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February 2007



Now before anybody gets the wrong idea from the title. I have been possessed, not by an evil spirit but by a black cat. Well almost totally black apart from odd white hairs that look as if they were stuck on randomly. It's a long story and started by my reading an advertisement from someone, desperately in need of a home for their tortoiseshell, female cat. I hadn't until then known that all tortoiseshell cats are female. The advertisement said that the cat came with carrying box, all food dishes and toys. That's what grabbed my attention, this cat came complete with everything except a home to contain all her belongings. I telephoned the owner who came to see where I lived. Her cat was not going just anywhere. She came complete with some snaps of a very pretty, dainty neutered female. She liked the amount of garden I had, and I presume I must have passed inspection too. She explained that Holly was a re homed cat and was extremely nervous, and afraid of men. My husband had recently died and now there was only myself and my son who has Down's syndrome. He loves all animals and would be very gentle with her.

The following week Holly was delivered. With great difficulty she was coaxed out of her carrier and promptly shot under my Welsh dresser and refused to come out for either her owner or me. Things were not helped by my having a bath removed and shower cubicle installed in its place. This meant noise and all made by a MAN. Owner had a drink and eventually left, not very happy at the fact that Holly had not emerged. I promised to phone her later that day to let her know progress.

The plumber departed and the bungalow was quiet at last. I got her dish and some of her food which her late owner had brought to try and tempt her out. Eventually hunger got the better of her and she poked her head out far enough to eat the food. A little later she came out a bit further and I was able to smooth her gently. I showed her where her foot and water were, also the litter tray. Of course for the time being I had to keep her indoors until she got used to her new situation. Holly objected loud and long at being kept inside.

It was late July and very warm. In desperation I opened the patio door just an inch or so. I mentioned earlier that this was a very dainty cat, but I had no idea just how dainty she was. I came into the sitting room and there was an ominous silence. She had managed to get out through the tiny opening. Panic set in. Having been told to keep her indoors for a week, after just three days she had got out. I really felt sick and thought I had lost her. Had visions of her trudging along the road for many miles trying to find her old home. Then some hours later going out into the garden again calling her name, I heard a meow and she appeared at the top of the garden wall. I coaxed her back in and was allowed to gently smooth her again. I hoped this meant I was now accepted as her human, and so it proved. I was even allowed to tickle her tummy which previous owner when told, said she had only been allowed that privilege occasionally.

So I was accepted and we had a very happy few months together. Holly was definitely an outdoor cat. She would come in through the bedroom window in the early hours and lie at the foot of my bed for the remainder of the night. Her food was demanded with loud calls first thing in the morning and early evening. I kept her late owner up to date with progress and suddenly thought about vaccinations etc. If I ever had to put her into local cattery for some reason, I needed proof that these were done. Her late owner contacted the cat rescue centre to be told that they didn't do them for outdoor cats. So I found out when local vet was in the town and took Holly to have the necessary injections done. We came home and she immediately went out as normal and was lying down under the garden table in the shade. When I got up the following morning, she was not lying on my bed and I felt that awful cold dread that knots up your insides. After breakfast I went out calling and searching. My worst fears were realised, I found her lying on the pavement not far from the bungalow. She must have been hit by a car on her way home. I picked her up and buried her in the garden she loved so much. Although I had only had her for a few months, there was as much pain as there had been years earlier losing a beloved dog. As I was now too old to own a dog which needed regular exercise, a cat had seemed to be another warm being that I could come home to, instead of an empty bungalow, more empty than it had ever been since I had lost my beloved partner of 53 years.

Now we come to the possessor of me and my home. Going to the vet's surgery to pay for Holly's injections I told the nurse what had happened. She was very sympathetic and with a heavy heart I tried to get on with life again without that small furry creature who had wound herself completely around my heart strings.

A few days later my phone rang and it was the nurse I had spoken to. Was I willing to house a male kitten 22 weeks old. I said no way, I couldn't go through all that again. I was told that a neutered male was a far different creature. Much lazier and would stay closer to home and as he was younger, far less likely to roam, unlike his predecessor who was a born hunter. Would I sleep on it I was asked and give her a ring the following day.

