Age: 9 years old (roughly)
Cat genres: Domestic, House, Street, Experimental Jazz
Likes: Eating, sleeping, 30 second belly rubs, delivering animals in varying states of mortality.
Dislikes: Whistling sounds, 32 second belly rubs, foxes.
It’s coming up to about two years since Molly adopted my family, and so I feel that it would be fitting to post the story of how she (literally) walked into my life. Before I begin, this will not be a review of my cat- I fear that if that were the case, and she was to catch sight of this, her temperament will go from simple nonchalance, to insufferable arrogance. Assuming she can understand English, that is.
It was a time when we had been without pets for well over ten years, and while the decision on whether to adopt one hadn’t been made, my interactions with animals had become more frequent; a few friends had cats, some of which were both mischievous and somehow simultaneously endearing, while others were more on the flat out annoying side of the spectrum. There had been talk of getting a dog, or possibly a cat, but unfortunately, I have had several allergic reactions to cats, all of which have mostly been moderate in their severity, but rather embarrassing and annoying on an emotional level. That being said, there were several occasions where I didn’t resemble a pepper spray victim after being after being in close proximity to cats, so the possibility wasn’t completely out of the question.
My father was the main advocate for getting a dog, and his enthusiasm eerily matched that of a dog’s enthusiasm for just about anything during his or her waking life. While we weren’t entirely against the idea, my mother reacted in the sort of way that she did when, as a child, I would ask for a Lego set that was wildly over the birthday budget that, at the time, seemed like an arbitrary figure to me, rather than a logical one, based on my parents’ financial position. There were a few reasons for the reluctance to get a dog, and I’m not going to go into them here, but it definitely wasn’t because my mother is Cruella De Vil.
With the increasing level of reverence for cats on the internet, and the regular “ooh”-s and aww”-s that were induced from browsing the website for Battersea Dogs and Cats home, it became clear that there was a (purely metaphorical) hole in my life, which could only really be filled with a canine or feline presence. Despite this, the thought of adopting a pet, only to have to give it up after becoming attached to it, was one that filled me with sadness, as it would not have been the fault of the animal at all.
The decision to remain petless was quite unanimous, but not entirely without guilt. What we didn’t realise that the decision wouldn’t always be ours to make.
At a time when the discussion of getting a dog was swaying more towards the “yes” end of the spectrum, I had come home from work after a normal, albeit boring day, and was ushered in by my dad, who was acting as if there was an unstable, potentially dangerous intruder in the house, and he encouraged me to act accordingly. As I entered the kitchen, my mum had a facial expression as if she had just met a new born baby, and in front of her was a small calico/tabby cat, which was slightly on edge, but not exactly distressed.
The cat had been fed, but my dad decided to give her a piece of ham, which, I would assume to be the human to feline equivalent of a kind of peace offering between intergalactic cultures. I could attempt to describe the cat’s reaction to this gesture, but I feel that a picture can sum it up better than any combination of words-
I decided to call the cat Molly, based on the fact that she, like all tabbies, has an M on her forehead (a fact that may not be completely true, as I have not met every tabby cat, but I shall continue to believe it until I am proven wrong). I have a habit of naming cats after their physical attributes* and it would not be the first time we have played host to an unfamiliar cat. The first time happened one Thursday evening, when I was roughly eight years old. I believe I was playing Half Life at the time **, when I heard scratching and mewling at the door, which I expected to be our tabby cat, who had his fill of entertainment for the evening. As I opened the door, I was greeted by a black and white tom cat, who immediately trotted in, completely unperturbed, as if he knew the house like the back of his paw. Because of the snowy white tip at the end of his otherwise completely black tail, I called him White Tail. The name stuck, either because my parents didn’t want to stifle my enthusiasm for this animal, or maybe they just couldn’t think of anything more fitting.
As Molly became more comfortable in her surroundings, we realised a few things that could have been a clue that she had been stray for a while, if not her whole life. For a start, she absolutely hated being picked up- I was mixed on this, as I am friends with a few cat owners who can cradle their kitties like purring, furry babies, while Molly was, and still is, about as easy to handle as a squirming, furry case of anti matter.
In addition to this, she very rarely meowed, or made any noise at all, unless she really wanted something, and only then, she would make a noise that sounded like it is coming from the very depths of her soul. Aside from the rare occasion that she squeezed out a meow, her only form of communication consisted of the following:
-An occasional chirrup when she’s exceptionally content.
– Staring at her randomly selected human as if she were trying to transmit an elaborate hidden message.
-Scratching at the closed door of whoever is in the deepest sleep on a Sunday morning.
