I’ll just ignore her until she gives up and finds somewhere to sleep, he gets all cut up by her apparent distress and does whatever she wants. I can just imagine what it’s going to be like if we have a daughter…

All our animals have their own distinctive voices, and Wednesday sounds just like the Queen of England. She doesn’t like to be disturbed when she’s made herself comfortable, even if she’s sitting on your chest two centimetres from your face and practically suffocating you. She never bites or scratches, but has the most effective expression of disdain I’ve ever encountered. May the gods save you if you ever dare to spray deodorant within a 10 metre radius of her.

She only likes the expensive-type food in the little tins, and within that narrow criteria, she prefers anything with fish, and definitely nothing that’s too chunky. She also likes the fresh meat you can buy in individual packaging, but she reserves the right to go on a hunger strike at any time. She also must eat in solitude, preferably in the bathroom with the door closed, or she spends 80% of the time looking over her shoulder to make sure no one is trying to kill her while she eats. No matter how much or how little I give her, she almost always leaves a bit in the bowl.

She finds cat litter demeaning and avoids using it at all costs. I think this is partly because she has a bit of a mental blank with the whole thing. Outside, she copes just fine, but put her in a litter tray and she doesn’t know how to cover it up. She’ll paw at the wall, at the ground outside the box, anything but the actual litter, all the while looking terribly confused about the whole affair.

Above all, Wednesday loves to sleep, in the warmest spot she can find. She’s been known to curl up in drawers, in the washing basket, inside bags or open suitcases, in the cupboard, on people’s chests, under the covers in our bed, on my pillow, on the laptop.

Wednesday – or, should I say, The Kitty – is the longest serving member of our household. She has the least demanding personality, but she nevertheless asserts her importance on a daily basis. Hoping she’ll be around for another twelve years.