I live in a neighborhood full of young families with pets. Accordingly, the main street boasts a vet, two luxury pet stores and two doggy groomers to meet demand. It is impossible to walk anywhere in this suburb without being accosted by cats demanding pats, because they outnumber humans and are very much in charge. I have my own furry friend/overlord, a grumpy old lady-cat named Trogdor.
I have also been forcibly adopted by my neighbour’s cat, Johnson, who is unshakably convinced that my house is his house too.
“Why you no let me in?”
He lays in wait listening for a door or window to open, then bounds in, scarfs all the food he can, and later barfs it up on the front porch.
Despite this, he is an absolute sweetheart.
Now because my own cat, Trogdor, is rubbish at defending her territory, and Johnson is friend to all creatures, our backyard is something of an animal thoroughfare. Some are regulars from around the place, occasionally I get strays, and very occasionally I get a regular stray.
I started to notice a ginger comet flashing through the garden now and then. One evening this ginger bullet shot right past me, so I sat down and started to call and click – and a sweet little fellow ran straight up to me for pats. Belly pats even!
His fur was filthy, matted, dreadlocked right down to the skin, and filled with fleas. His skin was scabby where he had scratched himself too much, and he was battle scarred. Underneath his thick fur his tummy gurgled fiercely, and he was not desexed.
I was puzzled. Surely he couldn’t be anyone’s pet considering the condition he was in, but he certainly wasn’t feral – he was so tame and friendly! I fed the little rascal and gave him some flea treatment. I tried to cut off the worst of his dreadlocks and give him a bath, but he was quite distressed by the process.
He came back every evening for a week. We christened him “The Great Catsby” and took him to the vet to be de-sexed and washed. The vet told us he was two years old, and confirmed that he was no one’s pet. There was also nothing to be done about his matted fur but to shave him.
The vet tried to leave Catsby with a layer of down so he wouldn’t get sunburn, but unfortunately some of the worst matted areas had to be shaved off right near the skin, so he was a bit patchy. The fur left on his head, legs and tail tip gave him a very comical appearance. The neighbors called him the lion, my housemate called him the gremlin, cars would slow down in the street to look at him.
But Catsby didn’t seem to notice that people thought he looked bizarre, he was deeply fascinated by all the new wonders of domestic life. Like microwaves.
And bits of mesh nailed up to the fence to encourage tomatoes to grow that fall down a bit.
And he has been the sweetest, friendliest little guy.
A year later and his fur has grown back thick and lovely, his belly is always full, and he is friends with a rabbit.
But even though we’ve taken the cat out of the wild, we haven’t taken the wild out of the cat. You still have to watch your biscuits, toast or tofu around him because he will genuinely eat anything, and all too often I’ll be summoned to the back door to see something like this.
A mustache of mischief.
The Great Catsby has brought us endless delight, and my heart breaks to think of how hungry and unhealthy he was when we found him.
There may be a Great Catsby living under your house and you don’t even know it yet. Please keep your eyes peeled and your hearts open.