They are an odd couple, Jasper and Kiwi. Jasper, the larger of the two cats, is a raspy tabby with a gnarled ear, stocky shoulders and missing front tooth. He will often engage you in conversation, his chirrupping meow rising at the end of each sentence to form a question. Awaiting your response, he fixes his dark, deep set eyes upon you, tucks his top lip into his gum and cocks his head.
Kiwi is a dainty little long haired cat, her coat a patchwork of ginger, brown and white. When she is grumpy she will whine constantly her slanted green eyes narrowing to a slit. At all other times she will purr, sending gentle vibrations through her muzzle and out into the world.
They were adopted as youngsters by an American family and have since travelled the world together. There next stop is Japan where the rigorous entry requirements mean Jasper and Kiwi must stay with me for two months while their owners go on ahead.
They settle in quickly, but Jaspers frustration at being unable to come and go as he pleases quickly manifests into constant meows. A street cat at heart he once once went missing for three months, roaming the streets of London, before nonchalantly returning home.
The cat protected balcony goes some way to assuage his wanderlust, and Jasper patrols the enclosed space like a soldier on duty. Kiwi takes her post as a sentry at the corner of the balcony, where she can easily view both directions of the street.
One morning I notice Jaspers long tail, upright and floating slowly past the cat tunnel. Curious, I take a look. Jasper is stalking a neighbourhood cat that is passing by below. Every now and then the cat stops and looks around. Jasper freezes. The cat wanders off uneasily, the weight of Jaspers glare on his back. Satisfied he has seen off imminent danger, Jasper resumes his patrol.
When darkness falls, Jasper takes a seat next to Kiwi on the cat tree, relaxing into the shadows. Totally at ease in each others company, their heads move in unison as they observe the comings and goings on the street below.
Jaspers and I have bonded. Both cats are vocal and often meow repeatedly. The only way to stop Jasper is to pick him up. His two front paws slip easily over my shoulder. Kiwi watches us, quiet for once as Jasper demands my attention. I walk him around the flat stroking his back, and rocking him gently like a big furry baby. I stop in front of the large kitchen window, and position Jasper so he can see out. He touches the glass with his paw and stares, transfixed over my shoulder. Kiwi goes off and sits on her own, and when I approach although not unfriendly, she is aloof. If I try to pick her up to comfort her, her meow escalates to a scream of alarm and I put her down instantly.
Kiwi watches Jasper constantly, always aware of his position in the flat. Occasionally they will fight, usually over the best spot on the armchair. Jasper stands over her and hisses. Kiwi refuses to budge, maintaining her reclining position, her back leg held up in a Kung fu stance against attack. The spat is over as quickly as it starts and they are soon side by side again.
My boyfriend has finally fashioned and improved the detachable kitty steps I designed. My furry guests can now climb up to the platform bed in the front room. With some encouragement Jasper is soon bounding up and down the steps without a problem. From the platform bed he can successfully hide while getting an unprecedented view of the street. He is overjoyed.
Unfortunately only the most agile of cats can use the kitty ladder, and Kiwi refuses to attempt it. When Kiwi’s constant meowing gets to much for Jasper he disappears up the steps to his equivalent of ‘the garden shed.’
Jasper spends hours in his hideaway and due to his persistent absences, Kiwi and I have got much closer. She now allows me to pick her up and comfort her and last night she slept at the top of my pillow, her little head touching mine.
This morning while hanging out the washing, I hear Kiwi meowing loudly on the balcony. I gather her up in my arms but she won't stop, so we go and look for Jasper. We soon find him snoozing in the bedroom.
I drop a still meowing Kiwi onto the bed. Immediately quiet, she walks up to Jasper and begins licking his head. Jasper graciously accepts her adoration.
Leaving the happy couple to it, I go back into the front room and continue my chores.