“THEY get so confused and sceptical of the sounds, and usually run away out of the room.”
Gemma Coultis is describing what happens to her two cats, Oliver aged two, and Oni, aged one, when she plays the saxophone or clarinet at home in Cobh, where she lives with her fiancee, Phoebe O’ Regan – owner of Cobh’s spiritual tattoo parlour, Awen.
A musician and tutor for Music Generation - Cork City, Gemma grew up in the countryside of Mitchelstown, where her parents kindly looked after many stray cats in the area.
“I have always had pets in the house since I was a child. When I moved out of home it was weird not having a pet running around, but at least I could go back to my parents to get my fix,” says Gemma.
However, when she laid her eyes on ‘scared, untamed and tiny ball of fluff’ Oliver, she knew it was time to start her own ‘furmily’.
“Oliver was the first ever pet that was actually mine,” says Gemma, “and it was up to me to make sure she was the happiest kitty alive. It gave me a kind of responsibility that I never had before, the most rewarding responsibility you could ever imagine.
“However, the responsibility is pretty big as well, so you have to make sure that you are fully ready, able and committed.”
A year later, Gemma’s responsibilities and ‘furmily’ expanded when her partner Phoebe rescued ‘our anxious little Oni’.
Although rescued a year apart, the cats turned out to be biological half-sisters.
“There are two mummy strays and one daddy. Oliver came from one mum and Oni came from the other. They both took some time to become tame and get used to people, but now they are the most pampered, calm princesses, and they live a life of luxury.”
Used to being the only Princess in the household, Oliver took issue at first to the new interloper when Oni was introduced.
“She became an aggressive hissing machine. She was so used to being the only baby, and then there was this strange lookalike hiding in the corner.”
A week later, Gemma was thrilled when she walked in on Oliver grooming Oni.
“It’s my happiest memory of them - Oliver had finally accepted her into our family.”
Gemma feels that cats are misunderstood, and it’s a misconception that they aren’t affectionate, and don’t appreciate their humans like dogs or other pets do.
“Oliver and Oni are the most affectionate and needy little babies ever,’ she says.
“They stay cuddling on my lap for hours. They even sleep at the end of our bed, and I wake up to Oni laying on my chest under the blanket every morning. Oliver follows me around all day. Oni is a bit more independent, but she is super cuddly when she is relaxed and not watching pigeons out the window.
“They are constantly looking for my attention and they even come when they’re called!”
Oliver and Oni like many of the same things – food, watching pigeons through the window, and ‘cwtches’ – ‘which means cuddles in Welsh’, explains Welsh-born Gemma.
Oliver also loves “kisses, back scratches, following my every step around the apartment, going inside bags and cardboard boxes - anything she can attempt to fit inside.”
Oni is a bit more partial to ‘head-rubs, toy balls and playing fetch, climbing the clothes-horse and wardrobes, and hiding from new people.’
Two years into being a pet owner, Gemma has learned a lot from having her feline friends in her life.
“They are the best change that ever came into my life.
"I love Oliver’s cuddles, her majestic long ear hairs, her floofiness, and her confidence.
“I love Oni’s quirky personality, her worried eyes, her fluffy tail, and the cute chirp noises she makes.
“They have taught me to take life a bit slower, enjoy all the pleasure you can, and to be fully in the present moment.”