Cat must have been neutered when he was very young, but the testosterone leaked in somewhere.
He had no interest in girls, but he certainly understood the importance of territory. Our trips to the see the vet were usually fight related, as Cat racked up an impressive number of abscesses from his war wounds, and, on one occasion, a huge rip that curved under his arm. A few drops of blood on his fur made me investigate further, and off we went again. This time he had to have surgery and stitches. His chest was shaved, making him look like a half-plucked chicken. Not a good look, but it soon grew back.
I used to lecture him; “What goes around comes around,” I’d say, holding his face and looking seriously into his amber eyes. “You won’t always be the youngest fittest cat on the block you know, and you won’t be so handsome with only one eye.”
He took no notice.
One of the worst times when some neighbours decided to let their female cat have kittens before they had her neutered. They actually approached me to ask if Cat might do the deed, but I had to explain that was no longer in his power.
The easiest route into their garden was through ours, so a motley assortment of intact Tom cats presented Cat with opportunities for daily fights.
This was right up his street; in his prime, a day without a fight was a day wasted as far as he was concerned, and even recently he has chased younger cats out of the garden, or terrified them with the force of his glare.
His opponents were not beautiful. Their bodies showed the toll of serious fighting for the right to pass on their genes. They had ragged ears, motheaten coats and half-closed eyes. They were the Bill Beaumonts and Henry Coopers of the feline world, whereas Cat was more in the Leslie Phillips mould.
I learned to race outside and spoil his fun at the first throaty yowl, which I heard in my head as “Vet Bills”. He didn’t thank me for it.
Nor could he understand what these bruisers found so fascinating over the wall. His was the big garden, the real status territory, though they did have a fishpond over there which he found fascinating.
One summer night a few years ago, he asked to go out in the predawn. I let him.
A while later, I was woken by the sounds of a catfight. I looked out of the window to the alarming sight of one of my neighbours in a towelling robe holding a golf club in a threatening manner. By the time I got downstairs he’d gone inside. Cat came up to me, smugly pleased with himself. The other cat had vanished.
The following day, I saw my neighbour. He’d been woken by the cats outside his window. He was very fond of Cat and rushed to his rescue. I pointed to the clumps of fur on the grass. They were all black. Not a single tuft of ginger or white among them.