Some of you will remember the sweet, flearidden cat I brought home in April 2011. How he submitted meekly to everything I did to him, swallowing worming pills, being groomed free of his unwelcome guests, travelling to Mother’s and back in the car, spending his post castration weekend afloat. It was the Royal Wedding weekend, ironically. And my birthday. What a mild mannered boy.
A bit of a scaredy cat here at home when it came to venturing onto the stairs. It took a while for him to conquer his fears, and then he was ready for the next step – the garden. Moving across its expanse he reminded me of Carey Grant in that scene in North by Northwest when the pilot is trying to kill him. Belly to the ground, eyes wide, ears swivelling, he quickly found cars to sit under, bushes to hide in. Twenty minutes outside was quite long enough before he wanted to come back indoors, presumably to process all the smells and sights with which he had just been overloaded. And during those twenty minutes I had to be there. If he lost sight of me he gave panicked wails. Then he found his paws and discovered he could climb. Nothing was too high. He got stuck once in a tree, worked out how to get down – I couldn’t reach him – and far from being discouraged by this experience it seemed to increase his confidence. The smells of the wider world beckoned. I spent anxious evenings following him, watching him wriggle under barriers where I could not follow, disappear into neighbours gardens. He came home each time invigorated by his explorations. He was mapping his territory. I could leave him alone in the garden for a short time without him worrying. He was young, strong and adventurous; a Just William of the feline world, and I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t wonderful to see him. He was having such fun. When I went to work, he was inside. When I came home we both went out. He started staying out longer without me, and hero worshipped Sonny, our regular feral visitor. He climbed high walls and looked down into café gardens. His confidence blossomed. He was growing up.
Like any adolescent he thought he knew it all. He took risks because he could not see the dangers. He frightened the living daylights out of me, but I had to admire him. He turned into the Ginger Ninja, one hundred per cent action cat, full of the joys of being alive and intent on sampling as many of the pleasures and excitements available as he could.
The hormones calmed down. He still climbed walls and trees, especially trees, but the higher walls seemed to lose their allure. He discovered the joy of windows, or visiting neighbours without invitation, snooping around their properties and leaving before they knew he was there. Sometimes he was caught, and had to scramble through windows. I worried about him being locked in somewhere and added extra bells to his collar to alert people to his presence. I’ve only just this moment made the connection with leper bells. It wasn’t like that. Promise.
And that was it for about a year. Fairly settled, extending his social circle to include his Playdate, several neighbours and Ginger the Cat.
He found a girlfriend, a pretty tabby called Scally who lives close by. But every day he came inside before I left.
Until this week. He’s outgrown the youth club, now he wants more freedoms. When I have wanted him to come in each morning this week he has looked at me from the top of walls and made it clear that he has plans that do not include coming in for breakfast. The first day I went off to work twenty minutes later than I’d like, still leaving him outside, I worried all day. He was fine.
The second day, I felt a bit happier about leaving him perched on the wall. My fears were more for the birds, as he was definitely watching them, and he wasn’t wearing an anorak or clutching a Book of British Garden Birds. No dead bodies in evidence when I got home, and one tired cat. Slowly, I am coming to terms with the idea that MasterB is making his own decisions about whether he wants to be inside or out when I go to work. Just as Cat did. My boy has grown up. He’s his own cat.
But that doesn’t mean he can spend the night on the tiles. There are some house rules that still apply.