Cats I Have Known.

 

 

Tum Tums, T-Two and Sara.

Tum Tums would jump up onto the bed with a distinct “hello, here I am” kind of chirrup and land in a precise sitting position right side front paw already at his mouth ready for a grooming session. It was a deftly choreographed move and the family, gathered about chatting or listening to bedtime stories, would stop and say as one “Tummies” and sometimes even applaud. Tums was nothing if not cool. I think he would have taken a bow had it occurred to him.

One day a huge swelling appeared on the side of his face. The vet said it was a cancerous tumour and just like that his time was up. He had come to us via Sara, a little black cat with a white bib who showed up out of nowhere one day. She was a feral, barely an adult and heavily pregnant. She was distressed and looking for reassurance. I opened the door and in she came, hissing me off as I reached down to touch her.

She found a bed and a couple of hours later a flood of kittens emerged. When they were weaned she left us and but the kittens stayed with the exception of T-Two. The rest were boys and they hassled her a bit. There was a brief scuffle one morning and off she fled out the door and we never saw her again. Fortunately she’d been spayed so at least she wouldn’t be having kittens.

Sara popped back a for visit every four to six months and might stay for as long as a month if we were lucky. She’d announce her arrival with a very specific call aimed squarely at me and after a voracious loves session that included lots of kneading and heads butts she would settle down to feed.

I was late to marriage and never adjusted to sharing a bed so had my own room. Some of the cats slept with Jane, some with me. When Sara was about the other cats fled (to the warmth and safety of Jane’s bed). She wanted me all to herself and made no bones about it. Nights would be filled with her cuddling close and purring up a storm. Then she would was off. We left that house a few years later during one of her away periods so I have no idea what became of her.

 

Ben.

Ben was a survivor. We lived just off a main road and every cat we had was killed on this road, with the exception of Ben. His wanderlust pulled him in the other direction, down the farm and far from the prescient danger of speeding cars. He was a lean and rangy type who was loving and affectionate at home but elusive down on the farm. I would often see him prowling about along the hedgerows, sometimes impossibly far from the house, and thrilled at the sight would call out his name but he was having none of it running off to the hide at any approach.

When my male cousins came down from the city to stay during school holidays I worried that Ben might fall prey to their habit of shooting anything that moved. They answered my pleas to be careful by promising to kill him on sight. I was an anxious and sensitive kid and they were boys bought up to be proper boys and were rather callous with it. I was always relieved when they went home and Ben was left to do his roaming unmolested.

He liked to sit on the carpet and pull himself along with his front paws giving himself a good bum scratching in the process. It drove Mum to distraction. “Ben” she would hiss while clapping her hands, “dirty boy”. We got him when I was about ten and when I was thirty Mum phoned me and asked if I would take him to the vets to be ‘put down’. He had lost control of his bowels and was becoming ever more confused. “I can’t do it,” she said. It was bloody sad but at least he made it where the rest had failed.

 

Gee Bees and Little Kirry.

Charlotte named most of our cats and Gee Bees was no exception. A derivative of ‘ginger balls’ it was the perfect fit, as was the oft-quoted “Get off the bloody road Gee Bees”. Yeah, he had no idea and we could often be found doing whatever we could to scare him out of this habit. He was a rescue kitten and arrived with a tortoise shell tabby who ended up as Little Kirry. When we eventually moved to the country we found ourselves a magnet for feral strays and before we knew there were cats everywhere.

Gee Bees hated the interlopers and disappeared. We discovered him months later living with some elderly neighbours at the other end of the road. He was fat and happy and they doted on him. For years after we would call in to say hi and he never forgot us rushing out to present his belly from his custom made cat bed and bowl full of specially prepared food. He did well. Little Kirry was another story. Rescued from a household of raucous boys she was shell-shocked and easily startled and forever remained elusive preferring to live outside in all weather coming in only to feed.

She relaxed somewhat the years passed and was in her own way loving and affectionate. She had a particular way of standing up on her back legs to greet a head scratch, but nothing more than that thanks. No picking her up and certainly never any kissing. She loved her food, especially ‘wet’ food from a can. Anything else was meet with an expression that can only be described as disappointed. She always seemed to be at pains to say “Look, I don’t want to seem ungrateful but…….”. She was quite fat when she was caught short by a tractor mowing down the long grasses in the paddock beyond the house. It was a sad end for a cat who turned out to be a gentle if wounded little soul.

 

Bijou, Katie, Boy, Wednesday and Thursday.

I was given Bijou as a gift. She was a Burmese and before I had her fixed she was mated with another Burmese and had a litter. I kept a little female and the rest went off to good homes. Bijou was hit by a car while still very young but Katie managed a long life. She had two litters and I kept Boy from the first and Wednesday and Thursday from the second. They spent their entire lives as a close-knit family unit, sleeping, eating and socialising together.

Katie was something of a control freak and used to like torturing her family with little games the best of which was this thing she did at feeding time. I would put the food out and she would stand over it looking ‘nonchalant as all hell’ as she licked a paw with studied disinterest. Bit by bit the family would inch closer until they were almost in reach of the prize and then Katie would act. A big swipe and everyone would scatter as if their lives depended upon it. When she was ready she would feed and thus sated leave them to it and under no illusion about who the boss was.

