So, suppose I am living in a simulated reality. Does it matter? All realities are relative anyway, and since this one seems real enough most of the time, and overall is pretty enjoyable, I guess I can go along with it. However, I suspect that the sentient machines creating it may have got wind of the potential for rebellion caused by my routine-related ennui, and have decided to run the Distraction App. Someone has clicked the Change Cats icon.

Until two days ago, we were pretty settled at the Four Cat level. Min, Blue and Brown have maintained their delightful consistent presence as The House Cats, and Little Tom (the only survivor of Barn Cat’s April litter) has continued to occupy the Annexe (Barn), coming out at regular intervals to chase butterflies, scurry around Max’s wavering legs, and demand food and belly-scratching. Even Rufus and Stubbs were beginning to settle into the Four Cat scenario, and their Little-Tom-chasing activity was down to a minimum.

Then, the other evening, whilst I was oh-so-happily engaged in the fragrant task of scooping up the day’s offering of pig poo, Simon called to me from the yard, “Guess who’s back!”

I halted my poo-hockey game for a moment and considered the possibilities. Figuring it unlikely that we had a resurrection scenario on our hands (even though, in a simulated reality, anything is possible), I discounted the list of former Blanchetière occupants, now deceased. This left only two MIA chickens, and five AWOL cats. I hazarded a guess at the most recently absent of our feline friends.

“Little Cat?” I suggested, already imagining her little white boots curling fetchingly beneath her multi-coloured tabbiness as she took up her customary sleeping position on top of the wardrobe.

“Nope… it’s Barn Mother. And she is very fat!”

I hastily completed the poo-collection, tipping the heavy wet contents of the bucket onto the ever-growing pile in the corner of the pen, where it landed with a familiar thudding splat, and a familiar sense of amazement at just how much crap three pigs can produce in a day. I returned to the yard to find Simon stroking the loudly mewling, overly affectionate Barn Mother Cat, complete with yet another belly-full of potential babies. I groaned. Here we go again…. another few months of cat squabbles and dog-kitten-chasing antics, and almost certain kitten-deaths-from-illness on the horizon, before it all settles down to a steady state again. For one short moment I yearned for a return to routine.

Obviously the local cats think our barn is the maternity ward. And the adoption centre. Still never mind. We only have four cats. Even if Barn Mother delivers another five, chances are that no more than two will survive, and that if we get her spayed this time (argh!! another ninety euros), and she clears off as soon as her babies are old enough to fend for themselves, we’ll be left with a total of six, which is, after all, Not Too Ridiculous.


But yesterday morning, when I was in the barn putting yet more food in the bowl for Barn Mother, and trying to entice a wary Little Tom to eat from a different bowl nearby (Barn Mother has no time for her only surviving son – she biffed him at first returning contact, and he has kept a wary distance ever since), I detected a strange scurrying behind the animal feed bins. Mice maybe? Rats even? That would explain the timeandspace-bending speed at which the cat food was disappearing from the bowl each day.

Then later in the day, when I opened the top of the barn door to check the whereabouts of Little Tom, I was just in time to see a short pair of black legs and a little black tail disappearing into the gloom. I fetched Simon and the torch, and we explored the hidden corners where I had last seen the disappearing tail. And there, to our mixed horror, amazement and delight were two kittens.

But they were not new kittens. From our vast experience of kittenage gleaned over the last year or so, I concluded that these two little oiks were probably already about six to eight weeks old. How could that be? They are so obviously Barn Mother’s offspring, and yet she is so obviously still heavily pregnant. A quick bit of calculation confirmed that this was indeed possible. And since we haven’t seen her around these parts for quite a while, we must conclude that she has given birth to another litter elsewhere, and brought these two with her when she moved back here in readiness for the delivery of her next brood. My god! That woman is proliferant!

Well, well! Well! What can you do, eh? Clearly this cat business is totally out of our control, and we might as well just sit back, let Nature run its harsh and sometimes gruesome course, and enjoy whatever little bits of fluffy pleasure survive to share our space for a limited time.

And in the meantime, I shall review my uneasy relationship with routine, and consider whether it might not be such a Bad Thing after all.

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