Cats I Have Known – Ghengis

Ghengis was the son of our neighbour’s cat, Nursie, one of a litter of four. He had one sister, Kylie, a pretty tabby who proved to be a ruthless predator, and two ginger brothers, who moved together to a new home. Ghengis was the boldest of the kittens, the first to climb out of the cardboard box and relentlessly curious. It had already been decided that one of the kittens would come and live with us, and, as is probably clear by now, that kitten turned out to be Ghengis. Or, to give him his full name, Ghengis Deuteronomy Khat; I was inspired by a too-literal reading of T.S. Eliot’s The Naming Of Cats, and a children’s book whose name I can’t recall, in which all of the many cats in the story have biblical names.

Ghengis brought out Fluff‘s maternal side – confronted with a boisterous kitten she quickly administered a few paw-swipes to establish who was in charge, and she would sometimes lick him in the manner of a matronly nanny with a bit of spit on a hanky. For his part, Ghengis bore this attention with submissive grace, even when Fluff would more-or-less sit on him while squeezing into a cat bed designed for one kitty.

Ghengis was a talkative cat, and when he was little he did a lot of “chirruping”, either as a greeting or when he was playing happily, or was surprised. He grew out of it somewhat, but sometimes you could still hear an undercurrent of chirrup in his meows, particularly if he was in a demonstrative mood (which was actually quite a lot of the time). You could have “conversations” with Ghengis – if I said something in response to a meow, while looking directly at him, he would often meow back, and we could keep going till one of us got bored. I’m always curious about how we are perceived by other animals, especially the ones that share our homes; do they think we’re just big funny-looking members of their own species, who have difficulty talking? Or are we recognisably “other”? In this case I suspect I ascribe much more meaning to the conversations than did Ghengis – but it was certainly a form of communication, albeit a not very productive form. I do wonder what he thought was going on, though.

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