Yesterday, I visited my friend Linda. She and I met about 13 years ago in Turkey where she had a business giving aromatherapy massages. She and her Turkish boyfriend lived out there but now she is back in the UK and unfortunately in poor health.
She has never had a cat before, only dogs, but for the past two years she has been feeding a stray silver tabby which she has named Midnight. Last winter, when it was 18 degrees below, Midnight gave birth to five kittens up a tree in a neighbouring garden. Somehow, sheltering an an old pigeon's nest in thick ivy, she managed to rear them. Eventually, they were caught and taken by the RSPCA but Midnight herself could not be caught.
Linda persevered, putting out food for the painfully thin mother cat. She went on to have another litter and this time, with the help of the RSPCA, both mother and kits were trapped and taken away. The kittens were about eight weeks old, so Midnight was spayed and returned to Linda, who had built a home for her in the lean-to at the side of the house, with a bed up on a shelf as Midnight likes to be high up off the ground.
But, pining for her kittens, Midnight refused food and lay by the door, nose on paws, for three or four days. Although she was told to try and keep her in for five days to give her a chance to heal, Linda's soft heart couldn't bear to see the cat looking as if she had given up on life, so she opened the door to freedom and the feral cat took off for her favourite tree. Linda was worried about her operation wound getting infected, and started putting out food again, although other cats in the neighbourhood were around and perhaps eating it instead.
Then the local RSPCA branch had an outbreak of cat flu. They rang Linda and asked if she would be prepared to house three kittens, just over the long Bank Holiday weekend. Now, not only is Linda allergic to kittens as their fluffy fur makes her wheeze, but she is hobbling painfully on crutches and has great difficulty bending to clear out the litter tray and pick up the dishes, let alone swab and disinfect the cat enclosure.
Yet she agreed and yesterday I stood in the enclosure with three tiny scraps of fur, playing tag, dribbling tiny balls, rolling and squeaking, hiding and jumping out and patting at my hand with tiny, adorable, soft paws. They were rescued siblings, one black, one tabby and the one I lost my heart to, who was black and white with a magnificent set of curling white whiskers. I could happily have stuffed her in my pocket and taken her home, but didn't want to upset Flad. In any case, Mr Grumpy had said a firm "No" and no amount of wheedling could persuade him to change his mind.
I just hope they all find good homes where they will be cared for, played with and cherished. And truly, the world is a better place for people like Linda, with hearts of gold, who don't let their illnesses and disabilities get in the way of doing good deeds, either for humans or animals. Wish I could have photographed those kittens for you, but maybe it's as well I didn't, as every time I looked at the picture, I'd have a lump in my throat thinking of the kitten I'd have loved to keep.
And yes, I saw Midnight, too. Shortly before we left, the pretty little cat crept nervously up to the dishes of food and the saucer of cat milk that Linda had left out for her under the patio table. Her wound has healed well, soft fur is growing back over it and as we waved goodbye, she still had her nose buried in her bowl.
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