What’s in a name – or two

I have really been quite unkind nicknaming our beautiful, black cat Sumo.


His name actually came about some time after he found us. Yes, he was a stray and, if you have read my previous blogs you’ll know that I’m a sucker when it comes down to caring for strays.
Our house in Spain is not isolated, but it’s not on in a town or a village either. It’s not even on a main road. About a kilometre away from us there is a smallholding that used to be inhabited by a couple who, over time developed a real menagerie. They had dogs, cats, chickens, Vietnamese pot bellied pigs, a pony, peacocks, ducks and geese.

I think I am not being too speculative when I say they moved to the little log cabin with it’s large plot, to escape scrutiny (them being gay in a very traditional area). However, they just didn’t grasp that pets are part of your family and should not be discarded when you think you need a  change. That is exactly what happened. The guys wanted more ‘fun’ and to see a bit more life. They rented an apartment, put the country property up for sale and sold the animals they could. What they couldn’t sell…they left. Cats, peacocks and a dog. The dog was taken on by a neighbour and the peacocks and cats were left to their own devices.

The cats obviously wandered in their search for food and they eventually found us. Four kittens and their mother were regular callers. The mother was actually beyond domestication and would have nothing to do with us. All of the kittens were very shy, however, one evening we came in from the garden and found one of them, a little black thing, in the kitchen eating Lewis and JB’s food. I have never seen anything eat so much or as quickly as he did. He wouldn’t let us near him but night after night, day after day he came back and ate as though he’d never seen food before. It was as if every meal was his last. My husband called him Blackie, just because he was black. When we sent pictures of him to our granddaughter, she called him Zagrios, however we didn’t think he looked quite as exotic as this name sounded so it was shortened to Zag but it didn’t stick. We also call him’Short Stuff’ on occasion because he is a very ‘squat’ cat with a low centre of gravity. However, it is his back legs and paws that made us settle on the name ‘Sumo’.  They are permanently at ‘ten to two’ and as he walks with his belly low to the ground, he looks like an advancing sumo wrestler.

He eventually became a bit more friendly but typically chose his moments. ‘You will stroke me when I want you to’ sort of thing. When we could eventually pick him up, we took him to the vets and had him chipped, vaccinated, wormed, neutered and given anti tick treatment before eventually bringing him to the UK. He is quite happy being an urban cat. I think the temperature suits him better. I remember having to take Beccs, our other black cat (still missing) to the vets with heat stroke. The temperatures in Spain at this time of year can be really unbearable. From a human point of view, thank goodness for the swimming pool but that doesnt help the cat!

I should point out that I am aware that neutered cats have a tendency to put on weight. Blackie prefers dry food and we give him Iams with chicken/rice. We have tried every make going since he developed food fads but since we introduced him to Iams some months ago, he has been very happy with it. His coat is beautiful, his weight is steady although he is very solid and his breath doesn’t smell.

Does my bum look big or something?
Does my bum look big or something?

JB on the other hand prefers wet food. He will only eat Sheba or Gourmet Perle meat varieties in jelly. He requires petting at every opportune moment and if you don’t comply with his wishes, he makes his displeasure known. He is the loudest cat we have ever had.



cats, coffee and cash

How clean is your kitchen? If it looks clean, is that good enough? Whatever you do to clean in your kitchen, there are a few simple things that can help. Kitchens, like anywhere else are easier to keep clean if they are actually cleanable. Does that sound daft? It’s not really.

Firstly, it’s important to avoid clutter. A place for everything and everything in its place is a great goal to have. Don’t use worktops as storage areas if it can be avoided. If they are covered in equipment such as toasters, mixers, storage coontainers, kettles and coffee makers, the potential for contamination and the need for regular cleaning are increased.

Do you need to wipe down the surfaces with disinfectant? Well, that depends. Surfaces shuld be kept clean and free from dust and other contaminants. Wipe them down regularly with a cloth rinsed in hot soapy water. I have cats and I don’t know if at night they investigate my kitchen surfaces. The likelihood is that they do, so I use a hypochlorite solution (e.g. Milton or Domestos)to disinfect, or an antibacterial spray and wipe surfaces down before I prepare food in a morning.

my hands are clean!
Look, they’re clean!



Apparently, there are some ways to discourage your cats from getting up on to those kitchen worktops…they can’t walk on kitchen (tin foil), they can’t stand bubble wrap and they can’t stand the smell of oranges, so if you get an orange kitchen cleaner they won’t get up there ! If you’re really concerned about them jumping up there (and it’s only natural) try one of the above  and let us know what happens.

The cloth that I use may be a disposable one but I don’t change it on a daily basis, rather at the end of the day I soak it in bleach for ten minutes, rinse and then leave to dry overnight. I dispose of it at the end of the week, or sooner if it becomes grossly contaminated or the fabric begins to deteriorate. If it’s a cotton cloth I treat it the same way on a daily basis but wash it in the machine once a week. Research has identified dish cloths as being harbours of potential pathogens but I like to take a common sense view when dealing with them.One thing you can be sure of, if your dish cloth begins to smell, the bacteria levels are…disturbing. Soak it in a bleach solution first, then wash in the machine and leave to dry (preferably on a line outside where the UV rays help to kill any bacteria left) or, throw it out and buy a new one!

