(New post about how a stray cat turned up in the first winter snow storm)
On the first day that the snow fell during this latest cold snap, snowbound at home and idly dabbling on my netbook, I spot a notice on a friend’s Facebook page:
Is anyone in Hawkesbury missing a cat? quite a small cat -white with patches of colour? He/she is very hungry (just devoured 2 tins of tuna), and sheltering in my next door neighbour’s open garage. Please ask around, the cat needs to go home xxx
Feeling skittish, as it’s my birthday, I post my reply without a moment’s hesitation:
If no-one claims her, I could have a cat for my birthday! Just need to persuade Gordon….
I’ve been thinking for a long time that I’d like to have a cat again. It’s several years since my last one died, but I’ve made a deal with myself that I’ll only do so if one decides to acquire me – i.e. a stray turns up on my doorstep. Turning up on a neighbour’s doorstep (where there live two big dogs) is the next best thing.
The reason for my wavering is that one of my very best friends is allergic to cats. It was a consoling factor when my last cat died that this friend would be able to visit me at home without risking hospitalisation.
A snowy day is a quiet day, even with my daughter home from school, which is closed due to the weather. I figure that temporarily hosting this cat while we track down its owner will produce a welcome source of entertainment for us both for the afternoon. With the SOS already doing the rounds on Facebook, it surely won’t be long before we’re able to witness a happy reunion for the cat and its owner.
Another neighbour, also on Facebook, calls to check whether I’m serious.
“It’s a lovely little white cat, Deb,” he says. “I’d have it, but my cat wouldn’t like it.”
I nod and my daughter beams. Moments later, he returns, bearing cat.
It is indeed a beautiful cat, and not just white. Its thick fur is a multitude of black and ginger blotches, against a white background. It looks as if it’s been made from leftover bits of other cats. Its black-rimmed amber eyes remind me of Cleopatra’s. Google advises me that it’s a calico cat, which I’m pleased about. I’ve always wanted one of those, without actually knowing what that name meant.
Speaking of names – what to call it? There’s no collar , although the creature’s immaculate, dense fur and easy manner in our presence suggests that it’s domesticated.
“I think I’ll call it Dora, because it keeps Exploring,” decides Laura, as the cat flattens itself to creep beneath our kitchen counters.
Dora later elongates to Dorothy, without us making a conscious decision. Perhaps the name has been subliminally suggested by the postcard, propped up on the dresser, of Judy Garland’s famous ruby slippers from the film of the Wizard of Oz. Or maybe, like the Cowardly Lion, it’s just got lots on its way along the Yellow Brick Road (a nickname given, incidentally, to the part of the Cotswold Way that runs behind our village).
I confine Dorothy to the back of the house (kitchen, utility room, bathroom), while we gauge its grasp of housetraining. Our neighbour returns with cat food, bound to be needed later, even though he’s just fed it two tins of tuna before he brought it down. Dorothy had apparently eaten them voraciously. No wonder she’s looking plump.
I put down on a dish on the floor the bacon rind left over from breakfast. Whoosh! With the speed of the dirt in a Cillit Bang advert, it’s gone. Dorothy looks up hopefully from the empty dish. Moments later, a sachet of cat food is inside her.
“Mummy, why does Dorothy’s tummy keep twitching?” Laura asks.
Gingerly, if you’ll forgive the pun, I encircle the cat’s tummy with my hands. It’s solid. And moving.
A new scenario pops into my mind.
“I hope she’s not been dumped because she’s pregnant.”
It’s happened round here before: city-dwellers abandoning unwanted pregnant cats in the village, assuming the poor creature will find a new berth catching mice on a farm. Call me cynical, but I don’t believe the cats make it out here on their own, Dick Whittington style, setting off from home to in search of streets paved with Whiskas. And certainly not in snow.
We make the cat a bed in a cardboard box and turn an old washing-up bowl into a litter tray filled with dirt from a discarded plant pot in the conservatory (there’s no digging up the garden under snow). Laura, ever the bountiful hostess, makes it toys to play with and reads it stories as they lie on their tummies together on the floor. She wonders how long it would take her to teach it to read.
Meanwhile, cleaning out the litter tray, I’m beginning to remember the disadvantages of cat ownership. I take a picture and put it on Facebook with the message:
If you recognise this cat, please notify its owners and put them in touch with me to reclaim it
One week on, and Dorothy must surely be thinking “There’s no place like home.”