Katz Tales: Fluffing up for frosty adventures

Tic Tac has fluffed up like a little polar bear. Photos: Ellen Whyte

We had blue sky yesterday. The sun shone too. Like a fool, I squealed with excitement, pulled on my shoes, and opened the door, intending to head outside. Tic Tac stood next to me, ears up, tail alert with interest. A second later, the blast of arctic cold had both of us bouncing back in horror.

We’ve been very lucky so far, with plenty of blue-sky days. However, while it looks inviting, Britain is cold. The meteorologists on weather reports talk blithely of mild weather and warm periods – when it’s 8°C!

Before our move, we worried about the cold. Our concern was not so much for the humans but for the cat members of our family.

When in doubt, consult an expert. I booked a chat with our vet, and he gave a comprehensive lecture on adaptation in Felis catus.

In a nutshell, cats are built to adapt to seasons. When the days grow shorter, their bodies register the change in sunlight hours. As this is a sign of winter, their endocrine system secretes hormones that regulate coat growth.

As the days grow shorter, kitties grow thicker coats that insulate them from the cold. When the days lengthen, their coats thin again.

Aren’t cats amazing? The vet cautioned that cats are just like people: Some adapt easily and others not.

Inkie has a layer of fat and a thick coat.Inkie has a layer of fat and a thick coat.

Inkie is young. Also, after that episode last year where he secretly hijacked a bag of cat biscuits and munched his way through a dozen secret meals a day, he has a layer of fat that won’t shift. So we were not concerned about him.

But Target, who is an old boy at 16, and Tic Tac – with her super elegant fine silky fur and small body – did concern us.

As we said last month, the cats spent a lot of time the first few weeks in the closet with an electric blanket and a tent built from batik.

When the furniture arrived, they began to explore the house. Although it’s only been 90 days since we left beautiful Malaysia, the cats are transforming.

Tic Tac has fluffed up and looks like a miniature polar bear. Her coat is now so rich that I can trail my fingers through it.

Target is bouncing about, tossing a pompom in the air, and challenging the other two to wrestling games. You’d never guess he was an old boy; he acts like a kitten. As for his fur, it has an extra thick glossy layer.

Target loves the feather bed.Target loves the feather bed.

Naughty Inkie has maintained his bulk and, in addition, his rich thick coat has a fine extra layer of short, insulating fur.

I’m in awe at the miracle of nature. Grateful too! However, yesterday Target got a sudden chilly spell.

Our house is warm, we run the central heating at 21°C day and night because we worry that Target may be cold.

You would think a warm house equals a warm cat. But yesterday afternoon he and Tic Tac were by the window, checking out the dogs that are walked immediately after lunch.

In Britain, windows let in the cold, even double-glazed, and Target had pressed himself right up against the glass so he could get a proper look at the doggies.

Tic Tac was fine. Her ears were a bit cool but her feet were warm. But Target was not. That blast of cold glass was too much, even for the extra fur. When I felt his ears and paws, they were like little icicles.

I scooped him up, reached for the purple plushy blanket that I use for snuggling in front of the television, and sat down with him, pulling the cover over both of us.

Normally Target adores a cuddle. However, Tic Tac decided she wanted to play. She bounced around, ears pinned back and her tail fluffed up, and attacked the pompom, meowing with joy. Target could not resist. He shot off my warm lap and was right there with her.

Kids warm themselves up by playing. But after an intense workout with the pompom, he sat down and there was another shiver.

This time, I put him straight into bed.

When we first moved in, Target hid in the cupboard and would not come to bed with us because he was afraid of our feather duvet.

While we humans adored our cover from the second we felt its warmth, Target decided the duvet was dangerous. He walked around it, hackles raised. When the feathers crackled, he growled.

However, seeing us curl up under it night after night, it sank in that maybe we were onto a good thing.

One night he snuck over and sat underneath an edge. When the warmth enveloped him, he purred. Within two purrs, he decided the duvet was a delight.

Now our bed is his kingdom. Target wriggles under the duvet after breakfast and has his morning snooze there. At night he curls up on our pillows, and slides underneath the covers when he fancies a bit more warmth.

So when I put him to bed, I got a happy purr. He was in there for half an hour, a proper catnap, and when he staggered out, he was toasty warm all over.

We’ve had another chilly incident since, just random shivers, but again, it was easily fixed with some plushy blanket time.

Thinking it over, I’ve realised that I still haven’t quite accepted that we are living in a cold country. I half expect there to be a blast of hot air every time I open a door or window.

Target is on a learning curve too. Given the excitement of the dogs passing by is an irresistible lure, he will be by the window again.

However, the next time our cool senior cat is chilly, he will remember that there’s a snuggly feather paradise waiting to warm cold paws.

And frankly, with the news of snow at the end of this week, I may be in there with him.

Adopt Me

Panther is a handsome male cat with the iconic Malaysian short tail. He is fully vaccinated and neutered.

As Panther was born on Feb 10, 2023, he is celebrating his birthday and Chinese New Year together.
Born in the Year of the Water Rabbit, Panther is very calm, friendly and affectionate. He would make a wonderful companion cat for a family, a couple, and for elderly people.
Photo: SPCA Penang/Lily LengPhoto: SPCA Penang/Lily Leng
Interested adopters, please contact SPCA Penang, Jalan Jeti Jelutong, Jelutong, 11600 Penang. Phone: 04-281 6559. Website https://spca-penang.net

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