This is Sam. We tend to think of him as being the direct successor to Sarge (see next page), since a few weeks after Sarge died, I spotted this little kitten for sale at a garage sale who was the spitting image of his predecessor - very similar markings, almost identical manner and body language (allowing for age differences), and even a similar sounding name. Of course, we had to take him home.
Sam is a very complex cat, and often it seems as though he has a split personality. Most of the time he is quiet, shy of strangers (but very affectionate to the rest of the household), and somewhat sleepy and un-energetic. In his "quiet" phase he sometimes "talks" to me - chirping and chirring at me, and waiting for me to respond. Sam and I have had some long (if rather content-free) conversations this way. However, from time to time the tip of his tail will twitch, he will get a wicked glint in his eye and it will be on for young and old! No foot will be safe, and we will be treated to the sight of Sam charging up and down the hallway with the grace of a small elephant, leaping on any other cat who comes near with the feline equivalent of a wild grin.
Oh, and Sam is the only cat I've met who snores. Loudly.
Here we have Ben, also known from time as "The Copper Gazellopod". Ben is the quintessential feline poseur: graceful, elegant and handsome (and he knows it). One of his favourite pastimes is standing on the plinth surrounding the swimming pool and Looking Statuesque. I'm sure he selects the poses deliberately for their effect. This photo was taken some years ago, and he is a little more old and grizzled now; but it does show the sort of graceful posture that Ben will choose if he thinks somebody might be watching.
While he's rather a stay-at-home cat now, in his wild youth he was a bit of a wanderer. He'd vanish off for three or four days on end, then return with a "did you miss me?" air. There was one occasion when this backfired on him, however. He took off on one of his jaunts, and failed to return. Some while passed and he still failed to return. We did all the usual things one does on the occasion of a missing cat - asked all the neighbours if they'd seen him, stuck pictures of him in the windows of nearby shops, contacted the local council and various animal shelters in case someone had found him... all to no avail. We finally decided he must have taken one wrong turn too many and would not be back. When the opportunity arose to acquire two more cats (Captain Midnight and Claude) we did so. It was at this point that Ben decided to make his presence known, and we got a phone call from someone several suburbs away, saying "I think we've got your cat". We retrieved him, and when he arrived home (after a six month absence) to find all these interlopers in his house, he was deeply offended, and spent weeks stalking around huffily and not talking to us (or them). But he got over it, and now they all get on famously (except the Captain, but more of him on the next page).
And this is Scrofula, also known as Scroffi or Scrofalot (if we're feeling silly). This is a cat with Attitude, and lots of it. She randomly thumps other cats (and occasionally dogs) as they walk past, just to remind them who's in charge. She sprays on the furniture, a pastime I had previously thought largely restricted to non-neutered tomcats. My dog Juno is absolutely terrified of Scroffi, and has been many times trapped in a room by virtue of Scroffi standing in the doorway glowering at her.
Scroffi is an aggressively affectionate cat to people she likes. When I'm working on the computer and she feels like a bit of attention, she'll lever herself onto my lap by embedding her claws into my thighs and hauling herself up by main strength. Then she'll vigorously headbutt my chest and stomach, purring loudly all the while, and finish the performance by rolling energetically on my legs with her feet in the air, until she gets disoriented and falls off. And then we get to do it all again [sigh]!
If Claude (full name: Claude DePussy) were a human being, I think he'd be a lot like characters played by Brendan Fraser (the guy who recently played "George of the Jungle") - amiable, good natured, a bit square-jawed and very, very thick. Claude wanders around with a vacuously friendly look on his face, and makes a point of standing anywhere that he thinks might be a good place to get attention. Usually this amounts to "in front of my feet while I'm walking across the kitchen carrying a pot of something hot" or "just behind the wheels of the computer chair while I'm working". When the inevitable occurs, he puts on a Tragified expression and runs away. And comes back again five minutes later to repeat the performance. Truly, I'm often amazed that Claude isn't perpetually black and blue.
And finally we have Flame. Flame and his sister Ash (described on the next page) were the offspring of Spook, a cat belonging to friends of mine. I have often wondered exactly what the father must have been, since Spook is such a tiny, delicate little thing whereas the first comment made by people seeing Flame is often something like "Good grief, that's a big cat!" I sometimes suspect that there may be Siberian Steppe Cat somewhere in his ancestry.
Flame can be a bit shy until he gets to know someone, but once they receive his seal of approval he will relax with them and show them his true nature - floofy. In case you're wondering what "floofy" means, it is a term I coined after living with Flame, and has connotations of relaxed, uninhibited, sprawly and very, very furry. He exudes clouds of fur wherever he goes. He sheds enough fur in a week that if it were all spun and knitted into jumpers, it would clothe the small Tibetan village of your choice. Unfortunately, most of Flame's unattached fur doesn't go to Tibet - it goes under the kitchen table, or it distributes itself around the loungeroom in ever-growing wads, or it attaches in adhesive clumps to the seats of armchairs, there to lurk and wait for unsuspecting guests in dark clothes to sit down.
Anybody want some nice orange wadding to stuff quilts with? I've got a lot of it...