The Cat Who Knew
October 22, 2013 § 12 Comments
The mangy black tom sat politely outside the kitchen door. Give me some breakfast, then I’ll be off. He lowered his head in salutation and flicked an ear by way of completing his request. He ate hungrily yet neatly, carefully wiping his face with his paws when he’d done. Half his tail gone, battles had pocked his nose and bitten his ears into tatters. His history written all over his skin. A flea jumped and he twitched, raised his half-sail tail and lolloped into the hedge.
Soon he came again, but this time with a paw in the air like a performing dog. Any chance of some nosh please, and can you do something about this leg?
‘It means the vet,’ I said, and waited for him to flee. ‘And going in a cat basket.’
If I must, he said with his eyes, then flicked his tail sideways and hopped in.
‘We’ll keep him in overnight,’ said the vet. ‘He might lose the leg.’
But he didn’t.
‘You need to change the dressing every day. Shall we neuter him while we’re at it?’
‘No thanks. Just see to the leg.’
When I went to collect him he looked pleased to see me. He did a three-legged hop into the cat basket without being asked. ‘I think you’ll be staying with us for a while,’ I said.
Fine by me. He brushed my legs with what was left of his tail. Any chance of a bite?
I discovered I’d made a mistake. Litters of black kittens appeared in the village and signs went up in windows:
Kittens Free To Good Homes
He grew muscles and shiny new fur, saw off rats and picked a fight with the Jack Russell who chased the hens. He raced along the landing, leapt into the air for joy and landed with a thump and a rattle on the coffin boards. ‘Don’t worry Mum. It’s only the stray. He’s seeing off ghosts. Do you think we’ve got ourselves a new cat?’
‘Don’t need to,’ she said. ‘He’s already decided. And his name is Stubbs.’
‘You have got a ghost!’ the babysitter screamed down the phone. ‘It’s jumping on the floorboards trying to scare me off.’
‘It’s the new cat,’ I said calmly.
‘Don’t like it,’ she wailed. ‘Not coming again.’
Fine by me,’ I said. ‘We’ll save on the booze you’ve been guzzling from the drinks cupboard.’
‘Thanks Stubbs,’ said my daughter. ‘She used to get drunk, fall over, then wake me up with her snoring.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Thought that’s what grown ups did.’
‘Well rid,’ I said.
He took to basking under rose bushes while the hens scratched about in billows of dust, and at the close of day he would politely round them up into the chicken coop.
‘They always do as he asks,’ she the daughter. ‘He must know what’s best.’
His whiskers turned grey and he stopped hopping. ‘You’re not looking so good,’ I said. ‘Vet?’ He looked at me and closed his eyes. ‘Ok. I’ll put you in the cat basket then.’
‘He’s winding down,’ said the vet. ‘He’s pretty old, you know.’
I brought him home with food like porridge and syringes full of steroids. He ignored the mush and put up with the daily jabs. But he got thinner and thinner, and wheezed like a steam train. He spent every day curled up like a ruin on the beanbag.
‘What shall we do with you?’
It’s nearly time, said his half closed eyes.
‘But I don’t want it to be.’
Well it is.‘ He turned his lips into a smile.
‘Here, or the vets?’
Here. In my own time. He waved his tail like the old days. But I do have one last request. Give me some proper food, then I’ll be off.