What has 3 little heads, 12 little paws, and 3 little tails? THAT'S RIGHT!! 3 little kittens! Read about Billy, Timmy and Joey as they join MARMALADE MANSIONS ... 

Billy, Timmy and Joey came tumbling into Marmalade Mansions like a trio of circus acrobats. They frolicked, they rolled, they jumped, they leapfrogged and they cart wheeled. They seemed forever active as if their very existence depended on perfecting the next trick. 

They moved into the redundant living room which was awaiting redecoration. It made a perfect nursery/bedsit for them. The litter tray, food and water dishes were all within paw’s reach and there were a variety of toys to keep them amused. There was an old comfortable sofa on which they spent seemingly only a few minutes a day asleep and a table in front of the double windows. This table became their stage and I often chanced upon a little group of people outside the front garden wall in rapt concentration watching as Billy, Timmy and Joey performed their latest acrobatic act. 

Billy, Timmy and Joey performed their greatest trick, ‘The Feline Pyramid’, to wild, appreciative applause. Timmy was baseman, with Billy on his shoulders, and then Joey climbed carefully up onto Billy’s shoulders and thrust his front paws wide, not a shred of nerves to be seen. He was near to the cross beam in the window and he reached up just a smidgen until his paws curled over it. At this moment, Billy, having got bored, decided to jump down from Timmy’s shoulders leaving Joey stranded. Timmy looked up worriedly but couldn’t bridge the gap left by Billy.

The anxious crowd looked on, some with their hands over their eyes, not wanting to look, others with a hand clamped to their mouths for fear of screaming out and breaking Joey’s concentration. Joey just hung on, wondering how to extricate himself without looking stupid.

Billy and Timmy were a bit scared. They hadn’t practiced this bit. In fact they hadn’t practiced any of it – it had just seemed like a good idea at the time – one of those ‘on the spur of the moment’ things that you don’t think through. And now, here was poor little Joey, not much bigger than a handkerchief dangling from a window with what seemed miles and miles of space between him and the safety of the table.

Luckily for Joey I was on my way home from shopping and as the cab drew up outside my house the little crowd had caught my attention. I saw a speck of ginger and white dangling from the window. ‘Oh my goodness!’ I exclaimed and threw rather too much money at the cab driver in my rush to rescue poor little Joey. I leapt out of the cab and hurriedly put the key in the door. I opened the living room door a tiny bit and squeezed through the gap. Closing it quickly behind me I lunged towards the table and in one big swoop I managed to catch Joey just as his grip was fading and he was going to fall.

Billy and Timmy hugged each other with relief and Joey just nestled into my neck for reassurance. ‘What in heaven’s name were you doing?’ I asked them. ‘Errrrrrrrm,’ began Billy looking to Timmy to continue. ‘Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrm,’ said Timmy looking back again at Billy for confirmation. ‘Well?’ I waited. ‘Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrm’ they said in unison looking at each other and the wall for inspiration.

Joey had fallen asleep in the crook of my neck so I cradled him carefully in my arms. He looked like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth and I kissed him.

I waved to the onlookers that all was well and they disbanded and went to their homes, their excitement over for the day. The cab driver had placed the shopping just inside the hallway and I put Joey down on the old sofa. Billy and Timmy nestled either side of him and the three of them slept. No doubt the events of the past hour or so sapping their energy and scaring the pants off them.

Billy, Timmy and Joey were three little ginger brothers with the most astonishing markings. They were of a much darker ginger colouring than Biggles and Garfield with lighter coloured swirls over their back and sides. It reminded me of when chocolate has been sprinkled onto a cappuccino coffee and just stirred gently – that wonderful swirly combination of dark and light colours merging together.

Billy, Timmy and JoeyBilly and Joey were almost identical with white faces and white paws. Fortunately, Billy had a natural black beauty spot on his mouth which was the only way I could tell them apart. Timmy was all ginger, not a speck of white on him apart from his whiskers. 

I’d got them from a private house where they had been living in the most appalling conditions. They were running alive with fleas and ear mites but a trip to the vet’s surgery soon put that right. At the vets their unusual pretty markings caused great interest and they were scooped up by one of the nurses who took them out the back of the surgery for all the other staff to admire. They acquired a fan club at 8 weeks of age.

