Wherever I’m writing, cats find me. Thirteen floors up in a newly built, almost empty apartment block in fabulous Tbilisi, Georgia. A cat comes a wandering. A house by the sea, near a village in Tobago, a cat sleeks in after dusk. In Lamu Town, on Lamu, an amazing island off the coast of Kenya, a town almost owned by cats – they come almost hourly.
I am well trained. I offer bribery (quality food, thoughtfully placed strokes, a quiet place to sleep). Cats bring presence, fur, persistence for selective attention – and of course, swagger. Tail high in. Tail high out.
In a Cape Town apartment the tabby belonged to a neighbour below. On Lamu, with an open roof to the house, any cat would come and go (gingers, tux, mix, you name it). I was on feline patrol routes, but one made it home, a young tabby mix. In Tobago, a tortoiseshell youngster would come for an evening feed and nap before returning to the black, black Cassurina-whispered night. My second place in Tobago had a resident calico, Kitty. The dog was called Puppy. The parrot was not called Birdie.
It's been a long time since I’ve had my own cats. Travel and circumstances haven’t allowed. So these, and friends’ cats, and strangers on the street (usually also high-tailed), are my company. My first actual cat was a black cat called Blue because I couldn’t pronounce Baloo from Jungle Book. The second, Tootsie, a young tabby, didn’t adjust to moving to a rural environment (the asbestos hut around the back of a stately home in the book’s author bio), so she was returned to city life in Leeds. A puppy came next, Cass – a golden sheepdog through being a rough collie/border collie cross – clever, feisty, loyal doesn’t do her justice.
Years later, came Oscar, a grey-smoke Persian rescue, who arrived shaved and unhappy. He spent the first month on the sofa tops avoiding an uninterested Cass, but was a wonderful cat, if never likely to join Mensa.
A cat who could join Mensa (if they have a section for deviants) was Dottie/Bonkers, a genetically deaf white cat we thought wouldn’t last two-minutes because of her fierce independence and traffic doing what traffic does. 20 teeth-sinking, vacuum-riding, howling for anything, stroke-me-or-else, years later she was still at it all until the end.
Spice – Tobago
Kitty – Tobago
Tabby visitor in Lamu, Kenya
Cape Town visitor
Oscar the rescue