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The cat at the window

Posted on June 2, 2020 by Admin under Uncategorized
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One evening, a face suddenly appeared looking in through our back door. This was not as dramatic as it sounds, as we had recently moved into a log cabin which had a feral cat living underneath who often appeared at the door waiting to be fed. However, this face was younger and considerably more male than “Mrs Miggins” the resident feral, so we realised we had a new visitor. The cabin was built on stilts on a riverbank, with a covered verandah at the back overlooking the river, and this visitor was sat on the verandah staring in at us and our resident cats, Baldrick and Meg. I carefully opened the sliding door and went out to greet our visitor. He was a little shy, after all, he had no idea what sort of reception he would receive. At first sight, he seemed almost portly, but I soon realised he had a very broad chest but was thin around the waist, and was obviously hoping for food. Of course I obliged, as we always have spare food available for anyone in need of a meal. At first he was wary, as he had heard stories about “crazy cat ladies”, but he was fairly sure that I didn’t fit at least one of those words.

He tucked in, but kept one eye on me to make sure I wasn’t up to no good. I slowly reached out to him while he was eating, and he stood up ready to take flight if necessary, but graciously allowed me to softly stroke his back as long as he could continue to eat. We had an old sofa on the verandah, and I sat on it while he finished polishing off the food in the bowl. He climbed up on to the arm of the sofa and sat there licking his lips while judging me. He sat there belching a few times (something we would become all too familiar with) and then strolled off down the verandah and disappeared into the darkness. I didn’t know then whether he would be one of the many feline visitors we have had over the years who only appeared once or twice, or if he would be a regular visitor. We didn’t see him again for a few days, so I thought that was the last we had seen of him, but then one night he was there at the door again hoping to be fed.

Over the next few nights, we settled in to a kind of routine. The resident elderly feral Mrs Miggins would occupy the verandah during the day, and our new visitor would move in in the evening after Miggins had gone to bed under the cabin. We nicknamed them “the day shift” and “the night shift”, as they seemed to change over so that they were never on the verandah together. Miggins was deaf, and would sit outside our bedroom window in the early morning and meow very loudly until breakfast was served. We had to think of a name for our new visitor, and as we name all our cats after characters from the TV series “Blackadder” and he had a tendency to belch a lot, he became Melchett otherwise known as Belchie Melchie. He would arrive for dinner each evening and then sit next to me on the sofa. As the evenings gradually became colder I would sit on the sofa with a blanket over me, and Melchett started to lie on the blanket on top of me. If I tried to stroke him he would lash out, but if I left him in peace he would settle down with me on the sofa. It was the start of a long cold winter and it looked like I would be spending many evenings outside before Melchett started to trust us. If I picked up my camera he would hide as if he was used to someone throwing things at him, and if I tried to walk past him he would cower as if he was used to being kicked.

Our oil tank was in a shed built on stilts, and one night I found Melchett lying on top of the tank in one of Miggins’ favourite sleeping spots. He wasn’t agile enough to get down, so I started to lift him down. He had previously allowed me to lift him for a couple of seconds, but the few seconds it took to get him down from the tank was obviously too much and he turned and bit me hard on the left hand right down to the knuckles. He dropped out of my grip and ran off in to the darkness and did not return that night. The next night he returned and after he had eaten I tried to get some photos of him. He was still scared of me picking the camera up, but he sat in my lap and I managed to get some photos of both of us. You can’t see it in the photos, but the hand I was holding the camera with was by this point badly swollen and bandaged after plentiful applications of antiseptic. These are still some of my favourite pictures of Melchett and I like to think he was sorry for hurting me.

After a few weeks, Melchett decided to have a look inside the house. He managed to find a cardboard box filled with biodegradable packing materials hidden under the TV table which has a tablecloth over it. The contents were a bit like white-coloured Cheetos or Wotsits and he decided this must be one of those “litter trays” he had heard about and made full use of the facilities. Since that night, we have always kept a litter tray hidden under the TV and it is still the only one he will use. Years later he is still nervous of using litter trays, and we suspect that in his early life he was shouted at for doing anything indoors.

