A feral cat used to live in the yard where I once worked. A big, battle-scarred, ginger tom he was. As wild as they come, the old moggie would run away from humans whenever he saw them coming and we rarely caught more than a quick glimpse of him before he was gone. I guess he eked out a meagre existence by scavenging from bins and by catching an occasional bird or small rodent.
One day, I decided to see if I could win the cat’s confidence by leaving food out for him. At first, when I put his meals down in the corner of the yard, I never saw hide nor hair of him. The meat or fish treats were always gone by the next day, but I couldn’t be certain ginger was eating them, or if they were being pinched by rats and other stray cats.
Then, after about three months, I started catching glimpses of ginger hiding under vans, or in dark doorways, where he would sit watching me intently. After another two months, providing I made no sudden moves in his direction, he would sit in the open, wait for me to distance myself from his dinner and then go and eat. He was still extremely wary, though, nervously glancing up between each mouthful and would instantly scarper if startled by the slightest sound.
After many more free meals and seeing I meant him no harm, he began eating small titbits taken from my pocket and thrown to him. Each day, I deliberately tossed these morsels shorter and shorter distances until finally, ginger was approaching to within a few feet. I had to keep very still and would speak softly to him, making reassuring sounds and praising him on his feline beauty and grace, avoiding doing anything that might frighten him off and put back my hard-won progress.
This process took a lot of patience and I often despaired of ever fully winning ginger over, but little by little, as the days and weeks rolled by, the old tom came to trust me sufficiently to eat his handouts almost at my feet. My commitment seemed to be paying off and I felt success was just around the corner.
Little headway was made beyond this point for several more weeks, however, but at long last, one warm summer day, exactly one year after I’d begun my mission to befriend him, ginger cautiously edged towards where I sat on the office step and very, very gently, took a piece of cooked chicken right out of my hand!
That was the first time it ever happened. And the last, because I brained the flea-raddled fur-ball with the cast iron saucepan I had hidden behind my back before he even saw it coming, the territory-marking-with-piss freeloader.
Sent a message out to all the other strays in the area not to eat any of the birds round about. Not while I had a pocket full of sharp stones, an urge to kill and a catapult to play with.
Eight out of ten owners say that their missing pussies must have been run over by a car, or taken by foxes. Fools.
None of this is true, of course. I make things up to amuse myself. Can’t do much else with this straight jacket on.
Typing with your nose is a real bugger.