We had been feeding Claudette the Cat for a few days now and were sitting outside, enjoying a BBQ in peace, watching her stalking through the herb beds. I wondered aloud if feeding her tins of catfood might actually be bad for a wild cat or might adversely affect her hunting skills. She had kittens to support obviously and we were due to leave for a holiday. But with exquisite comedy timing she pounced on an unlucky mouse, tilted her head back and swallowed the screeching critter in a matter of seconds. ‘I guess she’ll manage just fine…’ commented our cat lover friends.
For some reason, I was still worried about the cat’s welfare. Although she was irritating and had cost us time and money in ruined sheets, tins of cat food and clearing up torn bin bags, I had reluctantly grown to admire her steely persistence and seeing her hunt so efficiently was very impressive. She kept her kittens well fed and well hidden too.
The following day, a local neighbourhood Labrador, gormless but friendly, wandered in through our open gates. It must have weighed 10 times more than the cat. Suddenly Claudette transformed into a raging, spiky hunchbacked beast which charged at the dog and clawed at its face till the yelping dog turned tail and skulked home in retreat. A moment later, her fur subsided as we all stared in astonishment: Claudette the pint sized incredible hulk.
Me giving her food also resulted in a behavioural change. She often seemed pleased to see me now instead of watching warily from a distance and whenever I picked something up rushed over to see if it was another votive offering. She weaved in and out of my legs , rubbing herself against me. My cat loving friends suggested that Claudette was not in fact a feral cat at all. That she had probably been a house cat when she was younger and something had happened to force her out of her home and into ours.
Now I was feeling sorry for her. Whenever I kneeled down in the garden she came to see what I was doing. She chased my mop, my brush, my extension cable. I even found myself absentmindedly stroking her, examining her poorly ear and wondering if we should get treatment for it.
Then she sank all her claws into my leg.
I considered this a setback to our developing relationship. ‘Yeah, they do that’ said my cat-loving friend. ‘They don’t realise how sharp their claws are’. ‘You mean those claws which she’s used her whole life to catch birds and mammals with?’ I mean why? She’d worked so hard to make a new friend. My cat-cynicism bubbled up once more as I wondered whether Claudette hadn’t been making a new friend at all, she’d just been training up a new food supplier. I glared at her. She rubbed my legs and attempted to jump up. No chance. Once bitten twice shy. Didn’t she get that? It was up to her to re-establish the trust between us. I blanked her the rest of the day.
The following morning a dead mouse lay outside the kitchen door.