One evening I came home from work to find the road to the cabin flooded as the river had overflowed. I ended up wading a mile through waist deep water by the light of the full moon to get back to the cabin. For most of the winter we spent in the cabin, the river was in flood. The garden was under water, and the river flowed under the verandah and the back of the cabin. One night I arrived home from work after dark, and went through the side gate straight onto the verandah. Melchett was taken by surprise, panicked, and ran straight off the end of the deck and dropped into the flood-waters in the dark. He didn’t appear for the next few nights and we really thought that was the last we had seen of him but then one night he suddenly reappeared as if nothing had happened. We never found out how he escaped from the river.

Not long after we moved into the cabin, we found out that our landlord had decided to sell the property and we had to look for somewhere else to live. At this point, Miggins had only just moved in and Melchett was still just the night shift so this was a bit of a shock. We didn’t know whether we would be able to take Melchett with us, and we didn’t want to leave him behind. We managed to find a bungalow on a cul-de-sac with woodland behind it and open fields to one side. There was a garage which we would be able to keep Melchett in while he became accustomed to his new location. As the weeks passed upto the move, I spent every evening on the verandah with Melchett as he gradually became more used to us. I started putting his food bowl inside a cat carrier so that he would get used to going inside it. A few days before the move, Melchett stopped visiting and we did not see him once before we moved and we thought we would not get chance to take him with us.

After moving everything else, I went back to the cabin with the carrier and a bowl of food hoping to find Melchett. The local farmer had moved his cows into the field surrounding the cabin, and there was no sign of Melchett anywhere. I sat on the verandah in the dark watching across the field and waited for him. When I was just about to give up, he suddenly appeared on the river side of the cabin and climbed up onto the verandah. He must have been scared by the cows and had to take the long way round. I managed to tempt him into the carrier with a bowl of food, and we finally left the cabin behind.

We put Melchett in his new garage home with a bed and litter tray, as well as the old sofa from the verandah at the cabin. Lisa and I would sit with him each day as we hoped he would settle down. Unfortunately, the garage had a clear plastic roof, and after a few days, a spell of very warm weather started (in April!) and it soon became apparent that we would not be able to leave Melchett in there. We put a collar and tag on him and let him out into the garden from where he promptly disappeared under the hedge and into the woodland at the bottom of the garden. Once again, we thought we might never see him again, but after a few hours he returned for his supper. There was a covered seating area at the back of the bungalow, so we moved Melchett’s sofa into that, and this became his ‘home’ for the next few months. We started to leave the back door of the bungalow open at night so that Miggins could go out and we left food just inside so that Melchett would start to come in to feed.

Unfortunately, the local magpies soon discovered that there was free food on offer, and early one morning I was woken by a loud squawking in the kitchen. I jumped out of bed (not wearing anything) and found a young magpie panicking in the end of the kitchen which had windows on three sides and it was trying to get out through the glass. It was making a heck of a noise, and just as I caught it Melchett panicked and jumped up and sank his claws into my bare behind. So I was stood there in the early morning light with a panicking magpie loudly trying to remove my fingers and a panicking tomcat holding his whole weight on my bare bum. Oddly enough, you never see scenes like that on adverts for cat food on TV. Having removed enraged magpie from kitchen and enraged tomcat from bare buttocks, I cleaned myself up and went back to bed.

Melchett gradually started to settle down and spend more time indoors as he started to trust us more, although one day he went to hide behind the fridge when I walked into the kitchen whistling so we think he may have been mistreated by someone who whistled. It is so difficult to guess what has happened to stray cats before they cross paths with us. At this point, he was still a “whole” tomcat, and each day he would set off across the fields by the house to visit a nearby stables. This was home to several cats, and he would often come home looking a bit the worse for wear, and was picking fights with Baldrick as well, so he went for a visit to the vets. After this, he calmed down a lot and was soon being bullied by Baldrick rather than the other way round.

