Friday, 2 October 2009

Pearl and Lily: two recovering cats


A very long time since I mentioned the cats, our war-time, music hall double act. Both rescue cats, slowly working their way back to security.

Security takes a long time. It has taken over a year for Lily, the silver and black, smaller part of the duo, to lose her resident terrors. She arrived from the cat home frightened by the car journey, frothing at the mouth in fear. Pearl had arrived a few weeks earlier. The first meeting of Pearl and Lily was not compounded of mutual delight. Territory and intrusion. More terror. Lily crept and slithered and scrambled out of the way, avoiding Pearl, avoiding us, even avoiding her food for a while. But food was necessary. Even we were necessary. But it was minimal contact. She ducked under our hands, would not be stroked and certainly never thought of leaping into our laps. It was all she could do just to get by in the house. And when visitors came she scampered off to find the most secure hiding place, squeezing into impossible corners, behind books on shelves. She desperately desired to be elsewhere. Or, perhaps, to be nowhere at all.

We had no idea what was making her behave like this. It continued for months on end and looked unlikely to change. But then a step forward. One day she leapt onto C's lap and settled there. Briefly. When touched, she leapt off again. She began to play wild games, involving Pearl in them. Pearl's notion of play was rather more violent. It would start quite tenderly. She would even groom Lily, but then something would get hold of her and she would start biting. Pearl had set herself up to be Alpha ex-female and was not going to be patient with a strange little upstart.

More recently Lily has entered another stage. She sprawls and lopes and gets under the covers of our bed in the morning and gives our hands a good lick. And yesterday, for the first time, a visitor came and she did not seek refuge. She showed a certain curiosity before sidling off.

She is a feral child who has learned to relax a bit. A war orphan.

Pearl is constantly hungry. She starts eating cardboard boxes as a hint. She eats fast and makes herself sick. She is bold and examines every visitor. Her fear is hunger. She can be stroked but not always. Like Lily she hates being picked up. With her half-Hitler moustache there is a touch of the comic about her but now she seems the more troubled of the two. She is quite a handsome thing but a touch lumpen compared to Lily. She waddles slightly. If we allowed it she would would eat herself senseless and sick it all up again.

Both these cats are more problematic than any we have had before. Both are in recovery from something. Pearl was found hurt on a road as a kitten. Lily was born at the catwoman's luxury apartment but the shadow of something dreadful had already lodged in her.

She is bright now, frisky. Still ducks from a stroke but likes a good firm scratch. She purrs a lot. Pearl has brief storms of purring than something else switches on. You can see it in her eyes. Sudden tension. Intelligent though. She understands certain words and acts on them without us initiating.

If my life were starting again I might be tempted to make a study of animal consciousness. Why they do this or that? Why leave a chair to move to another chair? Why walk or run or sit or lie? Why that direct look? What do their ears and noses tell them?



11 comments:

Pascale Petit said...

What a delightful account of your recovering cats. I have four all rescued so it's all familiar. Mouchette eats cardboard too and would eat nonstop if we let her, it seems it's her security. Billy is very threatened by any boisterousness from the others and likes a quite life, and they all scarper when visitors come unless someone is very quiet and gentle and slow.

Dubois said...

I like cats. Better than reading about you registering your Labour vote.

James said...

Would you consider a tactical vote for the LibDems in exchange for a Scottish LibDem supporter voting Labour? (It won't be mine as I vote Lab anyway). The usual online tactical voteswap schemes should be up and running some time in the early spring.

Anonymous said...

This piece of prose reads like a poem.I love it.

George S said...

So yours are rescue cats too, Pascale. Most of ours have been, unless someone was particularly keen to get rid of a kitten. These are out eighth and ninth cats. Pure white Calypso was the sweetest and most even tempered. She was pretty well at ease with life until some sickness took her at a reasonable age. And yours eats cardboard too! I hadn't come across that before.

Dubois, I find I can isolate these two categories, cats and the Labour Party, without too much mental effort. But they both happen in my life so they faintly brush up against each other. I can faintly see Pearl as UKIP if only because she might think there are kippers there somewhere.

Ah tactical votes. The usual arrangements then. My useless vote for your useless vote. Genteel corruption. The consolations of democracy.

In my very early romantic days, Anonymous, I thought cats were a sort of poem, or at least that poems might do well to have some of the characteristics of cats. Nowadays I'll take any creature as a poem model, from fleas to alligators. But for pets, I prefer to cultivate cats. Might try a dog some time.

Poet in Residence said...

I wonder what kind of dog could suit you George. Frankly I can't imagine you going for a Shovel of Coal with some inbred Kampfmaschine on its heavy linked chain. And then a frisky Border Collie wouldn't thank you for your gad about lifestyle. So, I reckon when the day comes you'll be the sucker who takes the Heinz57 flop eared scruffy old stray. Make sure it comes with a 'no barking all night' guarantee.

George S said...

I'm not sure any dog would have me, Gwilym. At the moment, with my peripatetic lifestyle, a stuffed dog might be the closest thing.

Poet in Residence said...

Enjoy then your slinking felines but as you contemplate sunset's long strolls to and from the Butcher's Arms in final glorious retirement with your trusty flop-eared trusty canine you can discreetly practice your future doggie skills like turning a Tesco fruit&veg bag inside-out with one hand or perfecting a high pitched whistle or taking a leak behind a tree when your happy rugrat does the same...

Poet in Residence said...

...yes, I see you now briskly long-striding with your eager bundle of joy bouncing alongside on a lead ... Go stuff your toy, George!

George S said...

Ah, I never took you for cruel man, G - but that has plunged a blade right through me.

I'll set the cats on you (one of them at least)

Poet in Residence said...

OK I submit, yes I've given in. I've withdrawn the blade and staunched the wound and to show I'm not really so cruel you can now read all about your stuffed toy thingie on my blog - yes, George and the Dog.