It is not unusual for M and I to be going through similar stuff at the same time. But sometimes the universe continues to amaze and baffle us. A few weeks ago, I had the daughter of a friend staying with me for a few days. I meant to go to the shop earlier than I did but the usual stuff happened and it was nearly dark by the time we wandered out.
As we walked, I noticed a small, terrified looking cat in one of the front gardens and a woman trying to coax her towards her. The scene caught my attention for two reasons – firstly, the woman was doing that stupid thing with her hands that people do when they do not know cats very well and secondly, the cat was the spitting image of M’s cat.
So much so that I rang M to check that her cat was safely indoors. Pepper was indeed indoors. I rang off quickly and we walked back to the house. By this time, the woman had cat in arms.
I will spare you the details of the conversation that followed but it quickly became clear that the cat was beyond petrified; the woman had no cat carrier and was about to walk along my road and then the very busy, noisy main road with the cat in a document carrier, one of those A4 bags which fold out a little. The cat had already escaped once from it.
She had apparently just been given the cat from a house in the road and the owner let her take the cat home like this. Realising quickly that two people deserved to be shot and having retrieved a cat carrier from home, I asked L (who was giving me a very strange look) to take the shopping home and I walked with the cat in the carrier to this woman’s house.
However, we didn’t get actually there because we hadn’t got to the end of my road before she asked me whether I wanted the cat. When I said no, didn’t she want her, she said yes she did. When she asked me for the third time, as we got onto the main road, with the cat going absolutely spare in the carrier, I said yes. She then changed her mind.
Losing my temper faster than a bullet and struggling to hide it, I told her that I would take the cat home and get her safe and she could make her mind up the next day. This was agreed and she took my mobile phone number.
I arrived at home to a bewildered L, who said that when I had dashed back to get the carrier, she had also been offered the cat. After throwing a few bits together, cleaning and disinfecting a litter tray and putting a clean water bowl out in the front room, I let the cat out into the room.
The owner had already sent me a text by this point, asking how she was. The kitten (who I established was 7 months old, skinny as a rake and so very scared) was a spitting, hissing bundle of fur and remained so throughout the evening. I gave her an hour or so to calm down and then offered her some food. She put herself behind one of the chairs and stayed there, a picture of absolute misery.
My cats gathered around outside the door, realising there was a cat in distress and both Arthur and Poppet purred underneath the door to try and calm her. Several hours and 60 text messages later, I had established that this was not the first time the woman had taken the kitten. She had originally taken the kitten and her sister, then given them back to the original owner (I still don’t know why), who had rehomed the kitten’s sister but appeared to have demanded that second owner take her back again.
And it was this very scene that L and I had stumbled upon.
I decided to sleep on the sofa and within minutes, the kitten, still hissing like hell, had jumped onto me and burrowed under the duvet onto my tummy. Shaking with fear but desperate for comfort of any kind, she stayed there, calmed down eventually and slept, motionless, until the morning.
The next morning brought no change, with her refusing to eat and still hissing and spitting. She did not appear to be injured and did not take kindly to my examination. L very kindly swapped rooms and moved into the front room with kitten going into the spare room.
When kitten had still not eaten that night I took her straight down to the vet, explaining the situation. The vet gave her a full examination, established that her temperature was normal, thought that she was simply traumatised and said to bring her back in a day or so if she still had no interest in food.
In the meantime, the night I had phoned M, she was worried about Pepper, who was not eating much and by the Wednesday, the two of us had identical cats with almost identical problems, neither of which could have infected each other.
As Pepper had recovered from terminal kidney failure, we were both worried sick about her. M came up with the brilliant idea of trying tinned tuna, salmon or anything else that might stimulate kitten’s appetite. That night, she did indeed nibble some tuna.
I breathed a sigh of relief and bedded down on the floor with her. Kitten again nestled into me, hissing if I so much moved a hand or a foot, but I was able to stroke her head provided I moved very carefully and slowly.
The next morning, it was clear what the problem was. I woke up covered in liquid diarrhoea so bad I could not see it but I sure could smell it. I shot her down to the vet again that night and we agreed that, considering she had not eaten in four days and her declining weight and the diarrhoea meant that she had probably had a bug that had gone untreated and was still affecting her. We threw everything at the issue.
