cats who have agreed to live with us. There is a picture of me, barely able to stand, holding a cat almost as big as myself. He apparently patiently waited for the photograph to be taken before removing himself to a more comfortable location.
There was a cat in our first house who only came inside to eat but would spend hours sitting by me as I played in the back garden.
There was a semi-wild cat in our first house in the city. She had an excess of kittens which my mother said she gave away. I suspect now that my mother did away with them in our absence because they would all disappear on the same day. I think she would have given away the cat if she could. The cat would talk to me and I would talk to it. My mother thought that was ridiculous. My brother talked to the cat too. He used to say, "I am going to tell the cat on you."
We had no cat in our first home in the bush. There were too many snakes. Cats and snakes do not mix well.
When we moved on though we had another half-wild ginger animal that my father found quivering in the wood heap. It slept with the dog my sister insisted she wanted. There were other moves and more cats.
Once back in the city we were given a grown Siamese. He belonged to a teacher who had been on my father's staff. It was not our intention to have a cat but John was taking up a new, specialist position in a school in England. If the cat went too there would be all sorts of complications. The cat stayed with us.
When he died we had two more Siamese. They arrived by accident too. They were mere kittens, barely old enough to leave their mother. She was unwell. The kittens needed a new home fast. They made mischief and needed a lot of entertaining.
When we finally moved here we said no more cats but we took in the two that belonged to my youngest sister. And that was it. They were, I believe, happier here than they had been in her chaotic lifestyle. They settled in. They took over. We played games with them. We talked to them. We allowed them to take over our laps. We took thm to the vet. We cried over their inevitable deaths. One was almost sixteen, the other nearly twenty-one.
I still miss the last one. He was a mixture of half Siamese, half alley-cat - and all Siamese in character. He talked. He insisted it was his right to share my bed - or rather, have his own "sleeping mat" (a towel) on the end of it. He was the one who brought an injured bird in to my mother and demanded she do something - and no, he had not hurt it himself. We saw it hit the roof at speed and then fall, stunned to the ground. He would somehow know when I was due to arrive home and come out to wait for me - too consistently for it to be an accidental thing. Could he hear the tricycle? I do not know.
When he was ready to go we all wept. The vet wept too and refused to take anything for the last consultation.
I talk to the neighbourhood cats now, the moggies, the Blue Burmese, the two Siamese, the Devon Rex. We know one another. I am not responsible to them. They are not responsible for me. It works. I do not want another cat. Being responsible to a cat (and for their welfare) is a heavy burden. It is about much more than feeding and caring for them. You have to be able to communicate with cats and learning "Feline" is difficult.