I often think the residents of Victor Rd must have a clause in their contracts, when buying their homes, that specifies that they look after the local population of stray cats. Or maybe being bonafide cat lovers they scour the country for highly populated cat areas and move in. Possibly they are initially indifferent, then at some point the residents of Victor Rd fall under the spell of the persistent felines that dance around their feet and hang around their front doors. Soon after they find themselves compelled to leave bowls of milk or mounds of kibble on their front door step.
Take Mary for instance, a perfectly sensible woman in all other walks of life, a doctor I believe with a loving family. When I first met Mary she had two beautiful long haired cats, Percy and Pebbles, that she wanted me to look after while she travelled. I would visit the cats once in the morning and her neighbours would pop in and check on them in the evening. Like most of the cats on Victor Rd, Percy and Pebbles have unlimited access to the garden, neighbouring gardens and the railway tracks that run behind them. I often wouldn’t see them for days. Mary asked me to always keep the bowl in front of the house topped up with food, and the bowl in the garden topped up with water for any hungry or thirsty kitty that happened to be passing.
It was a year or two before Smudge arrived. As usual before my visit Mary had sent me her an email informing me of any changes to the cats routine and tacked onto the bottom was a note, ‘You may see Smudge a white cat with a black spot on his back. Please let him in and be sure to feed him, he never stays.’
Sure enough Smudge appeared from nowhere while I was standing on the doorstep. He circled me once, brushing against my legs and stared up at me, his white coat smudged grey and his face speckled with dirt. With his tail pointed straight up in the air Smudge followed me inside and ate quickly whilst constantly looking over his shoulder. When he had finished eating he would sit by the door and wait for me to leave.
A few years on and whenever I visit my customers on Victor Rd, Smudge will appear, racing towards me as soon as he hears my bike pull up. He curls around my legs with his signature tail, arrow straight and pointing at the sky. Sometimes I surprise him, arriving by foot I find him rolling around in the road under a parked car or lying in a shaft of sunlight on the pavement. He drops on the floor as I stroke him, purring with pleasure and manoeuvring his two back paws under my hand and bounces it in the air so it lands on his cheek. Massage over and he will follow me into Mary’s house, sticking close to me as Percy, Pebbles and now Oscar (a neighbouring cat that has managed to bypass the microchipped cat flap to enjoy Marys bottomless hospitality) barely tolerate Smudge. With his tail straight up Smudge waits at the entrance to the kitchen and follows me back to his feeding station. If the other cats aren’t about he takes full advantage and will nibble a bit of food out of each of their bowls. He then waits at the front door for me and follows me out.
Sometimes Smudge will go missing for a week, he’ll meet a kindly stranger and follow them home. Under his spell the stranger will buy him a collar, a bed, and maybe a few toys but Smudge is a street cat at heart and before long he has slipped out of the front door and can be found rolling around on the pavement in Victor Rd and flirting with the passers by.
Henry lost a leg and most of his tail in a car accident. The local cat shelter that took him in thinks his owner must have passed away leaving poor Henry to fend for himself. For my customer, Frankie it was love at first sight and with her attention and care Henry is now thriving. He manages just fine on his three legs, dipping up and down as he walks and runs to compensate for the missing step. He is a black and white beauty with pale green eyes with a soft blue centre. Henry greets me with meows when I visit him and once he is fed I sit on the rug and he settles down beside me, nestling his body alongside mine, propping himself up with my thigh and resting a weary head and paw on my leg.