Your sink in the kitchen is also a potential reservoir of infection, Sinks should be kept clean and free from limescale. Rinse debris away and then use a disposable coth and hot soapy water to remove grease. A descaler may be needed periodically to remove limescale but not bleach, this just takes colour out of the problem. Limescale presents a nice uneven surface in which germs can breed and it can’t be guaranteed that bleach gets in to all those little crevices, so don’t bother. Use a descaler, leave for the allotted time, rinse with hot soapy water, then dry. You should be left with a nice even surface that is cleanable


FAT TOM…need warmth, moisture, food and time to reproduce (they may or may not require oxygen, and some do prefer a slightly acidic environment but not all) so if you remove one or more of those factors then they can’t.Drying is very important in breaking the chain of infection, not only in surface cleaning but handwashing also.Similar attention should be paid to taps and the drainer. Never put bleach down the sink , for all sorts of reasons.It won’t help unblock sinks, it won’t get rid of smells but it will interfere with the environmental bacteria down there which helps to keep unwanted organisms in low numbers and the drain smell free. If you have a septic tank, bleach should only be used in small amounts so as not to interfere with the bacteria levels necessary for breaking down organic waste.

More often than not, it’s not your kitchen you should be worried about but those of places where you and many others go to eat, drink, socialise. One of my biggest complaints is the failure of these big franchises to monitor hygiene standards in their establishments. I went for a coffee and snack with my sister the other day. It was to a coffee shop in Hull, near the Ice Arena. It was quite busy and we had to wait a while to be served because everyone seemed to be having food. I counted three staff on duty. Two serving and one clearing and cleaning. Coffee was prepared by ‘the Barista’ and food was served by another girl. Both took turns in taking money. Neither at any stage washed their hands. The Barista had a disposable cloth in front of the coffee machine which had obviously been in use for a while because it was covered in coffee grounds. Each time a coffee or other drink was made, coffee grounds, milk, foam, ice or syrup potentially were spilled in front of the coffee machine. I saw the surface wiped a couple of times with the same cloth which was then tucked under the coffee machine.I accept, there was no cleaning going on there, it was just physical removal of debris but the cloth should at least have been rinsed out and importantly, hands washed!

Now, I have mentioned how dirty dish cloths are. How do you think they compare to the money we have in our purses and pockets? Money is handled by potentially thousands of people without ever being laundered (well, not by being washed anyway).So, should people who handle money be handling food?

Dirty money.

Some studies have involved swabbing the  hands, currency and credit cards of people in various locations in the UK, and then testing for the presence of faecal bacteria (bacteria from the gut) which can cause nasty tummy upsets if ingested. As you might expect, the subjects’ hands were pretty disgusting, but also, some of the cards and the paper money had as much fecal bacteria on them as you would find in a dirty toilet bowl.No reason to believe that coins, with their uneven surfaces and in many cases, visible dirt, are any different.

So the message is Costa, Starbucks, Nero and others: If your staff prepare drinks and food and then take money, they MUST wash their hands before going on to the next customer. AND, perhaps you should take a leaf out of the NHS book and give them badges stating ‘it’s OK to ask’ so that we can make sure the hands that deliver us the sandwich, cake or coffee are clean by asking “have you washed your hands?”

If you need further advice…get in touch!

JB and Lewis

Wikipedia describes a pet as ‘an animal kept primarily for a person’s company or protection’ as opposed to those used for sport, work, livestock or research. Stray cats are those which have been lost or abandoned and feral cats are domesticated cats that have returned to the wild. Pets are supposed to be creatures that we cherish and love and so I always find it amazing the number that are abandoned. Pregnant females and kittens are often discarded. They are not abandoned pets, they’re just animals that for one reason or another some selfish, cruel person decided they didn’t want any more. Particularly in hot countries such as Spain, any animal that is abandoned is at increased risk of dying because of the lack of water in the dry season. Other risks exist of course such as disease, threats from other animals, humans, traffic and starvation.

I want to tell you about Lewis and Jota Be, two kittens who were rescued after their mothers were abandoned. Two groups of kittens were taken to our friend at the market in Mollina and he agreed to try and find them homes. We spied the kittens as we visited the market, one beige and one tabby which was climbing the walls of the cage they were in. The beige kitten we were told, was five weeks old and the tabby four.Typically taken from their mothers too young and not properly weaned. I was only going to take one but couldn’t decide which, so took them both. It was amazing that they both sensed how much better off they were coming home with us. From day one they were both happy, loving cats and they loved to race around the house having their mad half hour, so we called them after racing drivers! The tabby was Lewis and the beige one Jota Be

JB and Lewis.WP_000474

JB has lovely blue eyes but they often cross when he looks at you.

Despite being a week younger than JB, Lewis was always the brave one, the climber and the protector. He was an outdoor cat; the hunter. Often as he grew older he would find rabbit burrows where there were young and when they came out…wham! bam! he would pounce! Just as light was breaking we would hear screams and breakages and frantic running around the terrace outside our bedroom window. I would investigate and find ‘the sport’. Lewis would have caught a baby rabbit and scaled the six foot wire fence to bring it into the terrace where it couldn’t escape. Their cries are very distressing. I have saved many lives from torture and death by putting the rabbits back in their burrow. They may only have lived to last another day but I figure that was better than nothing.

WP_000306Full up with one that didn’t get away!

We took the cats to England for a holiday. Lewis was everyone’s favourite. He loved to sit on my Mum’s knee and made for her as soon as she started knitting. It was, I guess similar to the scenario when you don’t like cats, they make a bee line for you; Lewis would see the knitting needles and must have known that he wasn’t wanted at that time but there was no way he was going to be denied.

He disappeared in Spain in 2014. He just didn’t come back home. He was neutered, so it was unusual. It was hunting season and so maybe he, like others fell prey to some trigger happy hunter who can’t tell a cat from a rabbit. I hope not. He was a pet and a much loved one.


Next time: JB