T. and I have two cats, Gizmo and Liara. Both were about eight months when we got them, six months apart in 2014. Although they’re not related, we tend to refer to them as brother and sister, and that’s more or less how we treat them. They’re both British Shorthairs: Gizmo is a chocolate and cream colourpoint, and Liara is a sort of greyish-indigo–not quite the classic ‘British Blue’, but close. We love them both, and they’re both terrific pets who at times feel more like friends (I know this will sound insane to anyone who doesn’t have cats). British Shorthairs are quite a long-lived breed–that’s one of the reasons we chose them–but nevertheless, their lives fly by in relation to our own. I try not to think about it too much, but I thought that the process of writing about Gizmo and Liara, my relationship with them, and their place in my shared life with T., would be a good thing for me. Also, I enjoy reading about animals and their behaviour, so hopefully others out there may enjoy this, too.
Gizmo joined our family just over two years ago, in January 2014. We first contacted animal shelters, to see if we could re-home a cat that needed a family. Sadly, none of the shelters we approached thought we were suitable, because we don’t have an outdoor area. I know some people have an objection to keeping cats as ‘indoor-only’ pets, but some cats (like Gizmo) have been specifically bred to be as tame as possible, and have little interest in going outside; moreover, in the area we live in, cats are at the mercy of a dense population of foxes, dogs, traffic, and other cats. And let’s face it, in an urban environment there are enough people around that there’s a chance there will be humans who wish to cause harm to vulnerable animals, too. So in short, we were and are comfortable with the decision that our cats would be indoor-only, but the shelters didn’t think we would make for a good home.
That’s when we decided to buy a cat, and started researching pedigree cats. We had fairly specific requirements: we wanted a British Shorthair, preferably blue or chocolate/cream colourpoint, preferably male, and young but not a kitten. Both of us work full-time, and couldn’t stay home with a kitten. Maybe it was the time of year we were looking, but it was harder than we expected to find the perfect pet. Then we found him.
Gizmo was actually the first available cat we visited. It’s something of a cliche, but in this case absolutely true: we fell in love with Gizmo as soon as we met him. I was in a foul mood at the time, too, as we had to get the train up from London to Watford after work on a cold January evening, followed by a long bus journey and a walk through suburbia. But it was well worth it. Gizmo was about eight months old when we met him, and already had a well-developed personality. He happily got up into the lap of one of our hosts, allowed us to stroke him, and generally did a great job of making himself agreeable. We also had an insight into another part of his personality when he climbed the stairs to sniff at the door on the landing, behind which a couple of large-sounding dogs were barking vociferously. His owners explained to us that Gizmo liked the dogs and got on well with them.
Gizmo had been bred by experienced breeders as a pedigree cat and was registered with the GCCF (Governing Council of the Cat Fancy), but as a ‘non-active’ cat, ie, we wouldn’t be permitted to breed him and register his offspring as pedigree cats. That wasn’t an issue for us, as we wanted him as a pet, not as a breeding cat. He wasn’t neutered, but we expected we would have to take him for neutering and this was also the advice we received from his breeders and also from our vet. If you’re not planning to breed a cat, it’s generally thought to be the best thing to do. Gizmo’s owners took to us and thought that Gizmo would be well-suited to life as an indoor cat, and we were able to arrange to take him home at the weekend. We were ecstatic.
He’d actually been named Gizmo by his previous owners, but it just felt so appropriate for his appearance and his nature that we decided against changing it. He’s a really simple and uncomplicated cat, although he is somewhat unusual, especially for a British Shorthair. He’s extremely friendly and affectionate. He loves meeting new people and he loves company. Sure, he doesn’t always feel like it, but when he wants to be alone he’ll just quietly walk away and curl up in one of his favourite spots in another room. But much of the time he is happy to curl up on T.’s legs, especially if she gets out his favourite blanket. He’ll happily spend hours dozing in that position. From what we understand, this is quite unusual for his breed, as they usually like to relax next to you, rather than on top of you. That’s definitely the case with our other cat, Liara, who normally likes to sit next to or behind us.
If you pick Gizmo up, he goes completely limp, and will let you carry him around for ages without squirming or asking to be let down (again, literally the opposite of Liara). Hilariously, he’s terrified of heights, unless he’s being held, in which case it doesn’t matter how high up he is. Overall, he’s so friendly and accommodating that we’re often put in mind of what people say about Ragdolls, although he doesn’t really look like one. At night, he likes to sleep on the bed, especially if it’s cold, and will often sleep on top of the duvet between us, or on top of my feet/legs/knees; often getting up to give our noses or ears a sniff during the night and to settle down for some heavy purring next to our pillows. It is absolutely adorable and very comforting but not always conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Indeed, Gizmo’s generally quite a noisy cat. In particular, he really likes to talk. Ever since he moved in Gizmo has been talking to us morning, noon, and night, especially just before meal times. When I get home from work he comes and meets me at the stairs leading up to our flat and tells me about his day. If he finds a moth or bug around the flat, he’ll strike up a conversation with it for as long as it takes Liara to come and gobble it up. His volubility is another endearing part of his personality and another unusual trait for a British Shorthair, being much more reminiscent of a Siamese. His colouring is quite like a Siamese too, of course, and we wonder whether some Siamese DNA was introduced a few generations back; but his pedigree information is all there, and there’s no mention of it.
Gizmo’s toilet routine can be a bit noisy as well, partly because he sometimes miaows and runs around a lot before he goes, but also because he sometimes scratches around the litter tray for ages afterwards. He rarely covers it up, but will instead scratch every surface of the covered litter tray as well as the adjacent wall and the floor. He sort of knows he’s supposed to do something but not exactly sure what. When we got Liara we thought he might learn from her, but instead she’s picked up Gizmo’s bad habit, inevitably. If he goes at night then all the scratching and scraping around the tray can wake us up, which is a joy. But it’s basically impossible to have any kind of negative feeling associated with Gizmo, partly because he never seems to have any negative feelings toward anything himself. I’m able to get grumpy about pretty much anything but I’m never grumpy with him, or Liara for that matter.
One of the main reasons we got Liara was so that Gizmo would have some company when we’re at work or during the rare occasions when we go away. Introducing Liara to our home was a difficult process which took longer than we expected, and for a while it felt touch and go whether we would be able to keep her. One of the reasons it was so difficult was precisely because of Gizmo’s good nature. Whereas Liara was shy and scared and prone to lashing out, Gizmo was just curious and friendly–but too curious and too friendly, when a little less enthusiasm would probably have made it easier for the newcomer. It took a month of keeping them in separate rooms before they were calm enough to be in the same space, and a further month before we could leave them alone together. Since then they’ve been fine, but their behaviour has had the following pattern: Liara generally wants space and rarely initiates play or contact, while Gizmo regularly tries to start play or tries to groom her, which she’ll tolerate briefly before running away. It’s a shame that they don’t have the kind of close relationship we would like, but they get on well enough, and both of their lives are more interesting and less lonely with the other around.
I know that it’s the same for me, too.