When I began my blog, June 2013, I had not planned to have a page on cats. The idea came after reading an article on Twitter that my profile was in ‘the what you see is what you get style.’ I liked this definition, having found it straightforward, direct and most suited my spade’s a spade persona. Furthermore, I did not know then that Sophie, my latest feline addition existed, but more of Sophie later.
I can remember as a young child being attracted to both dogs and cats, wanting to pat dogs I met in the park and my mother’s nervous warnings. My first family contact with animals was at my grandmother’s, my cousin’s dog Rover and then my grandmother’s cat Smoky. She was only the cat of hers I met, and can only remember hearing about two of her cats with the exotic names – Mauritius and Banjo Tartan. As yet, I haven’t managed to come up with such exotic names for any of the cats in my life, of which there have been quite a few.
Our first family cat was Tammy. In 1969 we moved into an old, rambling but beautiful spacious house. It had been uninhabited for quite a while, as the previous owner had been in a care home. It is then no surprise that other less welcome residents had taken hold. Poison and traps had provided temporary relief so my father said, ‘there is only one solution to mice – the natural one.’ My mother, despite being the daughter of such an avid cat lover was wary of having a pet. Soon though Tammy, abbreviation of Thomasina, had made her way into all our hearts. I can remember my brother being fascinated by her torment of a young mouse and my mother saying, ‘you must let her do her job or she won’t kill again.’ The mice left or remained well away but there was to be several birds left at our feet at the back garden door. Tammy was with us for twelve and half years, and was buried under the apple tree, from where she tried every spring, always unsuccessfully, to catch the blue tits who nested in the same place in the middle of the high garden wall. Tammy.
The next family cat was Chica, a grey ball of fluff that was given to my parents six months after Tammy died. I didn’t get to know her well as I was in Spain by this time and on my way to having more cats of my own.
Lulu was the next cat to come into my life. A present from my ex husband, as he knew I missed a feline presence. He never told me how much he paid for her and I felt a bit aggrieved, as I would have preferred a rescue cat. Lulu was as wonderful as she was demanding, but she was never my cat. My ex and her formed a mutual adoration society; I was only her staff when he wasn’t there. Having said that, the poor animal did survive two visits in quarantine when I came back to the UK on two separate occasions. Lulu as a kitten and under the duvet.
I was also Lulu’s midwife when she gave birth to five kittens, all beautiful and beguiling. It was an amazing experience; cats are truly wonderful mothers. It was also nerve-wracking living with six cats, albeit for six to eight weeks. On one occasion three had managed to get behind the fridge, the kitchen door had slammed shut and we returned home to a hysterical feline mother, two kittens beside her. It was a delicate operation to get three kitties out of such a narrow space. Four were given to good homes, one to an anchovy fisherman in San Sebastian, and we kept Coco. In this photo she is the black one whose eyes can’t be seen.
Coco was the runt of my litter and the only kitten not born amidst the folds of our duvet; my ex mother-in-law was horrified, and fell to the floor, which damaged her left rib cage. We thought she was going to die, Lulu ignored her initially, but she fought to live and let her brothers and sisters stretch up to their mother’s teats; she aware of her injury working her way along the bottom ones. She survived, her wound healed and proved to be one of the most gentle but noble animals I have ever had the fortune to share my space with. She was jet-black, a cross between her Siamese mother and a fluffy Persian tom whose name now escapes me. Every morning she used to jump up onto the coffee table to have (demand) her daily brush. Sadly, when we moved house she got into such a state that she induced an epileptic fit and didn’t survive; her unprotected heart had left her weak. She was only three and half. I cried on and off for a week. It is heart wrenching to lose an animal. Unfortunately, I can’t find any of the photos I had of her except with her brothers and sisters.
A few more followed Coco as company for Lulu. Peque who looked like Coco a lot, but she only survived six months, she had been the product of an animal farm, and we had taken her from the woman who had rescued cats from such places. Then came Luna, via the hairdresser, from the litter of a stray.
I refused to have another pedigree cat after Lulu; they are too highly strung and there are too many abandoned and badly treated animals in Spain, who need good homes, to have such a precious puss. Lulu and Luna remained with my ex after we separated. I never saw the cats again but the ex did keep me informed, and Lulu died at the ripe old cat age of 15 from mammary cancer.
I was then to be cat free by choice for several years. After separating I moved into rented accommodation, liked the flat but with a landlady from hell. The interfering type who still came to collect the rent in cash; I dreaded the monthly call from Señora Scrooge. I also knew deep down that eventually I’d return home and didn’t want to put another animal though quarantine or try and re-home a pet in Spain.
Back settling in the UK and after a cocktail of life crises, I was foster human to my nephews’ cats – Misty and Rooney, brother and sister, both grey and white; an adorable duo. Misty was better knows as Boots; short for beautiful as the vet who sexed them, very difficult to do in cats, had proclaimed she was too beautiful to be a boy. Just as well cats are cats and aren’t into being paranoid about PC! It was while looking after these two, I realised just how much I enjoy cat company and planned to offer them a home when I found a new flat. Circumstances over took, the flat where I was staying was sold, and the deeds went though much quicker than expected giving us about 24 hours to organise everything and the cats were put into the cat shelter for safety but at the risk of them being rehomed. I went to reclaim them eight days later but I had missed them by a day. Ads on the local gum tree failed to locate them, I hope they are happy and in a good home, though in general people who find a pet from a shelter tend to be people who have reflected on what they are taking on.
A couple of months later and settled into my new flat, I began to get regular visits from a ginger cat, who I was to learn was called Cheeky, and had several watering holes in the street. He belonged to one of my neighbours who had two other cats and two dogs. I love to cook; fish and chicken are my personal favourites, and he used to come into the house through the bedroom window to the kitchen for titbits. He became a regular fixture but would go in the huff after I had been on my trips and not come back for at least a couple of weeks. This last winter he adopted me and spent most of the time in my flat rarely venturing outside. Cheeky camera Shy! This summer, one of the best in the UK for several years, he took to the outside again and it seemed he was back to roaming. However, it wasn’t to be. He made his way back to his owners for the final few weeks and passed away this summer at 14 and is buried in her hunting ground, the back garden. I was more upset than I expected to be, there had been signs that he was on her last lap, and I decided no, I couldn’t put myself through a cat wake once more.
Two days later, I had changed my mind. What about an older cat? There are two rescue centres near me; living in the digital era, I did a web search. Rescuing a mature moggie was welcomed, as they are harder to re-home. Two weeks ago, I returned to visit The Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, Scotland’s oldest animal sanctuary, for the second time. This was where we had got Tammy our first cat. I had seen photos and read the descriptions of the older moggies on line; I had a possible shortlist of four.
I fell for Sophie her as soon as I saw her, throwing herself against the cage door, her body language demanding – get me out of here. She had been on my list, a brown tabby with white underbelly, three white legs and a tabby one; the tabby one broken and allowed to set itself in the past. It doesn’t appear to bother her, though may well do when older but at the moment seems to give her an advantage to get into even more unusual catty cubby holes; she is finding lots more than Cheeky.
She has settled in better than anticipated and she is quite a character, so willingly once more, I find myself as cat staff. Bit in the huff at the moment I was in London for a meeting yesterday, so I am being ignored!
You are a cat lover or you are not; they are intelligent, independent creatures, loving one minute, aloof another. All I know, from many years of sharing or not sharing my space with cats I feel happier, and less stressed when I have a feline presence in my life.