the world of the Ps

Health warning: this is not a post about textiles. It is a post about cats which, as everyone knows, is even better.

I thought I would update you on the life of the Ps (Polly and Phoebus) since they feature much less in my weaving posts than did Clio and Nala. This is mainly due to the change in my working life since I went back to full-time study in 2008. For two or three days a week, if not more, I am now working on my research from home, so the cats have developed a routine which revolves around the study. When I head off to the loom room they are not that bothered about accompanying me, although they do have one or two specialist interests in that part of the house — such as the winding of bobbins, a task which they feel needs feline intervention.

What I particularly like about these two cats is the fact that they clearly see the same world in two very different ways, so I will give them each their turn.

The World according to Phoebus

Phoebus is king. He is unquestionably the Highest Authority in all things and we are his subjects. In total there are four other key players in Phoebus’s realm:

1. Stuart is his chancellor, trusted advisor and next in line to the throne. That is, he is allowed to sit on the throne (or kitchen chair, sofa, etc) and warm it up before he moves over to give Phoebus his rightful place. Sometimes he even qualifies as throne-padding, when he doesn’t need to move over but gets sat on instead.

2 & 3. Polly and I are his slave-girls. I enjoy most-favoured slave-girl status so I get to provide his meals, open the door for him, comb the burrs out of his fur and so on. During the day I am also permitted to warm selected chairs for him. Polly is there either to be ignored or chased under the furniture according to his royal whim.

4. The cat from down the road, known to the humans of this household as “Son of Piebald” [1], is his Arch Enemy. Son of Piebald is at all costs to be thwarted in his evil plan to sit under the peonies in Phoebus’s realm. “At all costs” so far runs to nearly £400 in vet bills for uncountable injuries to eyes, ears and paws [2], while most-favoured slave-girl gets to administer antibiotics as required.

The only problem with Phoebus’s worldview is that it doesn’t work. The chancellor and slave-girls, not to mention the Arch Enemy, manifestly refuse to recognise their proper places in the order of things and this can be very upsetting to his Majesty. He knows How Things Should Be, but we are all too stupid to conform to his will. However, he is consoled by adult visitors and anyone passing by the front garden wall, with whom he flirts shamelessly: see how I am worshipped by these right-thinking people!

His only weakness is babies. He is terrified of babies. They reduce him to a petrified kitten and he is forced to hide in the wardrobe or under the bed until they have gone — even if that takes several days.

I must also acknowledge that for all his assertiveness in defending his realm, Phoebus is amazingly compliant with veterinary routine. As long as he is being cuddled, he will submit to pills, injections and all sorts of undignified things without so much as a meow of protest. He is so laid back about it that we can’t help feeling he might be missing the point. So he is possibly not the brainiest of moggies, but he is a big cuddly softie and our favourite golden boy.

The World according to Polly

Polly is an absolute darling of a cat but no-one — possibly including Polly herself — really has the faintest idea how she sees the world. She is two-and-a-half and lives to play [3].

There are special times in Polly’s day when playing is required, and she needs to have the right games at the right times. For instance, at 9 am Phoebus likes to go outside and check his peonies for intruders. This is the moment when Polly shouts “Weehee! Nobody but me and mummy in the house and we can play, play, play!!” She flies about the hall and the living room and hides herself behind items of furniture (if her feet don’t outpace her brain and take her right up the walls, which happens quite a lot). Mummy (that’s me) creeps towards her and then makes a sudden move — at which Polly jumps in the air and flies off to another hiding place. If mummy doesn’t join in as required then a little furry face appears round a corner to see where she has got to, and small indignant squeaks [4] are uttered. Mummy is also allowed to throw small objects (balls, scrunched up foil, cotton reels) down the hall and Polly will chase after them, pounce — and then dash off to hide behind nearest piece of furniture. Her pounces are spectacular and I am sorry not to be able to show you one. Polly is the duracell bunny of cats, in spite of her rotund little figure.

In the evening, however, Polly doesn’t want to play at hide-seek-and-chase, she likes to watch television. When the people have finished their dinner they sometimes choose to watch a DVD. But Polly doesn’t like “sometimes”, she likes routine. Every day after dinner, therefore, she leads the way to the living room and parks herself in front of the DVD player ready for action. The action she is waiting for is for the DVD player to come to life. First there is the moving text which cycles across the screen — this is fascinating! — and then there is the little drawer that opens and closes. It does this very quickly, but if Polly is even quicker she can pounce and sink her teeth into it. Trying to achieve this is enormous fun and some of this activity has already been documented here. Her pleasure is so evident that the people have been known to switch on the DVD player just so that Polly can enjoy the “Welcome to Toshiba” banner.

Polly is as deliciously plush as a cuddly toy and at night likes nothing better than a human armpit to snuggle into (plush notwithstanding, this is an amazingly uncomfortable way for a human to sleep). For daytime naps, however,  her current best friend is the handwoven throw which Clio used to favour. Kneading this throw sends Polly into an ecstasy of purring and she sniffs it, chews on it and paws at it for a long time before she is ready to settle down.

We’ve only observed one thing that makes Polly unhappy, and that is when Phoebus fails to observe the rules of her games — which he always does since he is following his own completely different set of rules. When she tries to draw him into a game of hide-seek-and-chase it is OK for about the first five seconds, but then he pounces on her which is so so wrong. And yet most of the time they live together quite harmoniously, sharing the same physical space and the same people-resource even though they interpret it quite differently.

Of course, the one thing that consistently unites them is the need to remind the staff to get their meals.

More weaving news soon — it has been a bit of a crazy week, with crises aplenty, but there has also been progress at the loom.

[1] You see for some years there was a black-and-white cat with rather piebald markings in the neighbourhood and we always referred to him as “Piebald”. Then he vanished and after a short while a new black-and-white cat appeared, whose markings are rather like the negative of Piebald’s. So naturally he is “Son of Piebald”.

[2] Yes, we do have insurance, but an incident requiring a single vet visit, an injection of painkiller and a course of antibiotics costs about £35 and the insurance excess is £50.

[3] This makes her very difficult to photograph: we have lots of blurry pictures and shots of just her tail as she disappears from view. On my to-do list is a proper Polly photoshoot with at least two humans involved, but my to-do list is rather long so it may take a while.

[4] Polly’s voice is the squeakiest of squeaks. She sounds like the Sandra Dickinson of the cat world and I have repeatedly warned her that this may lead to her not being taken seriously.

the world of the Ps” was posted by Cally on 18 Sept 2010 at

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2 Responses

  1. Evelyn Oldroyd
    | Reply

    such determined chins waiting…

  2. Trapunto
    | Reply

    Oh dear, the peony patrol sounds nerve wracking, but this is sweet. What did cats do before people learned to sit more or less still, all facing one direction, providing an assortment of uncluttered laps in the evening?

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