It was that special, one-off trip to the vet today for Otto and Loki, so that they could be 'chopped and chipped'.
I hate these sort of days anytime: I know it's the responsible thing to do; I know it'd best for their health – and for a peaceful life for us too: none of that spraying, less straying and less fighting. But I hate leaving them, knowing that they're actually about to undergo surgery.
With all this in mind, I'd booked the day off: the plan was to drop them off at the vet at 8.30am and then come back to do some much-needed spring cleaning while the house was rather quieter.
And so it went. Having not previously been in a cat basket, they were intrigued at first, but after being in it for a few minutes, less than impressed. And the cab ride had them both mewling. As I waited in the reception room at the vet, they had quietened completely: probably scared and confused.
I walked back via London Fields and Broadway Market, stopping off to pick up fresh bread and assorted cleaning items. And shortly after I'd got home, I realised that someone had tried to call me – the vet. This was enough to set off a mild (to say the least) panic and I called back straight away.
To hear some astonishing news.
The boys are not boys.
The boys are girls!
On the basis of what we'd been told when we got the furry duo, before and then on the day they arrived in our lives, we have happily assumed that the declaration of maleness was correct. After all, who distrusts someone who says they're a vet's assistant? And it's not easy to see obvious genitals at that age anyway.
Now admittedly, the thought had passed fleetingly through our minds that there didn't appear to be much for the vet to chop off, but then again, I wasn't actually tipping them upside down and poking around down there with a magnifying glass and torch.
Given that there is no need to worry about whether you clothe them in pink of blue, or whether they have to have dolls or toy cars, it doesn't actually make a blind bit of difference. But that still didn't stop it taking a very long time to sink in – followed by a panic over whether we should change their names. That, of course, would be far more confusing for them than any gender issues. Were there a feline Freud, he'd be hopping up and down right now at the thought of just what my confusion and apparent need to foist human ideas of gender (in the form of naming conventions) onto them would do to their little heads.
As it happens, according to at least one naming site on the interwebby, Loki can be used for girls. And there is Ota for girls. Which isn't that far removed from Otto. But Otto he – she – will remain. That's who he – she – is.
The point is, they just are. And it does rather make you realise how much of an artificial construct gender is and just how fussed humans get about it.
But I admit to feeling a bit daft that I hadn't spotted it before the vet found out.
Not, I'm relieved to say, that this is a unique situation. My pub landlady has a cat called Charlie who is female – pretty much the same thing happened, as I recall. There is a British musical called Charlie Girl and I have been known to croon the title song to Charlie while dancing with her on my shoulder. Perhaps that's why, for some years, I was one of the very few people who could pick her up without being scratched?
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's off to the vet to collect the girls.