Boy was especially devoted to his mother and was the first to die at about sixteen years of age. Wednesday who had a distinct and rather amusing greeting meow died a year later. Thursday who was just about the prettiest cat one might imagine was a superb hunter who was undone by cancer not long after her sister. Katie went blind and lost her faculties and I delayed having her ‘put-down’ through a misguided sense of loyalty and love. Still, she was just about as old as I cat might get when I finally let go. She was always waiting at the top of the driveway when I got home from work and greeted me like I was the last great thing. Who could ask for more?

 

Noggie and Pej.

I was driving to work one morning when I noticed a little black shape on the very edge of motorway. I drove on for bit before coming to the conclusion that it was probably a kitten and taking a deep breath decided to be late for work and spun the car about. It was a busy road and an onerous task but I got back the kilometre or so and sure it enough it was a wee kitten about the right size for the palm of my hand. I put it down on the car floor and phoned Jane and said I was on my way back with a new cat and when we got home he drank his body weight in warm milk. He was hungry and would remain that way for the rest of his life.

Winston, Jane and I proposed all manner of names but Charlotte (as usual) got it exactly right and Noggie it was. He was a complaint cat, the sort that would put up with being dressed in dolls clothes and pushed about in pram for more time than was perfectly reasonable. He decided that Jane was going to be his favourite and that was that. He was devoted her in the same way Peej (another feral kitten we had found and nurtured) was devoted to Charlotte.

I have this abiding mental image of Peej following Charlotte about the lawn with his tail high in the air. His loyalty to her was absolute and though Noggie tended more to broad socialising when push came to shove it all came down to Jane. If she left the house just for a minute one would hear the thump as he jumped off her bed to see where she was going. By the time he found her she was often on her way back in and a comedy of errors ensued as they collided on intersecting paths.

It got really crazy if she got in the car and went off somewhere for any period of time. After collecting an item of her clothing, usually a bra, he would haul it about the house and yard howling with grief before falling into a heap and tangling himself up into a knot with said item. A lot of time was spent detangling Noggie. It was both funny and tragic.

Once he managed to pull her heavy bath towel through the cat door and drag up and down the driveway for two onerous hours. When she got home he was wrecked from exhaustion and went to bed for the rest of the day and by bed I mean the middle of the kitchen floor right under Jane’s feet, tongue hanging out and oblivious to the mayhem he was causing.

To say he was fat is an understatement. He eventually reached the stage where he could no longer clean his bum so we had to clean it for him. We put him on various diets but it made no difference. Otherwise he was the undisputed king of the household and would take each new arrival under his wing and show them the ropes. He was sociable, affable and dominant. If ever one of the kids gave up their spot on the prized seat in front of the TV he would pounce on it and no amount of “bloody Noggie” and pulling would shift him. He would put his ears back and dig in his claws and that was that. He knew his place. Jane was first, he was second. No argument.

He increasing bulk eventually reduced his mobility and I remember watching him size up the kitchen bench one day from the floor. He crouched, put his ears back, waggled his bottom, checked his position, rechecked, made a couple of half-hearted practice flexes then got up and walked away. He knew his limits. Sadly he suffered a congenital bladder condition which would cause him great pain and the vet warned us that his life would be cut short. It was and it was a great loss to us all. Noggie was by and away the most distinct feline I have ever known.

 

Barty.

I found Barty right down the end of farm. He was tiny, ginger and starving. Rickets had warped his bones and he had no strength to resist me, not even the semblance of a hiss. I was living with my paternal grandparents at the time and grandma, long denied a cat by grandpa who was not a fan, took to him immediately and with a bit of feeding and nursing he was soon growing and glowing. I wanted him to be mine but he had other ideas and for the next eighteen years followed grandma about everywhere. Relatives nicknamed him ‘Sylvia’s Shadow’.

After grandpa died Sylvia and Barty went to live in a small unit in town where he slept in her lap by day and at the end of her bed by night. When she went shopping he walked (limped is more like it – the rickets had maimed him for life) with her to the end of the driveway where he waited until she returned. He died of old age four years before she met the same fate. In her hundredth year she told me that she missed him and dreamt about him every night. In the dream she would get back from the supermarket and there he was waiting at the end of the driveway. “I thought you were dead” she said relieved as she bent down to stroke his head. Then she would wake up and go about her day alone and disappointed.

 

Epilogue.

There have been many cats over the years. Little companions with a fierce emotional intelligence and personality variations as distinct as the flavour of each passing day and I remember them all. Annabel, Georgie-Nins, Wendy, Sammy, Cody, Old Sara, Blue. Fierce predators with an independent disposition, funny, amusing, affectionate and loving. Easy to care for with remarkably human centric ways and methods, their short and fragile lives are their only real drawback, that and the grief we endure when we lose them over and again. I am fifty-four now and there will be no more cats for me. I do not want to got through all that again. I have my memories and that is enough.

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