One day, our neighbour decided to cut down the middle of the hedge between our garden and her field and put a wooden fence up instead. Unfortunately, she left a gap at the end of the fence and her horse pushed through into the garden and trampled all the plants. The fence became prime territory for Baldrick and Melchett as it provided great views across the field and resulted in plenty of cartoon chases between the pair of them.

Around this time, Baldrick and Melchett decided to start their own Facebook page and continued their descent into catnip addiction. Melchett really started to settle down, and gradually realised that he could play with toys. The new favourite toy was “Hedgepig”, a toy hedgehog on a string, although a succession of “Mousies” also came and went. Melchett also had a soft spot for a catnip fish called a willow kipper.

After a couple of years in the bungalow, we found out that our landlord wanted to sell, so it was time to move again. We found a house on a hillside above a village, with a garden on several levels up the hillside. It was like an adventure playground for cats and was on a no-through road. Baldrick had great fun jumping around on the pile of boxes as we were packing, but Melchett could sense that change was about to happen.

Baldrick and Melchett had great fun exploring the new house, which had stairs for the first time in a few years, and views of the neighbours from the upstairs windows. They soon decided that the prime location in the new house was the radiator shelf in the living room, which had the advantage of underbum heating and was next to the windowsill eating area from where they could keep an eye on the neighbours. Next best was the “catservatory” at the back of the house with panoramic views of their new garden and from where they could keep an eye out for intruders.

Once they had settled down, we allowed them outside to start exploring the garden. At the bottom of the garden there was a wood panel fence beyond which there was a drop of about twenty feet to the garden below which was lower down the hill. Melchett climbed up onto the fence and then immediately jumped off the other side which looked like he had dropped straight down into the other garden. Fortunately, there was a bit more of our garden behind the fence before the drop.

Near the top of the new garden was a flat patio area which we nicknamed ‘the platform’ which the cats loved because it gave views all around the neighbourhood and beyond. This became the prime area for games and catnip binges over the next few years.

Once again we had a range of birds visiting the garden, most of which didn’t seem too bothered by the presence of the cats and would happily sit watching the cats while I watched the cats and the cats watched me to see if I would do anything entertaining. One day, Melchett discovered some bird food pellets on the garden table and decided that bird food must be made from birds. Judging by the look on his face that was not the case.

Our neighbour had a young tabby cat called Tommy who started to spend time in our garden mostly because he shared his garden with another two cats, two dogs, several ferrets, ducks, chickens and pigeons, so our garden was a haven of peace and quiet for him. He idolized Melchett, and used to follow him around the garden staying a respectful couple of feet behind. Melchett likes a quiet life and tolerated his new apprentice as he did his best to show him how to behave.

Unfortunately, Baldrick was not so tolerant, and one day chased Tommy from the garden. Melchett then attacked Baldrick and a real scrap started at the bottom of the garden. At one point Baldrick lifted Melchett up and body-slammed him on the path in a move that a pro wrestler would have been proud of. At this point I managed to separate them but it seemed that Tommy’s apprenticeship was over. He still came to the garden especially if there was catnip on offer, but he stayed away from our cats after that.

During one of his more adventurous moments, Melchett was walking across a wooden fence and slipped off. He ended up hanging on with his front paws and thrashed around wildly trying to climb back on when he was only a couple of inches above the ground. It took him quite a while to climb back on and then he stepped off onto the ground. Baldrick was never very bright, but there were times when Melchett was a pretty close second.

Around this time, we noticed that Melchett’s right eye was becoming discoloured and we took him to the vets a couple of times but the vet assured us it was nothing to worry about. We took him again months later only to discover that he had a cataract in his right eye and were sent off to see a posh eye specialist. All the other patients at the specialist were pedigree dogs with inherited eye problems, so Melchett was a bit out of his depth but maintained his usual level of dignity. After thirty minuted of poking and prodding in a dark room, the vet told us (well she told me but Melchett was listening too) that he had a cataract in his right eye and glaucoma in his left. He had no sight in his right eye but the sight in his left was still OK. He had to have eye drops several times a day, steroids to stop inflammation in his right eye and pressure-reducing drops in his left. He hated the steroid drops as he said they tasted funny (he had to explain to me that it is possible to taste eye drops) but he doesn’t hold a grudge for long so usually forgave me within a few minutes of me giving him the drops.

