PUSSY LUCY

Recently, sleepless in the dead of night, gasping for air in the heat like a beached whale, I found that the cats of my life had emerged from their resting places where they sleep in my memory and were quietly observing me from various vantage points.

In every case, the cat had arrived in our lives either of its own volition, or not actively sought by us. My mother liked cats and we had one or two over my childhood. The one I am going to write about was a small and dainty tortoise-shell, not at all friendly with strangers, and I think called Lucy (hence Pussy Lucy.) She was there as a young cat when I was still living at home, but working.

I arrived home one day to find the cat lying on her blanket, very unwell with the dreaded cat flu. My mother was not very good with illness – she tended to the view that if the sufferer cared more abut her – my mother, they would get better to ease her suffering. She gave all physical care diligently enough, – she was by no means neglectful, but she could not encourage, soothe or uplift. All you felt was her anxiety, so her presence in your sickroom just made you feel worse.. She was very distressed about the cat and resigned to losing her.

I looked at the cat – a young and beautiful animal, and thought that we shouldn’t abandon her prematurely. So I said to her, You hang on in there, and we’ll see what we can do. I found a pipette with a rubber teat, and I filled it with a mixture of beaten egg, warm milk, a little butter and honey. The cat did not actively suck but she did not resist me either; so I just poured it as down her throat, stroking under her chin to ensue she swallowed. I held her over a litter tray but did not detect much activity. I would tell her pussy cat stories of how she would recover and that she would hunt for mouse and bird; of the kittens she would have. Then (I had donated an old mohair cardigan of mine) I would wrap her up gently. I did this every 4 hours, getting up in the night.

The days passed and the cat did not die. She looked terrible, skin and bone and with her fur a matted mess where the drink had stuck to her. By this time I was very tired, and I began to wonder if there was any point in continuing if she was not going to recover. One day, seated beside her waiting for the drink to cool, I became distracted by the book I was reading, when I heard a tiny ‘rrnnt’ noise from the cat, and when I looked at her I realised she was staring steadily at me. She was waiting to be fed.

When my mother realised that the cat might live, she began to share the feeding with me. She cut off the matted fur and gently wiped the cat with a warm, damp cloth. It was a great day for us when she licked her filthy fur once or twice. My mother would feed the cat tiny bits of things she liked, with her fingers and the cat lying on her lap; A little prawn; some smoked salmon, a piece of raw haddock, some raw chicken. (This cat retained unusual tastes. She liked a scone straight from the oven, and my mother would spread it with butter for her.) Eventually she was able to stagger to the outside litter ray but we had to go too to catch her if she fell over and at first she was so exhausted from the effort of getting there that we had to carry her back t o her bed.

But very gradually she recovered. She lived for over ten more years, and she had the dreamed of kittens. Even though she remained my mother’s cat, unfriendly to visitors, she always had a kind word for me, even when I would turn up like a bad penny after a long absence.

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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