I have always loved cats ever since I got into trouble for bringing one home from school. I think my dad preferred dogs at that time. She was a beautiful, sleek little black kitten with a tiny white patch on her throat. I named her Slinky, after the toy. Anyway, she was my cat and eventually had kittens of her own. We kept one and named him Boo-boo. He was all black and chubby. In those days, the pets stayed outdoors or in the porch. Staying alive was challenging for our pets and we lost a few to some cars. Boo-boo came to his demise by falling out of tree and getting stabbed by some branches on the way down. It was a bit gruesome. Some of our pets may have had short lives, but they were well looked after while they were alive.
When I was married and lived in New York, my husband wouldn’t let me have a cat in the apartment. He didn’t think it was fair to keep a cat indoors. Probably not, but I really think he didn’t want to be dealing with cat litter. When he had a mouse problem at his warehouse, and after trying many unsuccessful methods of killing and trapping mice, we were saved by the appearance of a little kitten while I was waiting for the lift. He was a gorgeous tabby that proceeded to rub up against me. He looked hungry. I was suckered from the start. I brought him upstairs and showed my husband his new mouse catcher. There was a feeble protest, but he had to admit that they tried everything but a cat to get rid of the mice. I knew he was a goner when he named the cat, Eric. (I have no idea where that came from!) Eric turned out to become an excellent mouser and quite a character. I have some amusing stories about that cat. The thing is, Eric lived indoors, in a warehouse. Hmmm!
As soon as we moved to London one of the first things I did was get some kittens. I got two, a ginger and a white one from the lady down the street. My husband named them Ronnie and Reggie. Yes, they were the Kray Kittens. Reggie, my favourite at the time, got hit by a car about a year later while we were on holiday. Ronnie lived to be 13. He didn’t like children much or being picked up. He loved to chase squirrels until the day one turned around and chased him around the back yard. That was one of the most hilarious things I had ever seen.
When my husband and I eventually parted ways, I got two more kittens – two little ginger fur balls which we named Tiger and Rusty. They were eight weeks old and flea ridden. As they were too small for normal flea treatment, I used lavender oil. I had never seen fleas jump off of a cat before. Within an hour, they were flea free and smelled so lovely. Ronnie didn’t like the kittens at first, but he eventually tolerated them. It was so cute to see them roll onto their backs in a submissive position when he came near them, like the lion king!
There are many things that I love about cats. They are free-range. They can come and go as they please. You don’t have to pick up their poo. They go somewhere, usually in someone else’s back yard, do their business and then they cover it up. They can be a bit slutty. You may think you own them but they will go to whoever feeds them or tickles them in places they like.
They also bring you presents, sometimes live ones. They make a special noise to let you know that they got something for you. They say something along the lines of, ‘Hey mom! Come downstairs and see what I got under the kitchen table for you! I am so clever! This one is still moving!’ Rusty and Tiger started off bringing me worms. One day I woke up to one of my lodgers screaming that there was a snake at the bottom of the stairs. ‘A snake! Wow!’ I was thinking. ‘That is pretty impressive. How the heck did they get a snake? They upgraded.’ When I got to the bottom of the stairs I couldn’t find any snake, but I did find a couple of night crawlers. They were two of the biggest worms I had seen in a long time. The kittens (Rusty and Tiger were known as the kittens until Ronnie’s demise) eventually moved on to birds, rats and squirrels. One year, for my birthday, I found three dead birds lying in a row outside the back door. How sweet was that?
Rusty, my favourite at the time, eventually went to live in Wimbledon. When we moved houses I kept the cats in the house for three months (it was winter and when I opened the door to let them out after six weeks they changed their mind and decided it was too wet and cold). Once the weather was warmer, Rusty eventually found his way back to our old house. I can’t remember how many times I had to go and get him. Eventually one of the old neighbours called the Cat’s Protection League on me and it was decided to give him to a family in Wimbledon. Not soon after that, I had to put Ronnie down. He was really poorly and had a cat’s version of Alzheimer’s. I was really brave until the last moment. Then I just cried and cried. No longer will I be the middle of a cat sandwich. The cats used to sleep with me. I would wake up to be penned in by a ginger on either side of me and Ronnie at my feet.
I was left with Tiger – Tiger by name and Tiger by nature. He is one mean killing machine. He would bring me rats, mice, birds, toads, frogs and squirrels. I would find the squirrels outside, minus the head. Squirrels are not easy to kill. One had to be impressed, especially when the cat is wearing a collar with a bell. It was tedious at times being woken up in the middle of the night and being asked to look at what he brought in. Sometimes I forgot to close the kitchen door and he would come in my room with his catch. Then I would have to chase him downstairs with whatever was in his mouth only to find the remains under the kitchen table in the morning. It was enough to put me off having breakfast.
I have to hand it to the little beast, at 16 years, he is still going strong and acts like a youngster. He has survived being shot in the butt by an air rifle which shattered his hind leg. Luckily, the vet was able to skilfully put it back together and he was running around as if nothing happened. I don’t know how many scraps he has been in with other cats, but he was very territorial and always protected his patch. Things got a bit nasty with Ed (yes, we are not the only people to give human names to cats!), the cat next door. Ed was younger and bigger and the new cat on the block. One day he bit Tiger on the head and it got infected. It cost me £200 and I wasn’t working at the time. I told Tiger from then on he was on his own, he had a good run, and if he was going to get into scraps he would have to take his chances as I wasn’t forking out that kind of money again to the vets. My neighbour was sympathetic and did her best to keep Ed under control – as much as anyone can control a cat.
Tiger’s killing days are not over, but merely put on hold while we are staying with Amor until I find us a new home, which has not been an easy task since most flats won’t allow pets. Imagine that! Tiger has become a flat cat as there is no easy access to the outside world. He is in kitty heaven as we have central heating – something that was lacking in our previous residence the last two years. He now spends his days sleeping on the various hot spots and under the radiators – that and trailing kitty litter around the apartment. I have never done so much vacuuming in my whole life, it is every day! Since we have been here, I discovered that Tiger likes to eat Pringles. It doesn’t matter what flavour, but he is rather partial to cheese and onion flavour. I find that very strange. He adores Amor. He allows Amor to pick him up and pet him in ways that no one would ever dare to, even me, except maybe my daughter. (She used to dress up the kittens in her dolly clothes and push them around in the dolly pram when they were little.)
Although Tiger may be a fierce hunter, he is very friendly and affectionate with humans and likes being around them. He is very gentle and has never scratched or bitten anyone. If you stroke him in the right places he purrs and starts drooling. (Just like some man I know ) He is a soppy old thing and has been my constant friend for over 16 years. So this post is dedicated to him.