Monday, 19 March 2007

Mutant Cat

I went to visit my Mum on Saturday. She has a (relatively) new moggy, named "Jessy" which I believe is short for Jessica. I tried protesting that Jessica seemed an odd name for a cat, but to no avail.

My family has always had a penchant for waifs and strays. The first cats we had as a family were literally the strays who prowled the council estate where we lived when I was 8 years old (pets were not allowed) - there was a friendly tabby cat who produced batches of kittens at regular intervals, and I'd climb up on the walls to reach the ledge which she had made her home. She relished the attention, and would wind herself round my mother's ankles begging for food and attention.

My father despised such attachment to animals, and was rather disparaging about "Tibby." He claimed to be more of a dog person, as they were some "use"... Or so he said. However, one day we spotted him, leaning out of a first-floor window, throwing pieces of sausage to a really mangey stray cat which we'd nicknamed "Whitey" (no prizes for guessing why!) His attachment to Whitey was based on the fact that the flea-bitten tom was more "independent" and didn't fawn all over us.

I was heart-broken when some well-meaning neighbour, who objected to the feline yowling, reported the strays to the RSPCA. Cats and kittens were duly rounded-up and removed.

The first "proper" cat we had was Otto, the pub cat. He was in residence when my parents took over as managers. A gorgeous, sleek, black, short-haired tom, Otto used to disappear for a few days at a time... until being returned, exhausted, by a neighbour. He must have fathered lots of kittens before my parents decided that it would be better for him "to be seen to."

When Otto went missing for the last time, I was inconsolable. I solemnly warned both parents never to mention cats ever again. I declared that I would never have another cat. Ever.

So when my mother was not at home on my return from school, and the bar-staff were being shifty when I asked where she was, I knew she'd betrayed me by going to the Blue Cross. I threw a strop when my mother returned, declaring that there was no point opening the kitty-carrier box, because no cat could ever replace Otto, and that the kitten could be returned right away. My mother apologised, pointed out that the journey had been a long one, and said that she would return the kitten after she'd given it a saucer of milk. I consented to this plan.

...but, of course, when the tiny bundle staggered out of the box, I was totally smitten. The kitten was tiny, wide-eyed, under-fed, and had ricketts (as the runt of the litter she hadn't managed to get enough milk.) As she fell over her paws in her efforts to reach the saucer, I fell in love. A year later Snowy was joined by Poppet (my sister's birthday present: a half-persian, black long-hair... and another runt.)

Humphrey (so-named because she made a hump the minute she saw the other two) was found as a tiny kitten, abandoned by a railway siding. She was so young that she hadn't been weaned, and needed to be fed by pipette... and made to do her business by application of damp cotton-wool.

Anyway, Jess is the latest moggy. I wasn't sure what "deformity" she would have, but I was sure there would be something to mark her out from the crowd. Sure enough, it turns out that this kitten was a genetic throwback: she has polydactylism (extra toes on each foot.) I'm still trying to figure out the camera functions on my phone, so I took a few pictures...


dadwithnoisykids said...

My brother had a cat like that, bak in the early 90's. She was called 'Mittens.'

I recall watching his house and having to give a pill to that darn cat every night. It was not a nice cat.

Stephen Wikner said...

Ah yes, a polydactylic cat! Harry & Boots (my two pampered felines) have a neighbour called Hamish. Hamish is ginger and polydactylic but only on one paw.

One of the very first things I had to do when I became bursar at Ely Cathedral was to placate an irate tourist who had written to complain that his medium-sized dog had been set upon by this ferocious ginger tom while he (the visitor) was having a cup of tea in the Cathedral's Almonry Restaurant. Fortunately there are a number of ginger toms in the Ely 'College' (local term for 'close') so I was able to write back and, hand on heart, tell him that it would be difficult to trace the culprit without a more precise description. Fortunately said visitor hadn't noticed Hamish's extra toe.

Hamish's other claim to fame is that he catches rabbits but then so does 'my' Harry - but that's another story.

Mulier Fortis said...

I see you are convinced of Hamish's guilt. Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?

Stephen Wikner said...

I suppose I would plead 'balance of probability'. Whoever coined the phrase 'give a dog a bad name' got it almost right.

Kasia said...

Ah, I've learned a new term! ("Moggy" isn't common on this side of the pond...)

There was a glorious ginger tom when I studied abroad who would strut about the student residence complex. I understand my predecessor in my room actually used to take him inside for the night from time to time. I wasn't that brave (pets were supposed to be strictly forbidden), but I did run downstairs to greet him whenever I had the opportunity.

I did not notice six toes, however, so it must not have been Hamish. ;-) (Plus I don't think Ely Cathedral is in Salford, is it?)

Stephen Wikner said...

Not when I last looked out of the window, Kasia.

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