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For the love of cats

Charlie, constant companion. Photo: Sandra Symons

Opinion by SANDRA SYMONS

I never set out to acquire a cat, rather cats acquired me. 

Once, when I was coming home late at night with my young husband, walking across the grass under the northern pylon of the Harbour Bridge, a pretty little calico cat started following us.

Every few metres, we stopped, I turned and said, “shoo”.  The little cat stopped with us but as soon as we moved, she followed. All the way to our nearby flat. 

Since she was at our heels at the front door, I invited her in. Yes, she was a little female as we soon discovered. The next day, I was patting her and noticed writhing movements in her belly. I said to my young husband, “she is pregnant”. 

So we made her a cosy birthing box under the kitchen bench and two nights later she gave birth to three kittens, one ginger, one beige and one golden. 

We gave the beige and golden kittens to friends and kept the ginger boy. We named him Gympie after a ginger cat my young husband had as a boy called Gympie. 

When we moved to housesit a friend’s terrace in a neighbouring suburb we took Mother and Gympie with us. They mostly stayed indoors being city- dwelling, flat-living cats. 

They played with everything and anything available. The most memorable ‘toys’ were the accidental results of my inept efforts to make osso bucco. Instead of the bone marrow in the veal shanks dissolving into the stew, it turned into lumps of gristle, round hard little lumps like super balls. They had loads of spring and bounce and the cats flicked them around the kitchen and courtyard like professionals.

Later they moved with us to a little house in another neighbouring suburb. 

They settled in as cats do, taking over the small second bedroom as their domain. One day I heard my young husband talking in the backyard, but to who? When I went outside he was murmuring to a feisty chap, a somewhat chewed up young grey boy.

 I immediately named him Butchie after a little kid I knew as a child whose real name was Graham but, being a little bruiser, was nicknamed Butchie. 

When grey Butchie joined our little gang, he was sent off to the vet to be desexed like the others. He came back a less scrappy chap but still Butchie. He was particularly fond of my young husband and was constantly by his side, especially in the garden of the first little house we owned.

When we were both given overseas transfers, we found homes for the members of our gang of three.  

I never had another cat of my own but years later my elder daughter was acquired by two cats. First came Ouzi, a marvellous big black and white boy who found his way into my daughter’s back courtyard. Young cat and young woman looked at one another and fell in love. Ouzi used to sit on the fence every afternoon waiting for my daughter to return home from work.

A year or two later, a young pregnant cat, to be named Chloe, also adopted my daughter. A wild girl, she had a clutch of kittens in the yard but recognising a cat lady in my daughter, soon brought them inside. 

One of the kittens became Charlie and lived her life out with my daughter. 

History repeating itself.

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