As I said, I was mixed on this, as these traits could be a sign that she may never be truly domesticated, but if she didn’t like being picked up by her owners, I was confident that she wouldn’t even think of approaching strangers, which is a good thing, as she enjoyed frequent nights out, and while I was supportive of this, I wanted her to be safe. Her (mostly) silent nature is also a good thing, as I enjoy frequent nights in my bed, asleep and undisturbed by cat related noises.
In the time that I have owned Molly, I have come to the conclusion that she is one of the most aloof cats that I have ever met. As cats are notoriously aloof creatures, this is quite an accolade; one not dissimilar to saying that a particular Frank Zappa track is the most off-kilter song from his back catalogue. I find her disinterest in humans slightly endearing, especially when she walks directly over to the person trying hardest to beckon her, only to do an about turn when she is just outside of arms reach. In terms of attracting attention from people, I think she follows the philosophy of, “Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?”
Another factor, which I think strengthened my adoration for our new lodger, was that my allergies were barely affected by her presence. While the logical explanation for this would be that she stuck to a few select spots, and rarely moulted outside of these spaces, I like to think that the power of my emotions trumped my overactive immune system. I have conviction in this theory, but not enough to test it out with allergies that could end with me being hospitalised.
It wasn’t until a few months of her residency that we found out more about her, and the circumstances of our discovery of her origins were not exactly ideal. One morning, she came in through the cat flap (newly installed after finding a cat turd directly in the plughole of the bath), but without the quietly confident slink that she carried herself in when she entered the house. Instead, she seemed to have noticeable discomfort in one of her back legs, and rather than hop up to her then favourite spot, as she usually did, she stretched up, and with difficulty, dragged herself up to it. Our immediate thought that she had either been in a fight, judging from the sore spot on her back, or possibly struck by a car.
After taking her to the vet, I couldn’t think of much aside from whether she would be ok, but fortunately, the anxiety melted away when I received word that she wasn’t badly injured, and whatever discomfort she was in was simply caused by bruising, presumably from a fight with another cat. While it was a relief that she was in good health, we found that she had been chipped, and that the clinic had attempted to contact her previous owner.
A day had passed, and we were worried that our earlier fears about becoming attached to a pet, only to have to give it away, would be realised. As uncomfortable a truth it may have been, her previous owners may have only lost her for less than one week before she stumbled upon our home, so if they wanted her back, we weren’t in a position to refuse. It turned out that she had somehow covered this distance-
Of course, this didn’t happen overnight (although if it did, it would have lead me to believe that I could well be a cat magnet), but, based on this new information, none of us really guessed that she had actually been a stray for more than a few months before showing up at our door. We had been put into contact with her previous owner, who revealed that she had gone missing three years ago, and had assumed that she had died within a few weeks of her disappearance. I have no idea of what her journey was like during this time, and would probably never find out, but I imagine it in a montage style, set to Randy Crawford’s ‘Street life’- complete with alley cats performing keyboard and saxophone solos.
Up until this point, we couldn’t really tell how old she actually was; at times she had the slow lurch of an older cat, but during playtime, she would pounce, jump and thrash as if possessed by the spirit of a much younger, smaller cat, which led us to believe that she was somewhere around the human equivalent of adolescence. Based on the fact that she was adopted from Battersea at around about one year old, and was in Tufnell Park for roughly three years, we pieced together that she was at least seven or eight when we took her in. I feel a bittersweet sense of relief in saying that we didn’t have to part with the cat that we had become so attached to, as her previous owners had made peace with the fact that they would probably never see her again, and had adopted new pets since then. While they were pleased that she was alive and well, I assume they felt that taking her back would upset the dynamic in their household, and like to think that they may have sensed that we really didn’t want to have to give her up.
As Molly (formerly Minnie, formerly Gigi, formerly G’nurdrak Fjallenkirk) grows older, she occasionally shows signs of mellowing, and in time, she may even become more of a lap cat, but for now, she is happier to rest on inanimate surfaces. While she is welcoming of human attention, she does still occasionally repay it with small creatures; the most recent being a mouse. The fact that the rodent was still alive on arrival was one of the more unusual quirks of this particular gift, and one I’m torn on; on one hand, she managed to let it loose, perhaps in becoming overconfident in her own hunting abilities, and to my knowledge, it is still currently somewhere in the house. On the other hand, cleaning up mouse viscera would not have been fun, and I really do hope and pray that when no one else is in the house, Molly and the mouse share Tom and Jerry-esque antics together.
* – I am glad that parents do not take this approach to naming new born babies, as names will invariably include: Chunk Belly, Squishface Mcgee, Billy Bubblemouth.
**- Some may say that letting a child play such a graphic game at such a young age is irresponsible, but it taught me that in the event of an alien invasion, a crowbar is an excellent tool for dispatching headcrabs, if a Glock pistol isn’t close to hand.