Boudicca has decided that we owe her. Big time. And she has now decided just how she is going to collect.
We will play with her. With her fish-on-a-stick toy. And we will do so far more often than ever before.
Boudicca came to us five years ago last November – the fifth, to be precise. It was a Saturday and she was utterly unconcerned by fireworks going off. She didn't even seem particularly worried by cars passing as I walked home with her in a basket.
She was a tiny ball of fluff with a lot of attitude: only six weeks old – although we didn't realise quite how young she was at the time.
We already had two cats at the time – Mack and Trickie. Mack had been with us for around 13 years. His sister, Mabel (yes, they were named after the Broadway show) had died suddenly a few years earlier and, convinced that he was lonely, we'd adopted Trickie from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, within a couple of months of Mabel's death.
Trick was a soppy thing of around 10. She'd lived with an old man until his death, when his son took her to live with his family. But she didn't get on with the children or the dogs and they'd had to make the decision to take her for rehoming. She'd been at Battersea for almost five weeks – close to a record – and as we walked between the 'kitty cabins', she leapt up and drooled over the top of the door in a desperate attempt to get our attention.
She passed the 'cat test' (to check whether cats get on with other felines), although I strongly suspect that she deliberately faked it as part of her plan to escape from Stalug Luft Battersea. That, and her obvious instant affection for The Other Half did the trick, and Trickie came home with us, even though we'd set out with the intention of getting a much younger cat.
Mack was appalled. He threw hissing fits – but never anything more – retired to the bedroom to sulk for days and went through a stage of what the books call 'inappropriate urinating'. This was one pissed-off cat being pissy.
We had followed the Battersea advice on introducing a new cat to a household: shut them in one room for a a couple days while they get used to that. Trick loved the kitchen, while Mack resented not being able to go in there.
He got over it and they learnt to rub along. And then, just over two years later, I was in my local pub just as the landlady had agreed to take a kitten from one of her regulars. There were further kittens left in the litter. I told The Other Half later – we'd always felt a bit cheated with Mack and Mabel, since the colleague who gave them to us kept them until they were 12 weeks old (even though we'd booked them well before they were born). We never really felt that we'd had that tiny kittenhood experience. This seemed like a good opportunity.
We sat down, discussed whether we could cope with three cats in our flat and also whether we could cope financially. We concluded that we could – and I got in touch with the kittens' owner to say we'd take one.
We actually took Boudi on approval – not that there was ever much risk of us changing our minds. She leapt out of the basket and straight into a bookcase, hiding behind a few books, emitting little kitten hisses when either of us tried to coax her out. Some hours later, I managed to encourage her a bit, using a finger dipped in cat food.
Over the coming days, she gradually came further and further out of hiding. On the second afternoon, she was creeping around the corner of the sofa, when she spotted Trickie, sitting nonchalantly in the basket, which we'd left out in case our newcomer wanted to use it as a sort of den while she got used to the place. She sped towards the basket – possibly thinking it was her mother – and then ground to a halt just in front of it, spitting and hissing, before running away.
To say that Trick wasn't impressed would be an understatement. It set the tenor for their relationship. Trickie, despite being full grown, was constantly irritated by the bouncing kitten that would leap up in front her doing the 'look at how big I am' pose. With Mack, she was an a bit of awe, as though he were a worshipped big brother – and he never seemed remotely bothered by her arrival.
In the meantime, Trickie would land on The Other Half's should, wrap herself around him and complain that she was being made to spend time with cats. I'm convinced that she was telling him that she wasn't really one of them – but a small person in a fur coat.
So that was Boudi's introduction to the household. And one has a certain sense of karma that after teasing Trick, she's finding herself bemused by miniature furballs. Loki simply cannot resist following her: earlier today she went to sit in a window. So Loki followed – clearly convinced that it would be A Good Thing to join her. Much hissing and growling, plus a clump or two, followed. He's also intrigued by her tail too.
Otto doesn't seem as determined to wind her up – but when she's decided to clump him, he falls into classic cat submission position – and then gives a little hiss back. It's like telling her that she's not really scary – and he's going to get bigger and bigger as the days go by.
So, we are starting to pay. Her choice of payment is being made clear by greatly increased attempts to open the draw containing her favourite toy. And then sitting and staring long and hard at whichever of her servants is around at the time.
The Queen B is working hard to reassert her authority.