The Litter Eases In

One morning last week, I was walking to work early. I glanced at a house as I was passing, and I saw something that made me smile broadly. It almost made me laugh out loud, there on the empty, frosty street.

“I must write a little post about that,” I said and then promptly forgot about it.

Until I was walking home from work on Friday evening, and I caught up to Patricia at the pedestrian lights, also making her way home from work. As we walked up the street together, Patricia suddenly laughed out loud. We were passing the same house that I had passed the week before. She had glanced into the same window that I had glanced into, and she had expressed her delight.

What could be inside of a living room window to bring such shared delight? Nothing earth-shattering. Nothing of any great import, in the overall scheme of things.

Just a cat.

A few years ago, a young family up the end of our street kept some cats around and didn’t worry too much about things like mating and kittens. Although I’m not sure, I would guess that a fair quantity of litters emerged and that those kittens were distributed throughout the area via good will and word of mouth. The family have moved on now and somebody else is in the house but the physical reminders of their stay are still an everyday part of life in our neighbourhood. I guess some of those kittens didn’t get successfully distributed to accepting and enthusiastic homes. I guess they simply stayed around the street, picking up their scraps of kindnesses wherever they could and sheltering in whatever coal bunker has its door left ajar on any given night.

The cats are distinctive, primarily white but with black smudges in various configurations around their bodies. I think this colouring is sometimes known as ‘Two Tone.’ There are theories about how the black pigment forms in the womb over time and the earlier born litters will be whiter and the later born will have more black on them. The colour spreads from the spine which is why most two-tone cat’s bellies are white. I don’t think this 'cooking in the womb' thing is entirely correct. I think it’s more a ‘Genetic Soup’ thing going on but it’s still a nice thought – that the kittens are cooking up their colourings while gestating gently in their Mum’s belly.

Of the litters that emerged from the end of the street (I can’t prove any of this, of course) there now remains four fully grown cats who inhabit our neighbourhood. I would say they are each now about four or five years old and they may have all come from the same litter or they may not. Regardless, they are all variations on the aforementioned black and white Two-Tone model.

The first is white with a fair measure of nicely placed black patches, including one over one eye. She is called Puddy and, inasmuch as she is anyone’s, she is now our cat. I have written about her fairly extensively in these pages over the past few years. If you put ‘Cat’ in the search box on this page, you’ll find lots of stuff. She sleeps in our hall most nights, in her cosy basket, where she has food, water and litter tray to hand… sorry, paw. She stays over less in the Summer nights. There are adventures to be had then and she will always be, in her heart, an outdoor cat. In the evenings, she will often sits in an armchair and watch telly with us. She seemed to quite enjoy the recent machinations of The Traitors.

I call the second cat Wiggy because he has a prominent black patch smack-bam on the top of his head, which makes him look like a Marx Brothers character. But Wiggy is no joke. He is a rough tough Alpha Male tomcat, lean and mean and eternally scowling and slinking around. I’ve written a little about him too. Put his name in the search box and he’ll come up.

The third cat is called Snowy, but only by me. Entirely white, a ghost-cat, rarely seen. She inhabits the street one up from ours and is clearly a sibling of some sort. When glimpsed, she seems healthy and lithe, doing okay.

Then there is the fourth cat. No name. Mostly white but with a little black around the head area. Anecdotally more affectionate than the others, who are a bit wild and stand-offish (though Patricia gets to stroke Puddy every day – I never have and I know I never will). He lives up around a house we used to live in before we got this one. Prowling the streets, carving out a survival strategy in the great suburban outdoors.

This last of the four cats is the reason why I smiled and why Patricia laughed as we passed a house down the road – the house that we used to live in before we got this one.

When we looked in, we saw this fourth cat. He was cosied-up in a deep cushioned basket, three feet from a warm stove. He was looking out at us and clearly contemplating his next snooze.

It was funny, sweet, and cheering because it clearly indicated one thing. The litter, fated to live on the streets, were easing their way in, as cats always seem to do. One into our house, now treasured and enjoyed there and now, some years later, another sibling doing the exact same thing to our neighbours as Puddy did to us. Smuggling his way into their hearts.

First the window cill, then a box outside, then a nice shelter in the shed, then the front hall, then the back hall and then, finally, the basket by the fire with water and vittles to hand.

We smiled because our neighbours are now being played just as we were played. They are becoming parents to the stray cat. Their fate is sealed now, I reckon. The cat is in.

But the smiles are not a facetious, wait-and-see-what trouble-you’ll-have-from-now-on kind of a smile. Not at all. The reasons for the smiles are twofold, I think. Firstly, they say to our neighbours that this is a positive thing for them, that they will have some fun with it.

And secondly, our smiles are saying, well done, mostly white cat.

You made it.


Roberta Beary said...

Lovely writing, Ken.
Is Puddy's name from – "I tawt I taw a puddy tat! I did! I did taw a puddy tat!" spoken by a certain yellow canary of cartoon fame?

marty47 said...

Hi Ken,like myself you've been lured to the feline world, it's easy to get dragged in, they're fascinating creatures, enigmatic and loving,each a unique personality,We have rescued a few and a domestic or two also,the eldest Stevie aged 10,taught the young to use litter trays, they're more clever than many credit, after all the ancient Egyptians worshipped them,so we're in good company,Hope all is good Ken

Jim Murdoch said...

Not much to report cat-wise since the last time I updated you on Spock’s antics. We just rearranged the kitchen turning the desk 90° and swapping the chair with the monstrosity that was clogging up Carrie’s narrow office. The cat had slept on Carrie’s chair several times and so we expected him to take to the new arrangement and, indeed, after his dinner tonight he leapt onto it and started his ablutions. However, when I went down to make coffee, there was no sign of him anywhere. Usually when he loses interest in the kitchen, we find him lounging in the hall waiting to be tripped over but, no, today he was on my chair in my office looking guilty (but only slightly) so I just left him. If he’s got fleas the damage has been done. Hopefully not. We’ve been treating him monthly since his last (whatever the collective noun for a shitload of fleas) abandoned him in favour of my tasty-if-not-exactly-nourishing legs.

As far as naming cats goes my mother had little imagination: Blackie, Sooty, Minstrel (black and white), Tigger, Tom (the spit of Jerry’s nemesis), Snowy and Biggie. She’d never have named a cat Spock but, I assure you, I’ve never seen creature a better-named.