Saturday, 10 August 2013

Fishing for Cats


     The internet is full of tales about people who came to live with cats (or vice versa, I’m never quite sure which is the truth). Sometimes the story is straightforward, a love story – human meets cat, cat meets human, match made in heaven! Sometimes it’s more complicated. For instance, I just met a cat in the local car park. She was obviously a little feral one and quite happily cleaning herself in the sun until I took an interest. Then this little tiger became unsettled and gave me an insight into the way we impose ourselves on a cat’s life.

     In the case of Mru there's quite a tale. Mru has had several incarnations. She came to live with my partner by quite a long and complicated journey. It involved the life of an orphaned vagabond, lodging with a neighbor and then being a fisherman’s mate. Finally she took refuge from a harsh world that had abandoned her in the meanest way.

Polish for Pet Lovers

     I first met Mru when I visited my partner, Beata, back in New Year 2011. The cat had only recently taken up residence. She was still nervous of her surroundings and very jumpy. I was a complete stranger to her. To me, as in the case of all cats however, she seemed like an adorable little ball of black and white fluff. Her anxious snickers when I approached her only endeared her to me.

     I found out that she’d been hanging around in Beata’s garden for a while. They say that cats find their owners and this lucky cat found Beata. Even though they’d only known each other for a short time they seemed to be happy in each other’s company. Beata gave Mru some shelter and all the food, love and cuddles she needed which, as it turned out, was not very much.

     Beata affectionately called out to the cat “Mru!” as she scampered off the wall and came indoors. It was a bitterly cold winter and this, I think, had finally convinced her that it was worth taking the risk of taking refuge indoors.

     “Mru!” I said. “Mru?” I asked.

     I then received my first lesson in Polish. Mru is the way the Polish say ‘meaow’ and so Beata had simply called the cat Mrusia. ‘Mru’ after the sound they make and ‘…sia’ from the last part of the Polish word for cat. So Mrusia was only too happy to respond if it meant warmth, shelter and food. The cuddles didn’t seem that important to her. Until she met me!

Cat as in Cat' not 'Cat'

     Mru’s name made little sense to me until I knew this. It didn’t make any more or less sense when I found out that the cat had originally lived with a neighbour called Pa, two doors away. “Well he must have called her something else!” I assumed out loud. “Yes,” Beata answered, “he used to call her ‘Cat’!” I mused silently at the collective and uninventive Kerry consciousness that could think of no more imaginative name than 'Cat'.

     We chatted about that without me voicing my opinion of the Kerry mentality. I discovered that Pa, who was a fisherman, had inherited the cat from a neighbour called Catherine and this was the touching reason for his affectionately calling his sweetheart of a cat, Cat. Oops...

     So Mru’s Annie type story commenced. Catherine had found Mru as a shivering little abandoned kitten. She took the cat in and gave her all the love and attention she needed. Soon Catherine had to move away because of work. Cat, being a cat and resourceful as all cats are, relocated to Pa’s house, next door. In most ways for her he was a dream come true.

     He adored the cat and would bring fish home for her. She acquired quite a discerning palate in this respect. Even now she'll only eat the best quality fishy cat food. As I said, she doesn’t need many cuddles but when she gets her favourite ocean themed food then she’ll allow you to stroke her a few times and she purrs like a racing car!

Disaster on the High Seas

     Pa was a lovely man, by all accounts. He not only provided a rich selection of ‘catch of the day’ for the cat but he also presented various delights to the neighbours. He was a Kerry man, through and through. He’d lived in Fenit all his life and found little need to travel much beyond its boundaries.

     This is why his death was so poignant. As a fisherman he was well used to the dangers of his job. Like so many fishermen - and I always find this so strange - he also couldn’t swim. Apparently this is seen as an advantage. If you go down with the boat then you’ll drown more quickly!

     Pa was drowned one day when he became entangled in the lines going out from the boat. The loss had a big impact on the community in Fenit. But no one probably felt his loss quite as much as poor Mru.

     Once more she was all alone in the world. Now she lived in a terrace of three houses, only one of which was still occupied.

Loving Like Cats and Dogs

     Beata has a lovely Border Collie. Timo had been with Beata for about five years when Mru found herself homeless again. He lives out in the garden. You’d think that this would make Beata’s house the least appealing place to take up residence.

     But take up residence Mru did. Timo took to Mru as if she was one of his own family. He sniffed her, licked her and tolerated the occasional swipe she’d give him when he got too interested.

     Beata started by putting food out in the garden. Mru would eat this up on the wall, out of harm’s way. Then gradually as the weather worsened she gravitated towards the welcoming warmth of the house itself. Before too long she had made herself right at home.

     This was around the time I first met her. Much to Beata’s amazement, Mru would sit on my lap and allowed me to stroke her from time to time. Maybe she needed that male energy she’d lost when Pa was drowned. Whatever it was, she recognized something in me that made her feel safe and happy.

Accidental Cat

     The path hasn’t been easy for Mru. Since being with Beata she’s had even more adventures, one of which I’ll make the subject of another post. To look at her now you’d really say she’s been through the wars as a result of her adventures. Her tail doesn’t really work any more. She has bits of fur missing where she’s survived various scrapes. Most of her teeth are missing. But she’s a loving and attentive cat.

     I think she still hankers after her old friend, Pa. This has got her into some trouble. But in the end her guardian angels, and particularly Timo, are looking out for her!