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Saturday, September 29, 2012

The return of the tabby

She is a free spirit. But no way does she belong to us is what I said as late as April this year.

   In that posting I related the sad circumstances by which Soxy regarded us as having betrayed her fragile trust. It seems she's on the way to forgiving us, though it has taken two and a half years. There are strings attached – her conditions, needless to say.

   That she seemed likely never to come round was hugely disappointing to Tracey and Christian. When we returned from Melbourne, they did their best to convince her we were staying, but no blandishments were sufficient. At night she would prefer to starve and freeze rather than come inside to eat or to sit at the fire.

   'Idiot cat,' said Tracey, with colourful verbal embellishments I won't write down here. Some family secrets must be preserved.

   One freezing night round June this year, snow was predicted. One of us opened the front door that night and she simply strolled in, tail high in the air. I own the joint. When she ate food in the kitchen, we left her alone, because people hanging around made her nervous. They're going to try to catch me or do something evil. I just know it.

   We were sitting in the lounge, expecting from the moment she finished eating to demand immediate release from the comparative warmth of the kitchen to return to the bitter conditions outside. Instead, she strolled into the lounge and sat Sphinx-like in front of the fire.

   Every time someone moved, she swivelled around to see who was going to leap upon her and try to tear her to pieces. She didn't stray from the hearth.

   Surprisingly, nor did she demand to be let out when we went to bed, but remained basking by the fire. A couple of years older and fatter than before the Great Betrayal, she'd mellowed. True, when Dr Who was on she covered her eyes, and in dreams sometimes she acted out great dramas, judging by her body movement. Mostly, she sat or lay with tail wrapped neatly around her legs, the perfect embodiment of qi.

   Over the next few days, she decided for herself whether to stay in or go out. She knew when the night was going to be extra cold, and usually stayed in, but not always. She had territory to defend from the black and white cat with the mournful drawn-out mew. (The first time I heard it, I thought some cat, maybe Soxy, was trapped or poisoned and in terrible pain, but it was just the rival cat doing its thing.)

   She settled fairly well into the lounge area, though never failed to react to the slightest movement from one of us. Occasionally she took to strolling over to Christian, asking to be made much of. He obliged, as was his duty as an underling.

   She was still a princess, asserting her authority. That never changed. Sometimes she'd ask to be let in, and then sit just outside the door. Now and again, affecting great reluctance but genuine condescension, she'd come in, after a bit of ego-stroking by the door-opener. 

   More often than not, the door would be closed in her face by the impudent human, but on its reopening seconds later, she'd walk in with a facial expression like the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey. There, let me add hastily, the comparison ends, apart from certain qualities of disposition.

   Mission complete. Humans playing their subservient role at the door, taking their cue from the Mistress of Ceremonies.

   When so inclined, she'd even play with her old toys; a realistic little mouse in particular. She'd act out the role of cruel mouse tormentor as with live mice, and then go to sleep with it, hugging it to her belly.

Laugh and I scratch your eyes out
   The belly. Why was it getting bigger and bigger? She wasn't eating all that much that we could see, and yes, a spayed cat as she gets older does tend to develop an early middle-age spread. As well, in front of the fire, she wasn't using anything like as much energy keeping warm as in sub-zero temperatures and in fighting off other cats. But it didn't quite add up.

   We got a clue when next door's ancient little terrier cashed in his chips and went to Jesus.

   'I still want to leave his dry food out,' the neighbour said sadly, 'but I've stopped. Soxy will miss it.'

   So that was it. All these years Soxy had been nicking poor Muttley's nuts. (Well, I think that's what the neighbour called his dry food, but I'm not going to check for fear it will spoil my story. We always called Soxy's her "crunchies".)

   That may help to explain the Garfield-like physique she had acquired. Mind you, in that department she has nothing on Christian's friend's cat, Hamburger, who makes Garfield look like a cheetah and Soxy severely anorexic.

   When it's not cold enough for a fire, she sits in front of the burner, looking aggrieved, staring at its glass door and willing it to fill with bright red coals and gentle flames flickering around the wood.

   'Never go away again,' she says as she strolls over, 'or I'll... I'll....'

   The threat remains hanging in the air, like an unanswerable question.

This tale follows on from two others:
 I think you'd enjoy them.

home | WHAT'S NEW! | stories from my past


  1. The Great Betrayal - I love it and this whole post, although it makes me miss Toffle, the cat who adopted us but would never come inside; she was a keen gardening companion. The odd thing is how I still expect her to appear, screeching for food, whenever I leave the house. Until she went, I hadn't realised how one was always sort of girding oneself for her demanding assault at such moments

    1. You raise a good point about 'adopted' cats who weren't raised as domestic pets. Unlike dogs, they are creatures of territory and will usually sacrifice human companionship for that domain. You were Toffle's food supplier and companion in her domain and she had no desire for yours.

