Zen Mischief

Many more photos of Harry and Sally
over on flickr

Harry the Cat
Harry; Early 1998? –
Sally Cat; Early 1998? –
Floss Cat
Floss Cat; Late 1980? – July 1998
Lying in one of his favouite spots in the garden
Pickle; Early 1981 – March 1993

Many more photos of Harry and Sally
over on flickr

Cats, Our Cats

The catte is a beaste of uncerten heare and colour;
for some catte is white, some rede, some blacke,
some skewed and speckled in the fete and in the face and in the eares.
And he is … in youth slythe, plyaunte, and mery,
and lepeth and reseth on all thynge that is to-fore him;
and is led by a strawe and playeth therwith.
And is a right hevy beaste in age, and ful slepy,
and lieth slily in wait for myce …
and when he taketh a mous he playeth therwith,
and eateth him after play …
And he maketh a ruthefull noyse and gastfull when one
proffereth to fyghte with another …

[Bartholomew the Englishman; Of the Nature of Things; 1398.
Translated by John de Trevista]

I've lived with cats for almost the whole of my life. My parents had a cat when I was born and I think the only time I've been without a cat was throughout my (many) student years and when Noreen and I were first married and living in a rented flat. My parents had at least one cat up to the time I was about 21, and Noreen and I re-homed a couple of abandoned cats within weeks of moving into our own house.

Having lost the venerable Floss Cat in July 1998, we have finally (December 1998) rehomed another couple of rescue cats. Harry (a grey & white male) and Sally (a mackerel tabby female), both about a year old, were dumped in a box on the doorstep of Blue Cross in Hammersmith (London) in September. Sally was heavily pregnant with a litter of six kittens: two grey & white, two grey, one black and one tabby – clearly fathered by Harry, despite Harry & Sally probably being siblings themselves! We first saw them in late October, when the kittens were about three weeks old, and agreed to wait to rehome them together until the kittens were weaned and could themselves be homed (they were all already spoken for!). So we finally welcomed Harry and Sally home on Friday 11 December 1998 – a pair of elfin cats for Christmas!

Unfortunately we had to keep them confined to barracks for rather longer than we would have liked initially: not only did they have to have their FeLV inoculations, but we had to get Sally neutered (delayed, of course, as she came on heat – twice – the little minx) and let her recover fully. (Fortunately Harry had been neutered by Blue Cross.) However they now have free run of our garden – a real adventure playground for cats!

Harry is a solid tom who loves his food, but is actually as soft as butter. We are pretty sure he must have some Russian Blue ancestry as his grey has that silvery sheen of Russian Blues. Sally, has put on some much needed weight since weaning the kittens, but is still very agile and incredibly fast – although both are slowing down now as they get older.

As I write Sally is curled up fast asleep on the carpet at my feet, having found the warm-spot where the heating pipes run. And Harry is holed-up somewhere in the house – he clearly has one more hiding place than we've yet discovered! They are both great fun, and very affectionate, although they do still find strange noises disturbing – their previous home must have been very quiet!

While I wouldn't claim to be an addicted ailurophile, I think I would always have at least one cat if at all possible. Yes, I love cats, tho' I'm not into breeding, showing or even pedigrees; I'm quite happy with ordinary moggies. And I suspect that we shall continue to re-home cats if we can.

Those who dislike cats often say they are aloof. No, cats are not aloof. Independent, yes. Highly intelligent, yes. Affectionate, yes. But aloof, no. Though I will admit this is all strictly on their terms; the cat is always in control! A cat is gracious enough to share your living space, and will move on if it finds you wanting; you do not own the cat.

Do you communicate with your cat? We do try to speak cat to our cats ... though I'm sure it is a travesty of proper cat. And I'm equally sure that they understood both our attempts at cat and the English we say to them – if they choose to … indeed I'm sure cats could speak in human if it was to their advantage.

Talk to your cat, be with your cat, give your cat quality time, and it will treat you as at least an honorary cat … Floss used to come in on a nice evening and ask Noreen to go out mousing with him – and he seemed quite perplexed that we couldn't turn ourselves from a galumphing great human into a finely-tuned feline hunter.

