It's a funny thing when you get to my time of life, and you get your first real job. Of course, I've done lots of things, had kittens, caught mice and all the usual stuff, but nothing like this. And at first I thought it was the end of the line for me. Just shows how wrong you can be. Let me take you back, and you'll see for yourself.
I'd lived quite a varied life till my middle years. On a farm first, lots of mice, lots of kittens, then a family who used to stay there on holiday took me home with them. The farmer said I was getting on a bit, and not much use to them any more. That was a change for me, life in a city. To be honest, I didn't like it much, and I was still young enough to protest - loudly. I would yell at all hours to go out or come in; well, I'd been used to freedom for so long you see. And the food wasn't at all what I was used to. No mice to speak of, and the tinned stuff they dished up when they felt like it was just not filling me. Then came the crunch... I got pregnant again. I could tell they hadn't expected that, thought I was past it from what the farmer said, no doubt. So that was it, they chucked me out. It was a hard time. Only two of my kittens survived, and they went a bit wild because of living in a derelict building.
One day I was having a nice comfy snooze, when I felt a great jolting, thought the earth was shaking beneath me! Then I remembered, I'd hopped onto a tarpaulin for my little nap, and the lorry underneath had driven off. What a shock! Several hours later, we pulled into a sort of builder's yard, and I had to fend for myself for a while, but I was used to that, and at least there were more pickings there.
Then someone came with a delicious smelling dish of something, which in my state I simply couldn't resist. The next thing I knew I was in a cage, transported to the cat house at what I now know is Pets' Lifeline. I was beyond being scared, but more than a little downcast at what my fate may be. I needn't have worried; I was cared for, more food than I'd ever seen in my life, any little tummy upset taken care of - the works.
Eventually, after I'd been there a few months, I was allowed the run of the cat house. That was good for me; I'd been getting a bit stiff sitting in my cage all the time. I took to doing regular laps to get myself in working order again.
All this time, people had been coming and going, apart from Joyce and David, of course, who looked after us. And animals too, had been coming and going. It slowly dawned on me that I had been there longer than any other cat; there was no one left who had been there when I was brought in. What did this mean? It meant, if you want the stark truth, that nobody wanted me. I don't know why, really, because I'm good natured enough, placid, don't spit or scratch, and I used to have a rather smart coat which has unfortunately faded. But I am getting on a bit, and I suppose no one wanted to look forward to vet bills, or worse.
That realisation nearly sent me into a decline. From then on, I couldn't help but notice the pretty young tortie females preening themselves when visitors arrived, or the handsome toms. Even the kittens seemed to get cuter and more kittenish in front of other people. And I was just myself: old, a bit dog-eared and stiff, and needing to pee quite often. Not much cop, really. I felt as low as I've ever felt about that time. It's hard not to be 'chosen'.
One day, I overheard Joyce discussing me with David.
"I think it's time that old Martha came into the house with us, David."
"We're not having another cat indoors! We've got nine already, where will we put another?"
"There's always room, and no one wants her. Look at her, she's a sweetie, but she's old."
At that point, Joyce picked me up and gave me one of her famous snuffly cuddles. I almost cried out loud, I loved it so much. David shuffled about a bit.
"You're right," he said. "She can come in."
If Joyce hadn't been holding me so tightly, I'd have hung round his neck and licked his ear. As it was, I had to wait until much later to do that. It seems that before I was allowed to be a house cat, I had to be introduced to the garden.
It was a doddle, I was good as gold in the garden, and soon I was sitting on what became my favourite seat, the cushion near the radiator in the kitchen. Oh, the bliss when the heating was on. Sometimes, I could sit in the windowsill, when the sun shone on it. Double bliss!
It was early summer when the kittens started coming in. Joyce had a box which she carried about with her. I saw her with those tiny ones - how I wished I could still nurse them... feeding them on the hour, then every two hours, night and day. One day I just happened to amble over to their box. Oh, the smell of them, they were yummy! I just had to lick one, to see if it still felt the same, and it did, only better. I couldn't manage to get in the box, so I hoicked one of them out, set it between my paws and washed it all over. Heaven! Then another, and another. Joyce came in and saw what I was doing; she was that pleased with me.
"Save me half an hour, you topping and tailing them," she said. A great purr escaped me, and my eyes were practically closing with the joy of it.
The next time Joyce had kittens, so to speak, she showed me the box straight away. Now she lets me go to the cat house with her, and any kittens or young cats there, I give them a good going over. These days, funnily enough, I don't feel down any more.
Sue Tordoff, writer and editor, wrote Pets' Tales for the Keswick-based charity Pets' Lifeline. It is a collection of stories about animals who found life and hope through the efforts of Pets' Lifeline's dedicated volunteer workers.
Price £2.50 (Plus 30p Postage & Packing) - all 250 pennies of this goes to Pets' Lifeline.
Contact Sue Tordoff at: E-mail
Pets' Lifeline is a registered charity, number 518593.
4 Crosthwaite Gardens
Copyright: Sue Tordoff (www.georgemackaybrown.co.uk)