Just after Christmas, a black cat started appearing at our back door hoping to be fed. He was pretty thin, very cautious and very hungry. Over the next few weeks he visited every day for food, and would sometimes let us stroke him but not when he was eating. He was very possessive of his food and did not take kindly to cat or person approaching during feeding time. However, once he had finished eating, he would allow Lisa to stroke him, and every now and them he would allow me but I always ran the risk of getting scratched if he took offence. He gradually started to get used to lying on the old sofa in the catservatory and seemed to be getting ready to settle down, but then one day he stopped visiting and we never found out what happened to him. There was a whole tribe of black feral cats in the village so it was difficult to find out if he had moved onto someone else once the weather improved.

Melchett wasn’t overly impressed when Edmund the kitten arrived. Edmund decided early on that Melchett was entertainment and would jump on him at every opportunity. Melchett is usually fairly peace-loving but his patience was worn very thin. For the first few weeks, Edmund slept in a cage that was originally home to a German shepherd dog. This allowed Melchett to get some sleep and stopped Edmund doing anything too suicidal.

Just after Christmas a black cat appeared at the back door. This was exactly a year after Bubbles had appeared at the same place and we thought he had returned but it soon became apparent that this was a different cat who was more friendly than Bubbles had been. This cat was quite small and slim and we named it “Bob” after a female character in the TV show Blackadder. We soon discovered that Bob was actually a young neutered male cat, but Bob in Blackadder was a woman pretending to be a man, so the name somehow still seemed appropriate. He would visit us every morning for food before disappearing in the afternoon.

During Edmund’s first winter with us we had several snow storms including one which was dubbed “The Beast From The East” by the UK media. Melchett was quite happy trundling his way through the deep snow, and Bob loved it. He was almost as agile as Edmund and would run, jump and slide all around the garden.

We noticed that Melchett was drooling so took him to the vets to find out that he needed a couple of teeth removing. Shortly after that, he had his six-monthly check at the eye specialist where we found out that his cataract was deteriorating which was causing a big increase in pressure in his eye so it needed to be removed. He was already blind in that eye so he didn’t lose any vision. He had to wear a cone for three weeks which he really hated and Edmund thought smelled funny. The first time Melchett went out after his cone came off he got into a fight with Benji and ripped out one of his fangs and had to have an operation to repair the damage. Then his eye scar became infected and had to be restitched. In the space of a few weeks he had fourteen vet visits and four operations but throughout it all when I asked him how he was, he replied “mustn’t grumble”. His generation had fought in the war and didn’t hold with making a fuss.

We lost Edmund to a car accident at the start of the year, and since then Melchett has done his best to keep the spirit of Edmund alive. He has been playing with toys that he hasn’t looked at for years, running up and down the stairs, and sitting halfway up the stairs at the spot where Edmund used to sit and watch us in the living room. But at heart Melchett realises that he is destined to be the unappreciated sidekick, like Alfred with Batman, Penny with Inspector Gadget, Teller with Penn, Wise with Morecambe or Crosby with Hope. He doesn’t really seek to be in the limelight, and in time we will probably be adopted by another cat or two. They won’t replace Edmund, just as Edmund didn’t replace Baldrick, but hopefully they will get to experience some of the joy that Edmund found in his short life, and maybe set an example for the rest of us.

The life of Edmund the jumping kitty

Posted on May 4, 2020 by Admin under Uncategorized
6 Comments

Our old cat, Baldrick, was a real character. For most of the thirteen years he spent with us he acted like a kitten. When he passed away in October 2017, we thought we would never have another cat with such personality, but only a month after his loss, my wife Lisa met and fell for a tabby kitten at the Cats Protection branch where she volunteers. He was known as “Gatito” (little cat) because he was so small, and had to be kept in a cage on his own at the rescue centre because he kept biting his mother. He soon adopted us and was renamed “Edmund” after a character from the TV series Blackadder. The moment we released him from his carrier he was like the Tasmanian devil, twirling and jumping all around the bedroom, and we joked that he would become the most photographed cat in the world which is probably not too far from the truth.

