Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to?
Look at him, all cute and sleepy. You wouldn’t believe that he wakes me up every morning by attacking me with his teeth and claws, would you? Well, if you’re a cat owner, you would!
Alfred the Great was never supposed to be with me. He belonged to a colleague who rescued him when he turned up, underfed and limping, in her parents garden. They live very close to farm land, and she thought that he was a feral cat that lived on the vermin there. He wasn’t socialised to humans at all, but she couldn’t bear to leave him, so she adopted him. When she moved into her own house, he went with her.
A few years later, she got offered the chance to work abroad and that meant re-homing her beloved cat. When she first sent out an email appealing for help, I thought about adopting him but hesitated. I’d had two cats previously, a brother and sister from a litter that all ended up dying young. I was so upset after losing both of my beloved cats that I couldn’t think of having any more.
She found people to adopt him, but there was a problem. They were due to finish buying their own house in a few weeks, but she would be leaving Britain before that date. They couldn’t have him before then, and he hates other cats so much that staying in a cattery would be just miserable for him. I, rather rashly, said that he could stay with me for a while, until his new owners could collect him.
It was only going to be a few weeks. It’s not like I was going to get attached, or anything, especially not to a great big bruiser of a cat that still bites and scratches humans because he doesn’t understand how to communicate without drawing blood.
Yeah. That was three years ago now and he has well and truly made himself at home.
My heart went out to him. He had been unloved since birth, and then just when he had found a loving owner who tolerated his less than social countenance, she was leaving him behind. It wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t be given to a shelter to be re-homed, because who would adopt a cat who doesn’t like snuggling with people and couldn’t be trusted around children?
His owner liked the fact that I let him have his space and that I have a garden that he can prowl around at his leisure. She also wanted him to be a Welsh cat, as he would have gone to Bristol with her friends. It would be easier for her to visit him on her trips home if he stayed in the same town.
Living alone can be lonely, and I was ready for company again. I have goldfish – well, two orange orandas and two black moors, to be specific – but as relaxing as watching the fish is, fish aren’t the same as cats or dogs. I’d love to have a dog, more than absolutely anything, but I just don’t have the lifestyle that would allow me to take the best care of a dog. My heart went out to this enormous, annoying, aggressive animal. He didn’t have anybody else, and neither did I.
So, Alfred the Great came to live with me and we haven’t looked back. I very much dislike his way of scratching at me or nipping me to get out of bed in the morning, and my wallpaper and leather sofa definitely have borne the brunt of his displeasure. But this unsocial cat, that spent so much time on the opposite side of the room from me to start with, now is known to sidle up to me and lay in the crook of my arm or tucked behind my knees. I get greeted when I arrive home (albeit with a demand to be fed) and I can identify the meanings behind at least three different miaows.
We’re an odd pair, but somehow we work together. As long as I keep the Dreamies coming, at least!