Saturday, 28 August 2010


Despite it not being a normal timing pause for grieving, we decided that, as this past weekend was the last completely free weekend until 9 October (and even then, we have a theatre excursion), we would have an outing -- or several -- to look for a kitty who needs a home. [Note: 9 October is exactly 1 month before the tea-leafed arrival of Squeak. Introducing a rescued creature into a home with a mere 4 weeks to 'settle', and followed by And Now For Something Completely Different seems a bit mean and thoughtless if it can be avoided.]

My attempt at being pragmatic allowed my planning skills to overshadow lingering sadness, which admittedly was (mostly) beyond the constant-reminders-of-Angus-leading-to-weeping stage by last Friday. The tinternet 'tis a v. good thing for coordinating spontaneous ventures such as this, to include the entire county of Norfolk -- although Eamonn had already had a bit of a peruse around and so She started with some Excellent Pointers in the right direction.

The RSPCA, the Cat's Protection League, and several animal sanctuaries. Looked at photo albums. Read bios (where available). Make initial choices for potential good matches (e.g., prefer no long hair; prefer no kittens; should not have been abused by children in previous habitat; etc.). Planned route. Called for appointments. Printed maps. Created agenda.

Cosmic; and Chilli & Pepper; Harley; Liquorice & Cappucino; India & Gem; and Jack were some of the named ones that we started with. We visited them and from that group (and a few others who just also needed to be petted), Chilli and Pepper, and India and Gem were our two (double) initial choices... Chilli and Pepper are a 1-year-old brother and sister pair, who are absolutely sweet and shiny and purry; Pepper also was born with only one eye -- making him a Pirate (!). India and Gem are 4-year-old sisters, who have only recently been neutered, and who are respectively shy and sassy. Personality is a must.

Our aim was NOT to try to replace Angus with another black (or partially black) cat. However, as I may have mentioned before: black and black&white cats are just 'not in fashion' now. Hence the reason that so many of them end up in shelters, according to our previous vet. I think this is utterly atrocious. 'Not in fashion', indeed. People with that mentality ought to be neutered AND banned.

A couple of years ago, Richard and Clem took us along to a charity event at a cat sanctuary at Beeston Regis, on the North Norfolk coast. This place was actually my first thought of a must-go-to place, as it had seemed at the time such a caring environment with great support of volunteers who help with socialising the cats, helping those who need it to psychologically heal, and caring for those who are simply unhomeable. It is a no-kill shelter.

We didn't know the full story, though.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a protective gatekeeper lady who took us inside the main house, because 'Everybody has to meet Ms. Rees before you can go look at the cats.' We went into the kitchen, where Ms. Rees was sat next to the Aga with a cat on her lap, cats in various baskets around the kitchen and on chairs. At one point my conversational attention was distracted by the top of the cabinet next to the ceiling stretching its little kitty toes over the edge. These are part of the cats which are unhomeable.

Ms. Rees doesn't move very much, and she can no longer go out to the cattery with visitors, because she is recovering from paralysis as a result of a broken neck. Her neck was broken by a male personage who runs a scam on the North Norfolk coast -- maybe in Aylsham. His chapter in her tragic story began when some kind soul found a cat roaming around, very hungry, thin, scruffy and in danger of being run over. The cat was brought to her, and she recognised it as a Bengal -- quite valuable. Ads were posted in the newspaper and notices given on the radio.

After several weeks, no one had come forward. So preparing the cat for re-homing began. This involves vaccination, neutering, de-fleaing, worming -- basically providing basic care for the well-being of the animal. Shortly after this, a man called her one day claiming, ' You've got my cat.' To which she replied, 'Well, actually I have about 60 cats, so perhaps you might tell me which one you think is yours?' His cocky reply that it was a Bengal... 'not that [she] would know anything about that' and her response that she did in fact have a Bengal (and knew very well what it was) and that he should come out and see if it was his.

His arrival and discovery of his cat in healthy condition (although missing some bits) resulted in his utter rage that she had 'cut the balls off' what was purportedly his 'stud cat.' He threw things maniacally around the cattery and at her and raged off saying that she would pay him the £5000 for his ruined cat, and more. 'More' being quite threatening.

Legal battles ensued -- but to no effect to his benefit.

However, in 2004, after the incident had for all intents and purposes run its course, she was attacked one early morning in her flower garden, shot with a stun gun, her neck broken, and a 70-ish lady was left for dead. She was completely paralysed and lay there for 2 hours until volunteers arrived to the cattery and she was able to be airlifted out.

After 6 months in hospital, the police had still not even visited the suspected culprit. Only at the insistence of her son was he 'visited' and he (of course) said, 'No. I didn't do that.' And the capable police left. The police refused to pursue it any further, claiming that since she had had her back to the attacker, her evidence was not credible.

She is no longer paralysed, but she has such a diminished quality of life now, even though she continues to run the charity that she has run for more than 20 years. She built the cattery as it now is with her own hands, however it is now a struggle for her to even go outside to see the animals she is helping.

Not for this reason -- I just wanted to share the brief story of the atrocity of one evil man and a corrupt culture which allows him to roam free and re-perpetrate (which apparently he does when people 'rescue' his set-up animals) and juxtapose that with the kindness and gentleness that people like Ms. Rees and her loyal helpers have to give -- but not for this reason at all, did we proceed to the Cat House (titter). Well, actually, we were 'Approved' to go to the Cat House.

And we met Jasmine and Patches and Lucky and Russett and LeAnn (she is very saucy) and Tiffany and Tessa and Blackey and the kittens and everyone.

