Some time ago I did three blog entries all about how each one of my cats turned up at my door .
Before Whiskers and Kitty arrived, but after Rolly, a large, ginger and white boy turned up a few days before Christmas. He stalked his way through the undergrowth of the old orchard, and crept across the lawn towards my cat flap. Once inside, he checked out the competition. There was Rolly, a young, male stray who had settled in well, and my two original cats, Candy and Biscuit, both of whom I had as kittens.
The ginger and white one looked at the sleeping arrangements and decided to claim the kitchen bench. He looked old, bony and slightly dirty, but I found out he actually belonged to a lady I knew who lived a few miles along the coast road in the old coastguard houses.
Sally had nine other cats, but she had plenty of room for them in her large house surrounded by fields. It was a neighbour of Sally's who knew the cat I was talking about when I made enquiries. She told me he had been working his way along the row of houses, trying to find alternative accomodation. There are six houses in the row, and Sally lives at one end, in the largest house.
The neighbour told me the cat was called Max, and another neighbour had adopted him but turfed him out when he went abroad for the winter. He had been sleeping on a dustbin lid since then.
To get to my house, Max would have walked about five miles. The coast road is busy with fast moving cars, and he would have had to go over the bridge that crosses the small river that cuts down to the sea. Sally loves her cats, so I bundled him up in the car and took him home.
I met Sally feeding her chickens. She told me Max was having some problems with her younger cats, and it was getting difficult to encourage him indoors. We said our goodbyes, and I drove home.
When I woke up the next day, there was Max, back on the kitchen bench. He gave me a look, as if to say "This is my place and I have been here all night, thankyou. Can I have my breakfast now?"
He had done the walk again, along the road in the blackness of a country night, in mid-winter. Back he went in the car.
"You could try keeping your door shut" said Sally.
"I've got a cat flap" I replied.
"Well, I'm sorry if he's eating your cats' food."
"I'm not really bothered," I said. "It's just a worry that he's going along the road, at his age. How old is he?"
Sally told me Max was at least 16 years old, but my cat Biscuit was that age and he looked much younger. Max had a touch of arthritis and a fang tooth missing. His coat was dull and his eyes were weepy.
The next morning he was back, on the kitchen bench. It was Christmas Eve. I was working, so I gave him a day to go home himself. Needless to say, he was still asleep in the kitchen when I got home from work. Off we went down the road again. In the dusk of the evening I could see Sally putting the chickens to bed, surrounded by a gang of young cats. Max reluctantly got out of the car.
"If he's back tomorrow, shall I return him?" I asked. It was Christmas day after all.
"I think he wants to live with you," replied Sally. "I don't know what to suggest. You don't want him, do you?"
"I really don't mind," I replied. "He seems quiet enough, but he's your cat" Sally just wanted him to be happy, in a safe home. She was more concerned about what I thought.
Christmas Day and there was Max, greeting me with a grin from his place on the kitchen bench. That day he feasted with the others on roast turkey. He lived with me for the next six years, never straying further than the other end of the orchard. Sally visited him and he greeted her with one of his long-drawn out yowls.
He slept in a multitude of places, for a lot of the time.
In his last year he went completely deaf, and we had to escort him outside in case he got himself into difficulty. Sometimes he would forget where he was.
In his final months he had problems finding a comfortable bed, so I picked one up from a local petrol station. It was doughnut-shaped and perfect for him to get in and out of, and cushion his head.
He was a stubborn old thing, but we still miss him, and always will.
"daft old bugger"