This is ginge, just one of the many solitary wanderers, who survive alone, out there somewhere, much of the time invisibly. They all have stories we’ll never know, you only have to look at their faces, look into their eyes, to see they have carried a lot. This poor boy turned up in the garden for the first time a few weeks ago. The very first evening he was like a ghost, a shadow, I barely saw him; my own very territorial boy had gone all spiky and taken an aggressive stance, but it was twilight, verging on almost dark and all I caught was a glimpse of a bushy cat slinking by like a dream, slipping into the shadows so fast it was hard to believe he was ever really there. He’d not made a sound, his presence was so transitory, but I felt him. Mine had too, though the fact he had only spiked up and not launched after him, seemed to say something. I barely saw him but caught the flash of a long, bushy tail, a hint of warm ginger fur, but that was all. The shadows ate him up; I knew I’d never seen him before.
Off and on this happened again, a hint of someone there, a swift passing through, the aftermath of a presence; the reaction of mine to tell of an unwelcome interloper, of this mythical creature. Once when I saw him from the window he was sniffing about where I feed the birds, where they had flicked crumbs off onto the ground and I saw him actually eat some dried up bread crumbs and that just tore my heart out, how hungry must a cat be to eat dried crumbs?? I decided to feed him, but still he was vey elusive, slipping through secretly, at odd times, until one day, there he was. A sad faced ginger cat, simply sitting at the bottom of the garden, so still, so quiet, watching, taking it all in; but this was new, he’d only brushed through before, now he sat down and waited; like he’d made a decision. He looked so tired, so worn, but somehow knowing; his big, deep golden eyes seemed to contain a wise, old soul.
And so our story began, the coming together of two lives, the slow unfolding dance of trust and resistance. He wanted something, otherwise why wait? There had been a couple of times mine had really challenged him, chased him off; he’d never been aggressive back, never made a sound, but it was obvious his presence was not welcome, so how come now he chose to sit there, waiting, giving mine ample opportunity to attack? I watched him, he watched me, we watched each other watching and I talked to him, as I always had done since I saw him. I kept mine in and took out a bowl of food for the first time; he was wary; as I moved closer, he moved away, but didn’t run, each time he moved ahead, he then sat and waited, almost daring to hope, though very unsure. I could see his nose pick up the scent of food. The very first time I put it down he began to come forward, so hungry he ate it in front of me, gobbled it. I didn’t want to push it but stayed close enough to get a better look at him and he looked rough, it made me so sad; his ears were all scratched, whether mites or an infection, they had obviously driven him mad, he had scratched so much they bled, were all scabby and he was grubby and somehow just looked tired, really tired. But he ate, every scrap, all the meat, all the biscuits, he was so hungry, he licked everything clean and it was so satisfying watching him enjoy a meal, a proper meal, not dried crumbs. That was the beginning and the story is still unfolding.
I’m still playing the game with him; he comes, he doesn’t show; I worry, fret, can’t stop looking for him; then he appears again. It’s a slow process I’ve been through many, many times before. You have to be in it for the long haul with cats like these; when you don’t know how long they’ve been on the street, what they’ve experienced, why they distrust humans so much, it’s a waiting game, but he’s a sweet soul, he really is. Sometimes when he comes and I put food down, I sit a little away from him and just watch him eat, listen to the sounds he makes enjoying his food, I take him in. I notice his condition, if anything has changed. I’ve bobbed down a couple of times and with one finger slowly reached out and touched his head. That’s all for now, he lets me do it, once, twice, then lifts his head, pulls back and stares at me; what are you doing?? he seems to say, he just stares at me as if he’s trying to work me out; who I am, what I am? But he’s grateful for the food and keeps showing up; even mine have become slightly more tolerant, they don’t like it, don’t like him being there, but seem to grasp he’s no real threat and doesn’t hang about, only wants a meal, that he’s tired, done, doesn’t want to fight but is hungry and alone. It’s still a juggling act, trying to catch his presence, get mine in, so I can feed him; it helps because he’s never been aggressive back, in any way; he’s the quietest cat I’ve ever known; I’ve never heard him make a sound and he simply sits there, tired, waiting.
One morning he lashed me good, twice, but I think it was my fault; I’d left some biscuits on the path and he kept getting bits of leaf, little stones in his mouth and having to put them out, like he’d thought they were biscuits, so I tried to clear the way a bit and I think he thought I was going to take the food away; so I have first blood from him, it inevitably happens at some point, but he’s never done it before, though he is very wary of hands, I’ve noticed him watch my hands sometimes, like other cats I’ve experienced. One of mine still lashes, even after she’s been here for years and years; not very often, but still if I just touch her ‘wrong’, a switch goes on and she lashes, it seems like an inbuilt response, as if she has no control. So I am very wary of what I do with my hands, but have paid for my mistake this time. But I’ve been lashed so many times it’s just life. I have scars from lashes that have gone deep, so his weren’t that bad.
So that’s it, there’s no end to the story, it’s simply is what it is, an unfolding drama between the two of us, moment by moment, two lives interacting and seeing what happens, playing the game, taking it a day at a time; I’m hoping to eventually help him get a life off the streets, hopefully by winter, he doesn’t look as if he could stand another really bad winter. But, we’ll see how it unfolds; I have feelers out for help for this beautiful boy, but it will be a waiting game, as he learns to trust; but till then we’ll dance our dance, weigh each other up, share our small moments and see where it takes us. Two souls taking each other in; we’ll just watch each other watching each other.