They had very different personalities although they were all very loving and affectionate. Billy with his film star looks, complete with beauty spot, knew how to charm the birds out of the trees. He was adorable and he knew it. He would fall on the floor just a few feet away from me and lay on his back, his belly exposed and a cute ‘Aren’t I just lovely?’ look on his face. He would have been the Brad Kitt of the feline movie world with scores of adoring fans waiting outside his apartment, waiting for him to take advantage of them.

He had a peculiar habit of launching himself into the air and landing halfway up my back, claws like crampons digging in as if he was climbing up the north face of the Eiger. It took supreme effort on my part not to scream out, partly from astonishment that he always took me by surprise and partly from the instant pain as a thousand needles took hold and left their mark in a criss-cross pattern down my back and buttocks.

He would also sit on my shoulders playing with my hair, rubbing his face round my face and licking my neck. I don’t know if he secretly wanted to be a hairdresser because he always played with my hair after I had just washed it, rearranging it into a style he thought more apt and fitting for a woman of the world. Sometimes it looked like a bird’s nest when he had finished touching and patting, but other times it looked quite, erm, unusual!

Timmy was a typical little boy. He collected all sorts of things, and had he pockets I wouldn’t have been surprised to find bits of string, marbles and bits of worms in them. He loved wildlife and was always bringing me something interesting to show me. He started to feed the birds with me each morning, forgoing his breakfast until the birds had been fed. Then he would sit on the window seat at the back bedroom window chattering with delight as they swooped down on the bits of bread I’d thrown out for them. Part of this ritual was that Timmy liked to have a piece of bread too so that he would have an idea of what it was like being a bird.

Joey was whimsical and dainty and would have been a poet. He was amazingly agile and brave. Shortly after gaining the freedom of the cat flap, he somehow climbed on to the roof of the house and walked along all the houses in the terrace before walking all the way back again. When he saw me in the garden about to have a heart attack at the sight of his tiny little ginger and white form strolling along the rooftops, he waved. Then he realized what he had done and panicked.

Trying not to become hysterical I called out to him as calmly as I could and his jaunty swagger became a walk of stealth as if he was negotiating a minefield. He was almost in reach of our roof so I called him again. He remained rooted to the spot. I ran upstairs to the back bedroom window and opened it as wide as it would go. I leaned out as far as I could and called him. He could see me and slowly inched his way towards me.

Biggles, Garfield, Charlie, Billy and Timmy were all in the garden, paws to mouth, in disbelief, looking up at his progress. A gathering of the neighbours ensured that Joey had maximum attention but he didn’t want that. He just wanted to be safe and it still seemed a long way to go. I called out to him again and he was just within paws reach. Risking my own life, I leaned even further out the window and grabbed him.

There was a collective sigh from the neighbours and the waiting cats and Joey almost wet himself with relief. ‘Sorry, Mum’ he said shaking from his ordeal. ‘Oh Joey!’ I exclaimed, ‘have you no fear?’ before I realised just how FAR I had leaned out the window to rescue him and although I didn’t tell Joey, I almost wet myself with relief.

The others came flying up the stairs to see if he was all right and he quickly recovered his equilibrium sufficiently to regale them with stories of the sights he’d just seen. They listened in awe to his tales wishing they were as brave as Joey.

For the time being though, until they were old enough to go through the cat flap, they continued to amuse and entertain various passers by as they performed ‘live’ on stage. The ‘Feline Pyramid’ was no longer in the programme of events, but replaced by a marvellous display of Cossack dancing with high kicks and a triumphant finale where they all threw out their paws with a loud ‘HEY!’ before bowing and taking several curtain calls from the onlookers gathered on the pavement out side the house.

Once their ‘quarantine’ period was over I started slowly to integrate them with Biggles, Charlie and Garfield, supervising all the meetings. Garfield and Biggles were now just over 10 years old and Charlie was 3.

MARMALADE MANSIONS was now complete. As I walked through the house , I’d chance upon all six cats asleep on my bed during the day, all purring together in perfect harmony. Yes, life was truly PURRFECT

© Pauline Dewberry 2003


A Cats Prayer

Lead me down all the right paths,
Keep me from fleas, bees, and baths.
Let me in should it storm,
Keep me safe, fed, and warm.


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