I asked my friend for her opinion and knowing how much I missed Holly she said go ahead and give it another try. So I telephoned the surgery and was told the kitten would be there the following afternoon. I had a mental picture of a small furry kitten, but when I saw this very long, lean black cat with a definite Siamese shaped head and their peculiar call yowling away at me, I wondered if I could ever grow to love him the same way. Holly was a dainty ladylike creature, this was like comparing a pedigree racehorse with a carthorse.

I brought him home yelling all the way. He shot out of the carrier, no coaxing needed for this cat. I showed him his food and water dishes and the litter tray. I had bought dried food for him having been told this was what he ate currently. He immediately attacked his food, had a drink and proceeded to explore the place. Now I will be perfectly frank and say I thought he was anything but a thing of beauty. In fact if pressed, I would have said ugly. My friend who called the following day was a little kinder. She thought he was like the proverbial duckling who would eventually grow into a swan. His long skinny body, very long legs and extremely long tail would eventually seem more in proportion as he grew. The one big thing in his favour was his highly gleaming fur coat.

There couldn't have been a greater contrast between Sooty, name chosen for him, and the late Holly. This cat was afraid of nothing, apart from the vacuum cleaner. The cat flap installed for Holly but never used by her, unless it was held open, held no fears for this cat.. When I was able to let him go out into the garden, I only had to show him how the thing opened and out he went to explore the quite large garden.

Two weeks later I had to return him to the vet's surgery to be neutered. The small local branch surgery was just for examinations, so it meant him being taken to the main surgery some miles away, an overnight stay and I could collect him the following day. When I arrived in the surgery, he was in his carrier which was being rocked from side to side by a very indignant cat. A small Westie going to investigate the yelling and dangerously rocking carrier was almost swiped on the nose by a black leg which shot out of the front of the carrier. I paid the bill, put the carrier and still yelling cat in the car and as soon as he got in the car, he stopped yelling. When we arrived home, he staggered out of the carrier with legs that were buckling under him. He resembled someone who had partaken of too much alcohol and whose legs had turned to rubber. He staggered to where his food bowl was, collapsed beside it and ate his biscuits like an animal who had been starved for days. All done lying down. He then gave himself a good wash from tip of nose to end of his long tail and promptly fell asleep for two hours.

The next day he was completely back to his normal self attacking everything that he could reach with claws extended. My easy chairs and settee were thankfully not new, but they looked a deal worse after his attacks. I discovered that these were mainly when someone called to see me. I had heard of children who were attention seekers, but didn't know a cat could develop the same trait. Clawing the furniture, leaping up on to bookcase, dresser, tables etc., immediately brought attention as anything on top was in imminent danger of being swiped off.

In desperation I took him back to the vet to have his claws trimmed. Again he yelled all the way there. Objected strongly to vet's attention and had to be forcibly restrained by her nurse who grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and held on. Thankfully I don't understand cat language, but I would describe what he was doing as swearing as loudly as a cat could. When he emerged from his carrier the vet had said "wow what a cat! Definitely some oriental strain here." Then she asked what I was feeding him on as whatever it was, he was getting too much of it. I explained that I carefully measured the biscuits out according to the instructions on the packet, and that was all he had. I didn't add that if he could see the pattern on the bottom of his bowl, he thought a famine was imminent. I asked if she had any advice about stopping him clawing furniture, and leaping on to every surface with resultant breakages. She said, that if I discovered how to do this, would I let her know as she had the same problem.

The minister of our small church popped in for a cup of coffee one morning. Sooty put on an act that might have warranted an appearance on the Royal Variety show. Not only is SHE not paying me my due attention, but she is talking to this strange man. He climbed to heights not before attempted. That of course meant me leaping out of my chair and hauling him down. I think I had to grab him on at least half a dozen occasions. Fortunately Steve our minister has a cat and three dogs, so is familiar with animals. His shoe laces were untied, his coffee cup was almost swiped off side table. In fact if Sooty had been a toddler, he would have been sent to bed without his dinner. Steve's comments, "this cat is a character." Obviously unlike his own!! He was locked out of the sitting room but set up such a commotion, I had to let him back in where at least I could see what he was up to. Whilst locked out I heard the sound of something being broken. He had gone into dining room and swiped a dish off the dresser, fortunately not a valuable one. Steve's cat apparently responds to a loud NO. Perhaps if I knew what it was in Siamese he might pay attention. When Steve left, Sooty was sitting happily on my computer chair as if butter wouldn't melt.

