Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Once upon a time I was the proud owner of a beautiful Welsh Cob. Becky was bay, with four white feet and a wide blaze. She had one blue eye, and one brown eye. These were the days before digital cameras, and to get her image on here I would have to scan an old photo. I have no scanner, but one day I will do just that, probably at the library.
Anyway.....during the fifteen years I shared with Becky (a sharing of time and energy like no other domestic animal demands), I grazed her in many rented fields, starting in Leicestershire and ending in a small and sheltered patch just up the road from my house on the Isle of Wight.
Her last home on the neighbouring farm was shared with other ponies, and a family of feral cats. Being a responsible owner, the farmer had called in Cats Protection and got all the ferals neutered. He fed them a bowl of biscuits daily, following advice by Cats Protection, so they wouldn't stray if the rodent population fell. However, one of the cats could not be caught, and being a tom he wandered off to find a mate. He was a grey and white cat.
Each day I spent time in the field with Becky, removing droppings, checking her over, grooming her and such. A grey and white cat always sat at a distance and watched. Although I got closer to him than the other ferals, he hesitated when I approached, like he wanted something but didn't have the nerve. He always retreated in a hedge until I had turned my back again.
The farmer didn't know if he was the tom, or the second grey and white. They both looked exactly the same.
One day a grey and white cat appeared in my garden, which is about half a mile down the road from the farm. I knew it was one of the two from up the road, and after several days it became obvious that he was the tom. He was nervous and flea-ridden, and his pungent scent markings frightened my cats. He came and went, always staring accusingly and never seeking attention. I left food out for him, half thinking I should just let him live his life as he was, a wild feral tom. Sometimes he caught my gaze, and he looked so sad that I was determined to catch him. Weeks passed into months. He went away. My friend three miles further up the lane saw him. He turned up again, just as wild.
It looked like a hopeless case, then one evening I walked round the house with a bowl of cat food, and he ran up to me, rubbing round my legs!
"Oh my God! Look!" I said to MOH. "Come and look at Puss!" (Ridiculous name, I was hoping it would be a temp until I had him)
Amazing! What a transformation! All my efforts rewarded! I was so happy!
....Spoke too soon. The next day he came across for more food. Watching the whole thing, staring enviously and bitterly from the brambles was Puss, the tom. The cat rubbing round my feet was his brother, the neutered boy from up the road.
Well, the story goes on over sereval months.Both cats stayed in my garden, which is an orchard, very large and overgrown. They fought viciously. The neutered one I named Rolly, as he quickly became rather fat!
I had to catch Puss, as he was making the others life a misery. Eventually I set up a trap, and got him. He was like a caged tiger, spitting and clawing, but it was for his own good, I convinced myself.
Cats Protection neutered him but would not release him back in my garden as he was found to have feline HIV. They said he was truly wild, but could not be allowed to roam and spread the disease.
Puss is the one cat that I failed. I really wanted to give him a home, but as Rolly slowly established his place in my home with my two others, it was not possible. I visited him in the shelter once, but it was heart-breaking. He looked so sad. His coat was still dirty, they had not been able to touch him. At least he was warm and well fed. His photo was in the Cats Protection newspaper advert a few times,above the silly, temporary name I gave him. Then I didn't see it. He had been re-homed as the only cat in a stable somewhere remote. I hope he settled in.
As for Rolly, he has been with me for eight years now.I'm convinced he is the cat that used to sit and watch me in the field up the road. He can't climb trees (or anything else for that matter). He likes boxes and rolling on his back. He doesn't like Whiskers much, but he quite likes Kitty. He's always been a fussy eater until recently, when he lost weight and could not stop eating.
A blood test revealed a thyroid problem, and he now has two tablets a day until he can have his thyroid removed.
"Thats going to cost hundreds....just for a stray cat!" said my landlady.
She's never owned a cat.