The owner eventually admitted that the kitten had been like this when she had her the first time. However the original owner who took her back insisted that she had not had diarrhoea when she was with her. I knew this to be a big fat lie because if the kitten had liquid diarrhoea at one house and at mine, she would have had it at the home in between.
At this stage, the owner would still not release the cat to my care. I kept her updated of each treatment the kitten had and what costs I was incurring. The owner had no idea how to look after a cat and few resources to do it with either. Over the days, it became clear that she was not very bright rather than bad.
By the Friday, I was worried sick she would want the kitten back and I was not prepared to do that. Here we go, I thought, I am going to get myself arrested. Thankfully, shortly afterwards, she relented and I had confirmation on text that I could keep the kitten.
After a shaky start, the kitten has responded well to the medication, is still very slim and her tummy not quite right but is otherwise doing well. She seems determined to live here and whilst still hissing and spitting occasionally at my lovely lot, who apart from Felix, who gave her a talking to the other night, have remained serenely unconcerned at her bolshiness, whilst refusing to give her much leeway.
Jaggie however has fallen madly in love with her, which made me wonder about relationships in general. It is fairly well-known that many (if not most) children who have fractured relationships with one or more of their parents tend to grow up to recreate the dynamics of those relationships in adulthood. It is almost as if the psyche is trying to recreate the problem in order to heal itself.
Of course, this does not often happen and in fact, more damage is done by establishing the same path of hurt and making it even more defined in one’s make-up.
I was watching him the other night, watching the kitten. Jaggie was found in a cardboard box with his siblings, dumped in the middle of the road at night. Torn apart too young from his mother, he did not learn very good inter-cat socialisation skills and was not a particularly demonstrative kitten. He did get on with the dog owned by the people who took him on.
When the dog died and they got a new dog, he left home and lived wild on the street, being sheltered by the owner’s neighbours. He would not go near his female owner after this.
A few months later, Guinevere brought him home. He fell in love with her and after a few months and realising finally, that he did not have a home and was not being looked after (he had a serious ear injury which needed repeat visits to the vet), I took him in.
He was vicious, in a way that I had only seen in a few very, very abused cats. He took every opportunity to strike before he was hit and every time he hurt me, he cowered on the floor, waiting to be hurt in return. He could not understand at all why I wasn’t hurting him back.
It took him a good year to stop hurting me. Anything could trigger his reaction but mostly it was the act of walking past him. So I wore boots indoors for a year until he realised that he couldn’t hurt me anymore, that I wasn’t going to kick ten bells of crap out of him any time I walked past and that even if he did hurt me, he wasn’t going to get hurt in return.
The last few times he reacted that way, he caught himself midstrike, paw lifted and mouth open and I could see the effort it took for him to stop himself.
In all that time however, one cat held his attention and he would approach her, grovelling on his belly until she noticed him and growled at him to go forth and multiply. Whether he was simply grateful that she had brought him home or whether he was as completely in love with her as it appeared (I am aware that I am giving him human traits here but I also now realise fully that emotions are not limited to human experience), he only stopped being a grovelling twat when she finally allowed him onto the bed when she was there.
Nowadays, it is not that unusual to find them on the bed together but the first time she did it, he slept with his head in her direction, staring at her until his eyelids dropped in tiredness, purring his head off.
The point is that here is a cat who lost his Mum young, whose Mum became suddenly and inexplicably from his point of view, denied to him. He then had an owner and a home which became intolerable for him. He did not reject the owner’s husband and continued to approach him but would not go near his female human and would not come home. He chose to live on the street rather than go back.
He then is brought into a house of cats by a female cat who is and always has been emotionally remote, he takes a long time to stop hurting me (female) in advance of the hurt he thought he was going to receive (which makes me suspicious of the story I was told about him leaving home but there you go, I am a suspicious person when I see an animal so obviously abused over a period of time with no obvious cause) and then he is entranced by a kitten who herself is vulnerable but putting on every show of being able to take care of herself and then some and makes a big show of rejecting him.
Is he too, recreating the patterns of his early life? Nowadays Jaggie is a handsome, mostly contented cat who whilst still not overly keen on being picked up, rarely has a go at me and when he does, it is half-hearted. He has never learned the art of lap sitting (it took him three years to make the attempt) but will snuggle next to me when I am reading and adores being stroked when he is warm and snoozy. He has a marvellous purr, has learned to accept the other cats, is secure in his position in the household and yet … he still seems to be trying to heal that early wound in his soul.