Springtime and darlings


Phone rings. It is my elderly neighbour, ‘Can you get your cat off the roof of my summer house. She is trying to get the baby birds in my nesting box. I can’t get up to chase her away.’

‘I’ll be right over.’ I’m off leaping over the small chain fence that separates the two houses at the front and dashing through her side gate to recover Mrs Mischievous.

Dangling over the side of the summer house I find her precariously hanging from the roof. Her paw reaching for the top of the nesting box.

Four years ago, I had a call from a distraught friend. ‘My beautiful cat has died leaving five four-week-old kittens that I am having to bottle feed every four hours and with my young son I am just exhausted can you take two of the kittens.’

‘No,’ comes Max’s response. So, of course, we adopted them.

Oh, Max is my long-term live-in boyfriend whose amicable ways often leave him floundering amongst the chaos in our household. Between us we have five children so it can get a little manic.

I spent the afternoon with the nurse at the Vet’s surgery learning how look after them and with Max’s young son went to collect my precious charges. The nurse told me that they will see me as their mother because we have them from such a young age.

Now, I access my parental power and demand she jumps down from the roof. She looks at me in a challenging fashion and after a little persuasion, i.e., me flailing my hands at her and reasoning that this is not a good move, she obliges. I sweep her up upon impact with the ground and throw her onto my shoulder, as I give my neighbour a reassuring wave through the window.

With her wriggling in my arms, I hightail it back to my house and shut the front door. She immediately exits through the cat flap and heads over the fence to resurrect her game. I am off at high speed to repeat the previous scenario.

This time I shut the laundry door so she can’t get out before gently placing her on the kitchen floor and explaining that we don’t eat birds particularly those that will upset the neighbour.

She looks thunderously at me, her game spoiled, and I know she is in full disagreement.

I wake up from a little afternoon snooze. There is a voice mail on my phone from the neighbour, ‘Can you watch the bird house for me whilst I go out with my husband to get barbed wire to make a cage around the bird house to keep your cats away.’

Their car is gone from their driveway and my heart freezes. The message was left an hour ago.

I begin racing around the house cat counting. Mrs Tiggywinks is asleep on the foot stool, Mrs Mischievous asleep on my bed where I had left her. My movement has disturbed them and they both exit the house through the cat flap. I sit on the back veranda, watching their movements. I think, ‘Not on my watch, you won’t!’

The grass is long in our back yard. It is early spring and we have chosen not to mow yet preferring the flowers on the weeds in the grass to feed the bees before the garden boarders produce sustenance for them. I lose sight of my charges and search.

As Mrs Tiggywinks, a really large cat of huge power and strength, heads over the neighbour’s fence, presumably with the intention of playing swat the birds as they pop in and out of bird house, I leap into action.

After I reason with her for some time, she looks doubtfully at me from the top of the fence. I Grab the back of her body, as she grips tight to the wood with her front paws. I pull and she holds on tightly. Her long claws imbedding in the far side of the timber. I yank her, tell her to let go and she growls back at me. I pull harder and she squeals. I imagine her body separating in the middle and realise this might not be the best action. My mind distracted she manages to get a leg up and scratch all down my arm. The blood pours and she is off across the neighbour’s lawn. I imagine she has a single thought in mind. The birdhouse.

I am running through the house and Max is yelling, ‘Blood, bleeding! It can’t be worth this?’

I am off through the wet grass, over the chain fence and burst through the neighbour’s side gate to persuade Mrs Tiggywinks off the summer house roof.

My neighbours are not back yet and there is no sign of any cats. I pull over a garden chair and sit patiently, my eyes on the birdhouse.

After about twenty minutes, I reason that the pool of blood on the lawn is indicative of the need for medical attention and head home to bath my wound and apply a little ointment. Both cats greet me in my house and I am at a loss as to why I bothered.

I feed them and lock the cat flap so they can’t leave. Hearing the click as it locks, they panic, forget their food and begin bashing at the flap. I unlock it knowing that their simple systems will require them to perform their ablutions after dinning.

And now the chase is on again. I am back sitting in the neighbour’s garden surrounded by both cats this time. One at a time they make their attempts on the birdhouse. I am scrambling in the bramble behind the summer house trying to catch them or persuade them off the roof.

I can’t leave. I can’t carry them both home at once. Taking one back would mean leaving the other to create carnage. Each time I retrieve a cat from the vicinity of the bird house I bring them back to sit with me on the chair. This serendipity lasts for a little while until another attempt on their prey is executed.

Half an hour or so passes and I am over the game and feel a little cold as the cool evening air begins to pervade my body. I take the smallest, Mrs Mischief, and put her over the fence to our house, run back and pop Mrs Tiggywink over my shoulder to head home. As I am leaving, I notice Mrs Mischief is back quietly sitting in the neighbour’s garden pretending that her only motivation is to bath herself. I am dubious but motivated and run with Mrs Tiggywink firmly in place to close her in my house. I dash back to the neighbour’s garden and try to persuade Mrs Mischief off the roof of the summer house where she is lining herself up to the birdhouse entrance and waiting patiently.

Fifteen minutes later and with much pointless swiping, I have her down on the top of the fence and manage to lift her onto my shoulder. I find my phone in the long-wet grass between the two homes.

We are home. The neighbours are home and call to say one of my cats are on the summer house again. The neighbours have been every where but you can’t buy barbed wire these days and the husband is constructing a guard in his garage. I am off again to retrieve her.

The guard is brilliant and effective, they can’t lean down from the roof of the summer house to the bird box any more. Peace reigns. Laughing at the brilliance of this ingenious structure Max says, ‘Give them the children’s water pistol to keep the cat’s off.’

by Alice Sanza


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