As a hobby I make cards and give them to local cancer fundraising group to sell. One morning, thinking he was safely asleep on spare room bed I got out the craft materials. As if he knew, he arrived, jumped up on table in the middle of everything carrying his toy mouse. I threw it, he retrieved it and off we went again. Now have I got a cat or a dog? What self respecting cat retrieves toys. He then proceeded to swipe everything off the table that he could reach. I gave up and went on to my computer to catch up with some mail. He promptly collapsed in a heap, snoring loudly. Another thing I was unaware cats did. Eventually I managed to make a few cards before he awoke.

The next day somebody sent me a picture a Burmese cat. If I hadn't known better, I would have said the photographer had taken the picture of Sooty. I must admit, that now he has filled out a bit, with his shining fur coat, he does look more attractive. I just wish I knew more about his ancestry. I did read up a bit about this breed and he certainly seems to have all the attributes of it. He follows me from room to room. He chooses his own sleeping arrangements, but usually follows me into bedroom at night. Just to check what I am doing. Teeth brushing he finds fascinating. Showering not so popular as he can't find a way to get in until I get out, but loves poking his nose inside the cubicle when I emerge. When he sees me safely in bed he disappears, usually. During the very cold nights we had recently, after I had put the light out, I suddenly realised that something warm and furry was insinuating itself between my pillow and the headboard. Mainly he appears around six a.m. and if you can imagine a cold nose and something that resembles a noisy pneumatic drill being inserted into your ear that is my wake up call.

A friend called one day and I was making her a drink. I asked her if she would bring in the milk from the fridge which is in my utility room as is cat flap. "You'd better come here" I heard, "Sooty is jammed in the cat flap." As it was pouring with rain, Sooty was doing his normal reconnaissance, head and paws out to check on the weather. There is an overhang above the door which means he stays dry whilst checking. As his back legs were dangling in space, she thought he was stuck, but that's his normal inspection position. Not a drop of water is allowed to touch him. Definitely a fine weather cat this one.

Assisting in changing sheets etc., on beds is another of his favourite activities. Now if you have never tried getting fitted sheets on with a cat's assistance, you have no idea. He gets locked out of room, then sets up such a howling that you think he has to be in mortal danger. Opening door to check, he tears back in and the game starts all over. I leave the task until he is fast asleep, but I reckon he can hear the airing cupboard door opening as if it sounded like a thunderclap.

He has now started exploring the world beyond the garden having learned the high wall surrounding it is not beyond his reach. After the experience with Holly, my heart was in my mouth when I saw him running along on top of the wall the first time. Behind it is a large area of waste ground, but if he took another turning, he would be out on a busy main road. Sometimes he comes back in very quickly, but he has been out for a few hours. Then my anxieties start. I just have to accept that this cat will not and never will be just a house cat. I can only hope that his love and need to be close to me will stop him going too far. He does recoil from the noise of lorries passing, so I hope that will keep him away from that road.

So if you have read this far, you will see that I have been truly possessed by this black limb of Satan. As someone who has always had dogs as pets, a cat is a completely new experience and whatever happens, one that has changed my life. The kitten, who never really looked like a kitten, has truly turned into a gleaming black swan. Telephone rings, he dashes out from wherever, knowing that a lap might soon be available. He wraps his front legs round my free arm and tucks his head under it. To date the only 'gift' he has brought me was a very long, fat worm. His yelling when it was gathered up into piece of kitchen roll and returned to the garden was loud enough to frighten the poor creature to death. I just hope and pray that he doesn't turn into a hunter like his predecessor and brings me more unwanted gifts. Summer is on its way, and no doubt his forays outside will be longer as the weather warms up. I hope and pray that he will turn into a thoroughly lazy creature, content to lie on the warm flagstones and let the world go by. I am totally possessed and quite happy to be.

Copyright 2007: Eileen

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