      Cats are such control freaks. If we left here there is no way she would come with us.

      I should have ended my story as it began, because Soxy is as far from being 'ours' as she ever was. She'll tolerate us being hers for as long as it suits her, but is more relaxed with us than she has been since before my treatment in Melbourne [aka the Great Betrayal].

      I do expect her to want to remain outside when the weather warms up, and probably want to be fed outside again too. Let's see.

  2. I like it, Denis. As an adopted 'pet' myself, I can empathise. When we had a unit in Brisbane, I used to walk along a creek-side track; 4km up the creek, 4km back. One day as I began my walk, a lively mutt came wagging up to lay a stick at my feet. Obligingly, I threw it for him.

    Big mistake. He then pranced along beside me for the whole 8km. I tried to ignore him, shoo him away, throw the stick and then hide from him, but he took not the slightest bit of notice. I was his adopted pet and stick thrower, and he was not going to let me go.

    This was bad enough, but then I passed another walker, with his dog on a lead walking sedately beside him. My new canine best friend then dropped his stick and advanced snarling on the other walker's dog, which was now in my space - a space which my mutt friend was not prepared to share.

    "You should keep your dog on a lead," the walker said.

    "But he's not my dog," I replied.

    "I keep my dog under control, you should do the same with yours"

    "But he's not my dog," I reiterated. "He just sort of picked me up".

    "It doesn't look like that to me," the walker said. "Get your dog on a lead in future or I shall report you."

    Then, like the apostle Peter, just as I was about to deny the mutt for the third time, the damned dog remembered his stick.

    Forgetting his rival, he raced off and came bounding joyfully back, laying the stick at my feet, and sitting there with ears up, big smile on expectant face, tail wagging.

    "Huh," said the walker, rolling his eyes and moving on.

    I looked at the mutt, and felt a curious kinship that I had simply not felt with the walker. I threw the stick.

    1. A great story worthy of its own blogspot, really, Bob.

      I was trying to think of some smart comeback to the unbeliever, but really, in the face of that evidence, what could you say?

      Any jury would convict you. I probably would.

      All I can think of is to say to him, "Look carefully at this dog. If you come across some worried person asking you if you've seen a stray dog on your travels, you could do worse than describe this one."

      Then again, he might warn them about "the dognapper".

    2. that truly the end of story? I'm hanging out to know if you let this dog keep you as his pet?

  3. All our cats save 1 adopted us, either by being born in the yard & staying, being dumped here, or somehow just finding us.

    I have a black one which showed up about a month ago, obviously belonged to someone at some point. Why do I say "obviously"? Not only because he's socialized, but the tip of his ear is cut off, which some vets do here to show an animal has been fixed. Someone went to that expense & then either dumped him or moved away & left him behind.

    He follows me from room to room, ALWAYS wants to be petted or scratched, sleeps ON my feet, but isn't too crazy about being held. Makes me mad to think someone abandoned him.

    However, he was an outside cat long enough he still wants to go out for the night - let him out, he looks back inside, thinks about it, looks in the yard, then inside, & then takes off. Then when I close the door behind him, he looks annoyed with me - too bad. :)

    Glad to see Soxy has come to a decision. btw, there's a lot of "stupid cat!" with embellishments said around here, too.

    1. Sad when people abandon animals. Some treat them like mechanical objects, or toys for amusement. We used to live 10 kms out of town, and apparently that was the perfect distance in many people's minds to toss a cat or dog out of the car, especially round Christmas time when people went on vacation. Many found their way down the track to us. Ghastly. I suspect some figured that cats could look after themselves in the wild. Some did, at great cost to the native wildlife.

      Just as you do, the "Stupid cat!" epithet here is a joke. It's perfectly obvious that this is one very smart animal, and works her slaves exactly how she likes.

      We also make cruelly disparaging remarks about her shape, but she treats them with supreme indifference.

      So they nip the ear to show neutered animals there? I guess it's one way, but a bit rough. I wouldn't like half an earlobe cut off. It would spoil my beauty. :)

      PS All our cattle at some stage got a chunk of ear nipped out with a specially designed tool for the job. This was before ear-tagging, which created a unique identifier for each animal, but y'know what? I'm hanged if I can remember just what purpose the fair-sized chunk cut out of the ear served.


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