There has always been a cat in the household, well since I have been around anyway. The first I remember was a tortoishell that produced at least 8 kittens every year. These kittens were my delight from before I can remember, if old photos are to be believed. I studied them for hours on the lawn as they stumbled through their first steps to full playfulness. Not for me pushing them around in a dolls pram or dressing them up. I was a watcher; although I wasn’t adverse for the occasionally cuddle. Hours of sunny fun, mother cat kept an eye on both me and her offspring.
By the time I can remember what I did, I was the best in the family at knowing exactly when the cat was about to give birth, picking up on the small signs (as children do) hours even before Mum. If cat decided as she frequently did that the box Mum had prepared was not the place I was always the one who could find her hidey place. I knew cats.
I would watch the birth, the immediate after care with great interest. Knew when it was correct to move nearer, when to back away. The cat always trusted us, even me, with pudgy childish fingers:) I watched and learnt about scruffs and ears, cat discipline and fun. I would name each one always reserving the name Mo for the tortoiseshell kitten – there always was one along with the ginger, grey and black ones.
Mo, from Little Mo the tennis player.
I haven’t a clue.
How did I even know the name?
When they were ready for the great outdoors I would carefully carry them to the garden armed with string and tiny balls to play with them. Their mother would sit on the sidelines having a rest and one eye open to keep us all in line.
By the time they were old enough to break my heart by being given away, I had, I fancied, trained them into the ways of cats (I learnt about instinct and mothers role later in life!) it was me, all me.
Seriously though I couldn’t think anything more exciting than to follow their progress from blind helplessness to bundles of energy with sharply honed skills. I mourned each litter as they left for homes across the south of the country. My father would solemnly make his way, by train, to the City to work, briefcase and cat basket in hand, where one of the secretaries (who knew every cat lover around) would take kitten back home with her and on to a new home. We kept the very last one years later, a beautiful smokey grey.
One hot afternoon when a boy from up the road was playing in our garden with us, his devoted dog followed him and wandered suddenly onto the lawn. What followed made a strong impression on me. Our cat, a tenth of the dog’s size, hurled herself upon him, with every claw and tooth available, and chased the dog through four back garden and the fences around each, the yelps and wimpers from the dog almost drowning out the invective of the cat. She only ceased her attack when the dogs own garden had been reached. The dog needed to visit the vet for stitches. The cat returned unruffled and giving the appearance of having been on a stroll.
I had witnessed for the very first time the ferocity of an animal defending its own. The small, defeating the large. Seen what power can be called on when danger strikes. It terrified me, excited me and left me in total awe of the cat.
This particular cat did not approve of us moving house, and for a week after she would carry the kittens back to the old house (not so far away really) one by one and each time Mum would go and bring them back. Cat accepted it in the end. I told her this new garden was way more exciting for the kittens than the old but in hindsight maybe way more exciting to a mother cat was way more dangerous:)
We had kittens up until I was about 12 when our cat developed throat cancer and had to be put down, leaving us with two small bundles needing four hourly feeding. As I said we kept the grey who kept me company in the garden until I was old enough to leave home. This cat lived through to her 19th year surviving floods and house moves as well as my childish attentions. He was followed by more and more. Every one different.
We have had splendid rat-ers, magnificent mouse-ers, idle sunbathers, chatty, taciturn, bold and timid cats. Tortoishell, Tabby, Ticked,Black, White, Grey and Blue. Large bruisers and tiny runty ones. All have delighted me .
I do not like them for the soft fur and purrs, although they are nice when they come, so much as for the independent devil may care attitude, for the inscrutable unblinking stare and the knowledge that they could get on just as well without me.
They have shared the gardens and even this last who is not happy outside the security of the house, accompanies me when I mooch around out there, keeping a wary eye on my whereabouts she hustles and bustles in the undergrowth, chases butterflies and stalks frogs. Nibbles absently mindedly at grass stems as she looks up at the treetops and dreams of downing a pigeon (no hope I tell her the bird is twice her size)
She was one of a pair, we lost older cat last year, Older Cat was the garden cat, and because they were mine not the family’s I was allowed free reign. I trained them.
Can’t be done friends would say.
One cannot train a cat.
Of course one can.
Not to roll over and play dead, but to come into the house at night. It is at night they cause the most carnage. So there are no cat flaps, the cats sleep indoors at night. It is the unbreakable rule. They were not allowed to demand of me that doors were opened on a whim, some visitors were not so stern:). Nor were they allowed to mess with yarn, or stop me typing (they were tempted!) I am mother cat.
I get to sit with my coffee, in the sunshine, in the garden and talk to a cat. Maybe I am not on my knees playing with them anymore, but we have amazing conversations.