Babies and kittens bring joy to your life

But T & C Apply ...

Eden shares her Budwig treat with a kitten

As Grandparents we spend quality time with our "Tweenies" and kitties

As Grandparents one is allowed to share a sampling of the "newbies" without being too involved in the daily and often disgusting procedures involved with neonatal requirements. We have been there, done it but it does not last forever. This stage can compromise the meaning between oxytocin (bonding titty love) and the dregs of stress hormones that enable one to survive the lack of sleep and the odour of vomit and dirty diapers.

Being a Mother, a Grandmother and a Foster Mother

I have two children (aged thirty plus) and know what is involved in rearing Homo Sapiens. I also have two grand children and have sympathy, if not empathy for their mother. But alas, I never knew what was involved in being a post-menopausal "mother" to a litter of 5 abandoned kittens. This is their story . I am lost in the bliss of oxytocin. Last week our foster kittens  (six-week old and able to lick themselves and move their bowels independently) met their brother and sister counterparts - Eden and Skye our Grandchildren for the first time. Breakfast, cooked by Grandpa at home. A sharing of cultures and traditions, a melting pot of favourite habits, things and food. Who knew that both loved Budwig juice from a bottle and anything that came out of a cellophane bag!

Over the years I have taken many pictures of our family, including the young children. Many of these treasured images have ended up as illustrations for articles I write, giving my work a very personal touch. I was reviewing a video I made using our cat, a few toys and my ever-growing family to tell a story about food. At the time Yindee our adult Siamese Male cat was very kind and gentle with the toys I used and loves posing for the camera. Yet with live kittens it was a different story at first because he was terrified of them! There was no hostility but he was not comfortable with these "new toys". He would politely move away from them and looked very awkward.

OxytocinCredit: Sue Visser

However,  Yindee seems to recognize the need to support the feline clan. He stays with the kittens and chases away any intruders that dare to come near them. After a few days he began to tolerate their sneaking up on him and their direct advances, including nudging and biting his tail. We made sure the cat and the kittens were offered the same food at the same time, lest His Majesty feel left out. Fortunately Yindee was not interested in mashed up kitty meat in jelly and he politely declined our offerings.  But he loved the attention and the brushing we gave to him and the baby kittens albeit with a hairbrush twice their size. We treated the hairbrush with catnip spray and the cats were more interested in sexual pheromones than aggressive or defensive overtones.

Yindee watches over the kittiesCredit: Sue Visser

To our relief, Yindee accepted his new family. Otherwise we would have had to find new homes for them. The prospect of him reverting to pisscat tactics was resolved. This had happened to a previous male cat we had when a new kitten was introduced. We kept the thoroughbred kitten, we gave away the adult street cat male. Although neutered, I notice that any male cat can let out a gush of evil smelling "protective marking fluid". It is usually carefully aimed at bookshelves, hotplates or expensive upholstery. 


1 The oxytocin effect - trust, love, confidence

Two worlds come togetherCredit: Sue Visser

The twins are nearly two years old and their excitement at sharing breakfast with us is a sight to behold. A weekly treat to do the things they love. Rearranging the furniture, sitting themselves around our dining room table and inspecting the contents of the fruit bowl. This time round they noticed two newcomers. Tigger and Sheba, our 6 week old kittens. It was a mutual indulgence in "aaa sweet!" Oxytocin, the overwhelming feeling of trust hormones making us want to hug the Universe. This hormone is associated with child rearing and breastfeeding but it generates confidence, trust, relaxation and well-being. It induces sleep - as we know, after a good cuddle. This explains why I usually want to pass out after our babysitting extravaganzas. That warm, mellow feeling when all the little ones take a siesta on a full and happy stomach.

2 The PAVLOV effect - common to neonates:

 The discovery of classical conditioning owes its principle to observations of dogs that salivated in response to a sound associated with food. We do not all salivate when a bell rings but certain sounds are easy to associate with food. Take the crackle of cellophane, for instance. Babies perk up and expect a morsel of salty or sugary junk food, descending from heaven. I pack healthy treats in discarded packets that once contained commercial potato crisps combined with trans-fatty toxins and alien chemicals for this reason. The carrot sticks and slices of apple come out of a chips packet! For babies this is the gold standard, especially if they can add their own extra salt to the snack. For kittens, anything that falls to the ground from the plates of human toddlers is "panis angelicus", the bread of Heaven. The kittens ate their fill of rice cakes, gluten-free toast and Grandpa's special omelette, complete with tomato sauce and scraps of salad with mayonnaise. (No diarrhoea in the litter box - thank goodness they have grown out of that!)

3 The magical sound that calls little people to action

Ting-ting-ting-ting! I tap the teaspoon against the two saucers of delicious kitty food. Their favourite meaty chunks (adult senior cat food). The two kittens appear out of nowhere and bounce towards it like two pom poms. Tails erect, purring and trembling with expectation. The twins do not behave like that, unless their Mother is opening a cellophane packet. There is no way she can mute the sound, even if she is wrapping up something for the garbage can. Eden and Skye will come to investigate - just in case there are chocolates in the offing. I introduced a new Pavlov routine. A rattling sound, made by chocolate "ants" being shaken from a small container into my hand. Whenever I need them do change direction or stop what they are doing, I use this strategy. It is easier than asking them to turn around or to do something new and having to endure a tantrum or a meltdown. Somehow chocolate shuts down all contentious issues. "Yum yum" says Eden and offers a tiny chocolate morsel to the kittens. Then she goes upstairs to raid the bowl of Yindee's Royal Canin Siamese cat pellets. No wonder her mother says her overloaded nappy smells like a kitty litter box. You are what you eat.  

4 The love of toys and playing games

Kittens spend most of their time playing and romping around between sleeping for long periods during the night and day. From the beginning I decided that I was not going to wake them up every 2 hours to feed them throughout the night. Instead we provided warmth and security by means of an infra-red lamp that acted like a surrogate mother. The result is that they do not scream when they wake up. They spend their time playing with each other and don't demand food - or else "wwwaaahhhhh!". I wish I had known that 40 years ago. Security and warmth are more important than food. The cats play with all sorts of junk, so do the twins. Their favourites are bottle tops, sea shells, pieces of foil and empty bottles in preference to Fisher Price or Mattel. I do not approve of toys that talk with American accents or have flashing lights. Imagination is unleashed by chasing things around the floor and by using ordinary objects in extraordinary ways. Children and kittens can do this endlessly. Then they curl up and fall asleep, bathed in a haze of oxytocin.

My favourite occupation is watching little people, step by step

Another stepCredit: Sue Visser