His first toy was a small ball that he kicked all round the room, showing dribbling skills that would put some soccer players to shame. I say “a” small ball but really it was a big bag full of balls that Lisa bought for him and which he left in random positions on the stairs for me to step on. He especially loved chasing the balls down the stairs at speed then waiting for us to throw them to the top again.

He also had Mousie which was almost as big as him and a toy Santa with a furry tail which he adored. He would bounce all around the bedroom for hours chasing it.

It soon became apparent that his jumping abilities were beyond those for an ordinary cat. Baldrick had jumped around quite a lot, but he was positively earthbound compared to Edmund. As he grew, Edmund could jump about six feet straight up or eight feet sideways from a standing start and without much apparent effort.

Our other cat, Melchett wasn’t overly impressed with the new addition to the family. Edmund decided early on that Melchett was entertainment and would jump on him at every opportunity. Melchett is usually fairly peace-loving but his patience was worn very thin.

It became quickly apparent that Edmund was smarter than the average cat. Most of our cats were at the back of the queue when brains were being handed out, but Edmund could open cupboards, drawers and treat containers with ease especially if there was catnip inside. We bought him a treat tower which was supposed to provide hours of stimulation for a cat to work out how to get the treats out but Edmund treated it as a vending machine and flicked the treats out without a second thought. We once made the mistake of leaving our rent money in a drawer that had had catnip in it and came home to find Edmund chewing on a bunch of twenty-pound notes that he had removed from the drawer.

When he was young Edmund had a tendency to bite everything he saw, particularly my nose. He also loved bare feet and would attack any that he saw on the edge of the bed. As Edmund grew older, his biting habit reduced although he never lost his love of attacking bare feet.

Edmund had a cat tree that he would spend hours playing on. He loved sitting on the top level looking out of the bedroom window dreaming of the day he would be allowed outside. On bonfire night we were worried he would be scared by the fireworks but we found him sitting in the window fascinated by all the bright objects in the sky.

He spent almost as much time on two feet as on four and a lot of the time looked like he was dancing.

He seemed to think that his tail was nothing to do with him and would attack it mercilessly and try to beat it into submission. It never seemed to sink in that when he bit his tail it caused him pain, it just seemed to confirm his suspicions that the tail was up to no good.

All of the other cats we have known have hated soap bubbles even ones with catnip mixed in, but Edmund loved them. He would leap and chase them all around the room but could never understand why he never managed to catch one. This just seemed to make him more determined with each new attack.

He was also the only cat that loved running water and loved drinking and playing with it.

Edmund also loved eating plants. He was particularly fond of an aloe vera plant which we had to get rid of because they are poisonous to cats, but also a coffee plant that Lisa had been growing from a seed for years and was still only a few inches high.

Edmund had a fondness for sniffing cat litter. He would bury his nose in the tray and sniff around for ages which would then make him sneeze for hours. He would sit at the top of his cat tree and sneeze on the bedroom window which we had to clean repeatedly. We tried some “low-dust” litter which was a pink colour in place of the wood pellet litter we normally use, but all that happened was he started living pink snot on the window instead. Thankfully as he grew older he grew out of this habit.

Just after Christmas a black cat appeared at the back door. The cat was quite small and slim and we named it “Bob” after a female character in the TV show Blackadder. We soon discovered that Bob was actually a young neutered male cat, but Bob in Blackadder was a woman pretending to be a man, so the name somehow still seemed appropriate. He would visit us every morning for food before disappearing in the afternoon. As Edmund grew older, we started to take him outside on a harness. The first time we put it on him he immediately collapsed and would have won the cat Oscar for “most dramatic performance” if there was one. We really thought the harness was stopping him breathing, but soon realised it was just him pretending to swoon. Fortunately, he soon realised that the only way he was going to get to go out was with the harness on and he calmed down a bit.