And then we were led through this separate door (which looked like the entrance to a store room) off the main Cat Room. But no. This was no store room. This was the entrance to Inky's Annexe.

Inky is a funny cat, who does not approve of other cats. He has his own apartment, where he has lived for 2 years (and he is only 3 or 4 years old), complete with habitat room (with all amenities, such as bed, box and heater) and comfortable porch room overlooking both the garden and the Cat Room. Inky folds his tail over his back like he is a squirrel. He is quite talkative, very friendly, and I think he will be a cuddler. He allowed the Visiting Hoomins (well, the Lady Hoomin) to pick him up and hold him until her arms were tired and it was time to go. Inky is obviously black.

We had a good discussion on the way home, and were pretty much unanimous that Inky was Zee One. Chilli  Pepper were a very, very close second, but doubling all costs seemed a bit unwise.

But it really would have been fun to have a pirate cat...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Tale of a Kitty

One week ago at this time was the last time I saw our beloved Angus alive.

He jingled jauntily (with his little bell collar) out the back door after his early morning cuddle and his kitty-breakfast with Radio 4. I cannot remember if we had some sneaky kitty meelks or not (his papa did not approve of normal Hoomin meelks for the kitty, but Angus was just not a big fan of Whiskas feline milk products).

That evening, the only part I saw of his lovely shiny fur again was the top of his head which Eamonn allowed me to see from the pulled back towels in which our kindly neighbor had wrapped him. Eamonn prepared him for burial in Angus's favourite Virgin Atlantic blanket, which always went with him to Pennyback Cat Lodge -- where he spent his kitty holidays during any long-term Human Excursions from home. We buried him in the back garden next to the hydrangea.

This past week, I have been intensely consumed and utterly bereft and mournful in a ceaseless paroxysm of repetitive and self-absorbed grief. Yes, I am aware that he was a cat. Yes, I have felt quite selfish in my grief. But I have also been completely helpless to the wishful images of him popping through the front hedge to talkatively welcome us home from work; or stopping just inside the dining room door for a quick stretch on the rug (and a pat); or his companionable presence in the bathroom (with a little scratch on the jute rug and followed by a nose up in the air for a kiss); or his overt preference for the Right Shoulder Hang (rather than the Left) and the ages he would just allow me to carry him about like a human infant.

The thing I miss the most of all, though, is the daily 5.30a.m. purr and headbutt-to-the-sleeping-human's-chin session, which always ended with him curling up in my armpit and lying his head onto my shoulder for one more little doze. Even though some people may think he was only a dumb animal (as in, 'without human speech'), his absence has left a great gaping hole in our family. And I am so sad that Squeak will not know who it was purring through my tummy to him all these months; I am irrevocably convinced that Angus knew someone is in there. He would have been a magnificent kitty with a baby.

Today, though, I feel finally ready to heal. And my persistent belief in fate is edging very slowly back into the room in my head and bringing rational thought and emotion. This will be much more pleasant indeed for Eamonn, who has had rounded many corners this week to discover his wife weeping.

The tale of this kitty began on Christmas Day 2008, five days after our wedding in Louisiana. Eamonn spotted him down the alley on Magpie Road as we walked past on the way home -- so, naturally I had to go and pet the creature with the fur. He was quite thin and gangly and collarless. He came to our back door later, and we had some more pat-the-kitty time -- outside, of course.

For days, he kept coming back to our door, despite a lack of food offerings. It was really extremely cold during January, and he was so scruffy and weedy (not a fortuitous combination for someone who is trying to keep Amrie from giving in to strong feelings for animal welfare). The night that it snowed, Eamonn relented and said Kitteh could come in... BUT ONLY for the one night and he would go STRAIGHT OUT at dawn -- the crack of.

Eamonn claims that he was the First One to give him food  -- some smoked salmon scraps left over from breakfast one Sunday (gruff exterior, indeed). Kitteh had become a regular visitor for about 2 weeks.

We asked some of the neighbours if  they knew where he came from.

We looked for signs of 'Lost Cat', but I was too righteously judgemental (and cowardly) of animal husbandry in our neighbourhood to put any 'Found Cat' signs up of my own.

We put a collar on him, in the opinion that if he belonged to someone, they would perhaps say, 'Oi! Who has put this collar on my animal (which I do not care for properly)?' and perhaps reclaim him as their own. This did not happen.

Kitty pretty much made himself at home at 112 Magpie Road from this time onward (including inside), and he was always allowed inside for bitterly cold nights (the bathroom doorway was a good lying spot as the heating pipes were under the floor). Particularly useful for maintaining body heat is the Leg Stretch with Toe Separation (as demonstrated).

Observant readers may also recall that Meester initially was interested in zee feesh, but fish really are kind of boring, and when you can't actually poke them, they are no longer in the danger zone and survived quite safely and happily through the initial Kitteh Months on Magpie and the move to La Village. Besides, there were more fascinating creatures to hunt here -- things with fur and feathers and tiny tails and beaks and squeaks.

Angus loved People and loved visitors (and even tolerated grasping and waddling small people), always making them feel at home and helping to warm (a small portion of) their freshly laundered and made-up bed. This is his most uninhibited welcome to his last holiday houseguest, Hiroko...

Apparently, he was run over on The Common (where it is impossible to go more than 20 mph -- oh. the irony.) and was found right afterwards by a kind soul who came round to the Main Road since she knew that one of our houses had a black cat. Our neighbour was home and went to collect him in a basket. At least Gillian spared him the indignity of lying in the sun all day.

The heartless, soulless person who hit him didn't even stop.