It was May. I’d been in Barcelona, and had just initiated the development of Ablaze! 11 by interviewing Jason Williamson about the UK’s tragic general election result. I’d also been thinking about the anxiety I was feeling, comparing it to that of a rescue cat that had moved into our apartment block. My mind seemed to freak out like this confused tabby who would turn up one floor above his place and shout repeatedly, Sheldon from Big Bang Theory style, until his human would come and show him the way back. I decided to try some Rescue Remedy and that actually helped – it kicks in after about fifteen minutes and takes the edge right off. Edu liked the repetition of the word ‘rescue’ and that got me thinking more about the concept. I wrote a song about it.
The day after I got home Chris and I went out shopping in the car. On the way home I spotted a tiny ball of fur at the side of the road, with two big eyes staring at us. “Is that a really small cat?” I asked him. “Yes, but what can we do?” “Stop the car!!!”
He pulled over and we walked over to this tiny thing. Chris knew what to do – we were lucky we had some meat on us – and he grabbed it from the car. She didn’t need much coaxing – the little thing was starving and gratefully snatched pieces of bacon from me (this turns out not to be the best food for a cat, but at the time she wasn’t complaining). She stood on a mound of earth by some community rubbish bins. It was crawling with ants but this had clearly been her home, until now. She was all alone and obviously not being looked after by anyone, and we were ready to bring her home if she would let us. Chris got hold of a strong paper bag. By this time I had taken to holding small strips of bacon down by my side and she could work out no reason not to walk right up to me to acquire them. One of these in the bottom of the sideways turned bag was all it took for her tiny paws to make an investigative move forward. I scrunched the top of the bag and lifted it up – we had her! And she wasn’t fighting.
Quickly back home, and we released her into our small apartment. We now know that a cat should first go into one small room to get acclimatised to a new place; anyway, she had our living room/kitchen. She was cold due to starvation, but we fixed that quickly. That night she cried continually, so I stayed with her and murmured reassurance. I think that’s how we became so close.
She looked too small to be away from her mother. Later a neighbour told us that two days prior to our finding Mittens, she had passed that spot and seen an adult cat that had been killed by a car – with a kitten standing by the body.
I became Mittens’ adopted mother. She snuggled onto parts of me that were comfy and slept, a lot. It’s no wonder I didn’t get a lot done, or go very far; I didn’t want to leave her. When my own mother lost one of her siblings I went to see her, and then felt devastated to have left Mittens; what if our bond was broken? It wasn’t, but she was furious with me when I got back six days later.
And so we spent the summer, and the rest of the year. Hanging out together at home, and then my making trips in order to produce the fanzine, feeling terrible about leaving her. Cat sitting friends have witnessed me in a tearful mess over saying goodbye, but now the welcomes she gives me when I return are joyful rather than angry, and I know it’s okay to come and go.
That’s how I came to be owned by this person-who-inhabits-a-cat-body. I still spend a lot of time working through the vagaries of this particular interspecies relationship, and I’ve learned a lot. For her part Mittens now understands the word “No!”, and that her tail is actually a part of her own body. So we are both making progress.
And a little bit more on the concept of rescue: on a few occasions I have had the fortune to meet an animal or a human and been able to do something to help them. These have been the happiest moments of my life.