He loved exploring the garden even in his harness, but was embarrassed having to wear a pink harness and leash in front of Bob and Melchett and complained about it frequently. He was particularly unimpressed when it started snowing and he couldn’t understand what the cold stuff was that was falling from the sky and landing on him.

Once we were fairly confident that Edmund could be trusted without the harness we set him free. He immediately disappeared down an old rabbit warren in the corner of the garden and did not return for about a quarter of an hour. That was one of the longest fifteen minutes of my life, but became a familiar feeling when watching Edmund outside. I blocked up the entrances to the warren but he would always find other ways to scare me half to death. Bob and Edmund soon became best friends and would chase each other up and down the garden and as parts of the garden were vertical, they literally chased each other up and down at terrifying speed and apparently little thought for the dangers involved. At the end of each chase there would be a big “fight” that involved lots of rolling around and all sorts of facial expressions but little real violence apart from when Edmund sometimes got a little carried away. Bob would soon let him know that he had overstepped the mark and then normal service would be resumed.

We decided around this time to move somewhere with more open space for Edmund to run around in. He was built like a miniature cheetah and really needed a field to run in. We managed to find a mobile home next to a field and some woodland. It was just outside a village and seemed like the ideal location for Edmund and Melchett.

There was already a cat living on site, an elderly one-toothed ginger rat-catcher called Simba, and Edmund idolised him. Edmund would follow Simba around at a safe distance and would even just sit and watch him while he slept. He knew not to get too close because Simba would give him a smack but there were never any fights between them. Simba’s owner worked long hours, so we often ended up feeding him (Simba, not his owner) and Simba gradually moved in with us.

Most of our cats have not been keen on wide-open spaces, with Baldrick in particular liking to lurk in the undergrowth, but Edmund took to the field like a cheetah on the savannah. He would “hide” behind small tufts of grass and then set off across the field at speed and a fair speed it was too. We often wondered if Edmund had a bit of Savannah, Bengal or something more exotic (possibly alien) in his DNA, as he was certainly not an average moggy.

He soon discovered the woodland on the far side of the field, and would happily climb large trees as well as vanishing inside a hollowed-out tree trunk that he would emerge from several minutes later after his travels in the underworld. It was scary to watch him in action, but he had such a lust for life and was a real force of nature. He would chase pheasants in the woods, and every now and then came close to catching one. I had visions of one day seeing him flying across the field sat on the back of a pheasant and wouldn’t really have been surprised.

There were a couple of old vans parked in the field and Edmund had great fun climbing on them while Melchett was happy to sit under them and watch the world go by. Edmund soon discovered that he could jump from the roof of one of the vans onto a barn roof where there were sparrows nesting and would hang over the edge of the roof trying to catch the birds as they emerged but fortunately they were always just out of reach.

Although most of our cats have loved cardboard boxes, Edmund was the only one who loved eating them. We often had piles of stuff in boxes, and he would gradually reduce them to piles of stuff on the floor surrounded by bits of half-eaten cardboard.

The field had three sheep living in it and Edmund had great fun chasing them as he thought they were just big woolly mice. He got away with it the first couple of times as the sheep were taken by surprise by this new menace and ran away. However, they soon realised how small he was and started to stand their ground. This led to a series of stand-offs which he mostly lost but he still kept trying. When the sheep had lambs in the spring, he tolerated them approaching him and would happily rub noses with them which was his favourite greeting.

There was an old tennis ball in the field which Edmund would happily chase and pounce on, but when the ball bounced up he thought it was attacking him and he would run away again.

He would chase butterflies and bumblebees and catch them under his paw then look totally confused when he lifted his paw and they would fly away. He loved chasing things but never developed a killer instinct.

Simba’s health gradually deteriorated, and he was with us when he passed away quietly one morning. We buried him under the apple trees where he used to sleep in the evening sun. He was a refined old gentleman who had welcomed us into his home in his twilight months.

We had one snowfall during our time in the caravan, and Edmund made the most of it. He ran, jumped and skidded all over the field and seemed even less likely than usual to stay still. Melchett just sat under one of the vans scowling at the inconvenience of it all.

