Tilly was a little black and white female who lived next door to us some years ago. She was a sweet little cat who often popped in for a chat, either with me, or to go calling for Charlie who was a little bit older than her.  

TillyWhen she came in for Charlie, she give me a cursory nod as I was doing the washing up or something in the kitchen and would just go upstairs to where Charlie would inevitably be snoozing in the back bedroom. A few moments later she would come back down again, followed by Charlie who’d slicked back his hair and had a quick squirt of Calvin Kline after-shave for cats.  He always looked pink with embarrassment that he was going out on a date and tried to avoid eye contact with me in case I said something.

Where Tilly led, Charlie followed. I never found out what they did together or where they went, but as Charlie had been neutered, he was an ideal companion, liking her for her mind and not for her body.

Sometimes they didn’t go out. They would just hang out together upstairs, sleeping on the old spare mattress that I had leaning up against wall. On this, they would perch, looking out the window, chattering when the birds alighted on the sloping roof looking for bread. Or they’d curl up alongside each other and just sleep.

She was a friendly little cat who got on well with not only Charlie, but Biggles and Garfield also. Sometimes all four of them would be curled up asleep together on one of the sofas and at times like that, a lump would come into my throat and a big ‘aaaaah’ would emerge.

By the time she’d reached 18 months old, she had already had three litters of kittens. Her owner didn’t know much about cats and was convinced that once she’d had a litter, she wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again. But not five minutes after her last kitten had been found a home than she was thrashing about in my back garden with the big black tom who’d fathered her previous two litters.

Her owner refused to believe me, but once again, I was proved right when shortly afterwards, Tilly’s girth increased and before too long another litter of jet black kittens were born.

During this particular time, her owner went on a two-week holiday and I went in several times a day to feed Tilly. She drank copious amounts of milk and water and fed heartily. Her tiny little kittens, like little black sausages, stayed in the nest while Tilly looked on adoringly.

That she was a good mother, there was no question. That she was exhausted from having one litter after another was also evident. So I would take the opportunity during my visits to see that she was all right and to reassure her and stroke her.

Not long after this her owner went away again for a week. The kittens were older and at the exploring stage. Poor Tilly would be lying in the nest while her babies would be clambering all over her, or finding new places to discover. I would happily sit with all four babies on my lap cuddling them, giving Tilly a rest, and she, knowing that she could trust me, allowed me to be their ‘auntie’ – grateful for a few moments respite from them and their demanding bleats.

The first three kittens were all rehomed at seven weeks old, which in my opinion, is too young. Eight – ten weeks is the best time to rehome a non-pedigree kitten, but many owners are anxious to get rid of the kittens and the demands made upon their budget and the restraints of the house.

An amazing thing happened the week after Tilly’s first three kittens were rehomed. I was doing the ironing in the kitchen when I noticed a black shape trying to get through the cat flap. I decided to open the back door to investigate and there was Tilly with kitten Number Four trying to push it through the cat flap. I was astonished!

I asked her what she was doing and she looked up at me and smiled. She always seemed to know what I was saying to her and would respond. ‘I’m bringing her to see you,’ she answered. So I picked up the little kitten and gave her a cuddle while Tilly walked in and helped herself to some dinner.

Taking the kitten into the dining room, I sat down and looked her over. She seemed to be in quite good shape for one who’d been dragged up with four boisterous children in the house with no discipline. Tilly agreed with me – she was a proud mother.

I told her that her baby shouldn’t be out side in such weather conditions (it was cold and windy), besides, her baby was far too young to be out and should have her injections first to give her protection. But Tilly said that she just wanted me to see her little baby for the last time and so I accepted the visit in the spirit in which it was made.

For Tilly was, indeed, right. That night her little baby girl went off to her new home, and the following morning Tilly called round, kicking her paws, feeling an emptiness and redundancy.

I gave her a cuddle and told her she’d been a fabulous mother. Then I gave her a special gift – one that lasted a lifetime. I gave her owner the money to get her spayed. 

A week later Tilly called round to thank me. Her side was shaved and the stitches showed where the incision had been made, but she was grateful. She said that the big black tom had been sniffing around again but when he realised that Tilly was no longer available, he’d gone off looking for another willing female.

Perhaps that’s why all the visitors that have been through the cat flap have been black or black and white cats – that tom has been pretty busy!

Not long after Tilly had been spayed, her family moved to a bigger house in a different part of the town. Her owner said that since the operation, Tilly has become more of a house cat, preferring to stay indoors rather than going out visiting her friends. 

Charlie noticed her absence acutely and would go looking for her. He’d taken a keen interest in her babies and acted as a surrogate father even though he’d had no prior experience of kitten rearing. But Tilly trusted him and on a couple of occasions when I went in to feed the kittens Charlie was there laying next to Tilly helping to clean one of the babies, or he’d be looking on in bewilderment as one of them would try to clamber up onto the huge overstuffed sofa.

Tilly was our first visitor and she left a lasting impression on Charlie, and on me. I was deeply humbled that she would bring her baby in to see me before it went off to its new home later that evening. How Tilly knew that is amazing – but cats are rather special and I’m quite sure many, if not all of them, possess ESP. 


You can read another story about Tilly when she helped me plant some bulbs by clicking here:

© Pauline Dewberry 2005

 

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