Copyright 2002, Robin Hill

Get ready to go "aaawwww"!

My wife, Penny, decided that there were not enough cats in the house, so contacted the Cats Protection League to see if they had any spare. Long story short, we got these two kittens. They're monozygotic twins (i.e. identical), male, black-and-white, supposedly sixteen weeks old but actually closer to fourteen weeks.

We had some debate as what to call them. The CPL had provisionally named them Bill and Ben, which we thought was about as original as a paper cup. The following names were considered and rejected: Phobos and Diemos (Penny pointed out that did we really want to have a couple of cats called Fear and Strife in the house?), Stan and Ollie or Buster and Harold (they were black and white, after all), Zeus and Apollo, Lewis and Clarke (after the explorers) and so on.

We finally settled on philosophers - Aristotle and Socrates. These seemed to fit, so 'Ari and Socs it is, then. So these are the first pictures of Aristotle and Socrates (Socrates has the larger white patches on his front feet).

The sitting-quietly one was after ten minutes of frantic running about while they were taking a quick breather, wondering what kind of mayhem to commit next. And the other is "Socrates the demon Cat From HELL! Buwahahaha! You are All DOOMED!"

We gave them a catnip mouse each last night and they discovered that they could get onto my chair by sinking their claws into my legs. But they both purr when you pick them up and it's like trying to handle warm, furry plasticine.

The original house cats, Alexander, Indiana and Leonie are just beginning to accept that there are new mogs in the place, but it's going to be a slow job to integrate them.

If you don't mind I'll mail this now so I can continue to bleed in peace...

The thing about experts, you tend to take them at face value. This is not always a good idea. I'll explain.

I recently told you about our acquiring a couple of Cats Protection League kittens, Ari and Socs. We were told by the CPL lady that they were both toms, identical markings and so on. Well, Ari was slightly larger than Socs, something we put down to the fact that Socs might have been the runt of the litter and wasn't developing quite as fast as his brother. We've had the kittens almost a week, now (they're nearly fifteen weeks old), and I was pondering on the fact that the superficial difference in size was beginning to be more noticeable - Ari is turning into a bit of a lump, Socs is svelte and lithe. So I wondered if Socs might be a little unwell -they both had good appetites, both were lively, alert and inquisitive, but Socs was definitely smaller than Ari.

So I did a few basic checks - keep an eye on them to check whether or not they were using their trays, examining stools for signs of parasites, bleeding or infection (it's remarkable how quickly you become an expert on examining kitten poo, you acquire a new vocabulary, like Gilly Johnson and her descriptions of wine, only where she has "lively, raspberry with a hint of nutmeg and an aftertaste of burnt toast", you start to use words like "putty with just a touch too much linseed oil, peanut butter and well-soaked cornflakes, three-day-old hard-boiled eggs with a smigdin of baby-barf".

So, with no signs of parasites, intestinal bleeding or the like, I have a look at the kittens themselves. Ari is soft and squirmy, like a puppy with a lot of energy to burn. Socs is wriggly and wiry, like an animatronic, one-sixth scale model of a panther with an over-enthusiastic crew of operators. Palpating for odd lumps or blockages turns up a blank, but, hold the phone, Ari has bumps at the back where Socs doesn't!

Suspicious. Have another look at Ari. Yep, definitely little boy bumps. Check out Socs again. Suspiciously flat. Socs, it transpires, is female.

Now, you would have thought that the CPL would have known a bit about moggies. Toms, they were, both of 'em. But it's not two toms, it's one bloke and one she-cat. One each, with and without nuts.

Penny reckons it was just Bast having a joke. We really wanted one of each, but a pair of toms had been a perfectly acceptable alternative. Perhaps the Gods had pulled a fast one, only revealing their true form after we'd gone through all the fuss of naming them.

Though I have a more sinister theory. They are really MIBs - Mogs In Black - alien scouts for a frighteningly superior race who are gathering pre-invasion information. They periodically have to return to the Mother Ship for debriefing and recharging, and are swapped-out with a duplicate agent in the meantime. But they must have had a mix-up. The original Socs was indeed male, but they swapped him for an almost-but-not-quite identical *female* replacement.

Hah! The alien invaders have made a crucial mistake. There was a glitch in the matrix and I have spotted it! Not only are there no spoons, but there are a few other important bits missing as well.

I am therefore expecting a pair of dark-suited individuals to turn up at the house in a black Ford POS and wielding a silver stick with a red light on the top. In order to retain this information for the good of mankind, I am making a note of all of the corroborating evidence and putting it in a safe place (click! p'weeee! flash!) lovely weather and I'll be going out tomorrow to have a nice day out.

Oh, hello, cat. Socs wants to play with mousie? Ari want to play with mousie? Good moggies. Have some more kitten bikkies.