One of Edmund’s favourite pastimes was sneaking up behind me and jumping from the ground onto my shoulder from where he would started rubbing his head against mine. This was slightly disturbing if I thought I was alone in the dark outside the caravan, and even more disturbing when I was using the toilet inside, which nearly caused a few accidents.

After a long cold winter, we found out that our landlord was planning to sell (a familiar theme), and so had to move again. We managed to find a small cottage next to a field, and although it was next to a road it was a small, very quiet country road where only a handful of vehicles passed each day and we thought it would be safe for the cats. There was even less traffic here than there had been at the caravan so off we went.

There was already a cat called Benji living next-door, and he regularly goes to sleep in the middle of the road so we knew it was fairly safe and that the neighbours would be used to having cats around. Benji is a un-neutered Bengal tomcat and we knew we would be moving into his territory so our boys would have to be careful with him.

As soon as we let Edmund outside he started climbing onto the outbuildings around the cottage. He realised that they were close enough together to allow him to jump from one to another until he reached the highest. Not for the first time, I had to watch him risk life and limb while he thoroughly enjoyed himself.

There was a stack of straw bales in the barn next to the cottage that became prime real estate for all the cats. It was ideal for sleeping on while the sun was out but also for hiding behind, hunting around and also for watching bats flying around the barn in the evening. Edmund and Melchett would often appear at the door with bits of straw stuck to their whiskers or sticking out of their ears.

At one point, Edmund caught a vole upstairs and brought it down to release in the kitchen. The vole tried to run up the wood panel at the side of the stairs but just ended up running on the spot while Edmund watched it. I managed to pick it up and was bitten in return and released it outside where Edmund just followed it around. Once again I started to wonder whether Edmund was part cartoon cat.

We get many spectacular sunsets and Edmund often spent the evening jumping around in the field while I watched the sunset and took photographs of him.

Edmund found himself a favourite piece of machinery in the barn – an old cement mixer. He could sit inside it when it was raining and sit on top when the sun came out.

Benji and Edmund would often start squabbling which sounded dreadful but rarely amounted to anything too serious. At the sight of Melchett, Benji would roll over in submission even though Melchett wasn’t really much of a threat to him. If Edmund was inside when he saw Benji, he would throw himself at the window, he was always very brave from behind glass. We eventually found a way to achieve a kind of peace outside by putting three old mats down on the gravel so each of the cats had his own mat but could keep an eye on the other two.

One day I was at work and received a phone call from Lisa which rarely happened so I knew it must be something fairly serious. All sorts of thoughts came into my head – maybe something had happened to Melchett, maybe something had happened to one of our parents who are all at the sort of age where you start to brace yourself for the inevitable bad news. Maybe she had had problems with her car or the heating had stopped working. The one thing I never thought of and was totally unprepared for – “Edmund’s dead”. Two short words that carried so much weight. He had been hit by a car which never stopped on a road that has only a handful of vehicles each day. He must have run out at just the wrong time.

I drove home in a daze, stuck behind a tractor at ten miles-per-hour and convinced myself that it must all be a misunderstanding. It wasn’t of course although it seemed impossible to accept. Edmund was so full of life and such a force of nature it didn’t seem possible that he could be taken from us so suddenly. We have always allowed our cats to go outdoors if they want to and accept that one day we may pay the price for allowing them this freedom, but in twenty-two years we had never lost a cat this way before and this was the quietest place we have lived.

Since we lost Edmund, Melchett has done his best to keep the spirit of Edmund alive. He has been playing with toys that he hasn’t looked at for years, running up and down the stairs, and sitting halfway up the stairs at the spot where Edmund used to sit and watch us in the living room. But at heart Melchett realises that he is destined to be the unappreciated sidekick, like Alfred with Batman, Penny with Inspector Gadget, Teller with Penn, Wise with Morecambe or Crosby with Hope. He doesn’t really seek to be in the limelight, and in time we will probably be adopted by another cat or two. They won’t replace Edmund, just as Edmund didn’t replace Baldrick, but hopefully they will get to experience some of the joy that Edmund found in his short life, and maybe set an example for the rest of us.

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