I have tried to encapsulate and define the magic and the Essence of the Domestic Cat in encoded form.

Why, you see, cats are magic ...

Floss Cat, RIP

White and black neutered tom.
Rescued: 08 August 1981 from Blue Cross; probably 9-12 months old.
Died: 27 July 1998 at an age approaching 18 years!

We suspect "the almost all-white rabbitty puss-cat" was a fluffy white Christmas kitten, abandoned when he became a large (he always weighed around 12lbs, 5.5Kg) tom cat. We re-homed him from the animal charity Blue Cross, who had rescued him, when he would have been about 9-12 months old. He spent several months adjusting, but then had a glorious almost 17 years of sunny gardens, warm radiators, live mice in the small hours of the morning and a large territory (defended vigorously). When he was about 11 the vets diagnosed deteriorating kidneys, but regular beta-blockers and a self-imposed diet of mostly white fish kept him in the pink for another 6 years or so! As the years advanced he became much more vocal, confirming our suspicion from his appearance of his having some part Siamese ancestry: he had the voice, the long legs, the butterfly ears and that characteristic Siamese muzzle. Sadly his last few weeks were tormented by an aggressive and apparently rare tumour. His ashes are laid in one of his favourite sun-traps: under the Wigiela bush in our lawn.

Pickle, RIP

Tortoiseshell and white (calico) neutered female.
Rescued: 08 August 1981 from Blue Cross; probably 5-6 months old.
Died: 03 March 1993

Although officially called "Bubbles", she rapidly earned herself the nickname "Pickle": into everything, very human orientated and demanding affection. If the food came off your plate, she'd eat it almost whatever it was: toast & jam, naan bread but best of all chicken! And if there was a spare chicken carcass in the kitchen she was there with a paw on the worktop wanting to help with the remains, or she was to be found growling over the odd lamb bone! Sweet and demure at one moment Pickle also had that slightly uncertain tortoiseshell temperament (once characterised by our vet as "Rat Bag"), which made her a magnificent hunter who was known to catch rats, frogs and slow-worms as well as the standard fare of mice and birds. Pickle was a solid cat too, for a female, which makes us suspect she may have had some Burmese ancestry. Her ashes are laid in one of her favourite lookout spots: under the apple tree! And curiously we both wrote memorials to her …



Pickle – RIP
03 March 1993

We gave you 10 good pickling years
– August 1981 to September 1991 –
having rescued you from Blue Cross
at the eleventh hour.

And then the vet, Stephie,
gave you another good pickling 18 months
– September 1991 to today.

Rest in peace
with our fond love and memories
and we'll meet again one day.

With all our love,
K & N

© Copyright Keith Marshall, 1993.




A Little Cat of Many Names

'Bubbles' they said, when we collected her
(or rather, she collected us: "Oh goody,
a meal ticket, I'll come!") from Blue Cross …

Not really.

So she became The Little Cat, or
Little One, or
That Small Cat,
Catkin, Katisha,
or even just Small.

Something by way of a title seemed called for, so:
Princess Emily Marina Champagne Pusskat
– take the change out of that!
And Fa Ying (Celestial Princess) &hdash; she rather liked that,
though she always did come to Puss, Puss, Puss!
especially when it was accompanied by
A Little Something to Eat.

Demure names suited her: Prudence Kitten, Maude,
Fanny, Fanny Pickle, Francesca, and even Mistress Frances,
though her green eyes prompted Esmeralda too.

Later in life she became more international: Pushkin,
Le P'tit Poussin, Piccolina, Baboushka,
and we realised that she was both Miss Cute and Baba Yaga
– often at the same time.

Louise, or rather La Wheeze, because she did, rather
(one of her many Burmese-ish traits,
along with the neat round feet
and a habit of looking small while seeming to weigh ten tons
– Little Heavy Paws always did make audible entrances!)

But honestly, was there ever such a pickling little cat?
So it was to Pickle that we finally said goodbye,
with much love and many fond memories.

© Copyright Noreen Marshall, 1993.



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