Feral tortieLizzie’s leg was now well in place and I agreed it was time for her to return to her colony.

We found her street without difficulty and, setting down the basket, opened the door. Lizzie shot out, hesitated for a moment and then dashed away. Not even a thank you!

A slender woman appeared.

‘So it was you who took that poor cat to the vet? She is part of the colony I feed. I wondered where she had gone.’ She held out her hand. ‘I am Antonella. Please come in, I would like to offer you coffee.’

 Another cat lady! I accepted, made a pretence of sipping the coffee, wickedly black and strong. Yuck! Sicilians have a lethal relationship with caffeine. Not just a beverage, it is more like a constant companion.

‘Tell me about the cats,’ I prompted.

‘Ah, the cats!’ she smiled. ‘They are my babies. When I go out into the street with food they all come running. I have fed them since they were kittens. Poor beasts, so many people here dislike them and wish them harm. But what have they done? All they want is a bit of affection and enough food to eat.’

She paused and eyed me curiously. ‘You paid the vet to treat that cat?’

I nodded.

‘It must have cost a lot of money.’

I named the sum.

She shook her head. ‘That was very good of you.’

‘I can’t bear to see anything suffering,’ I replied. ‘Someone had to help her.’

Antonella’s gaze went to the crucifix hanging on the wall. ‘I too cannot bear suffering,’ she said.

Lizzie's motherA few days before I left for England I went back to Castelmola. I took the path that I now knew so well and there was Lizzie coming towards me. I opened a tin of Whiskas and she began to eat it. Then her mother, the pretty grey cat, arrived and tucked in. As I stroked Lizzie, I felt so happy. My little one could now lie and enjoy the sunshine. Her leg might never be quite the same again, but she was home with her mother and sister. I felt so glad I had restored her. Giulio had been right: she belonged here in her feral world, but there was a part of her I liked to think remembered me, affectionate in her own way. All I could do now was pray she would be safe.

The sun shone down onto that little road and I stayed with Lizzie another half-hour. Those weeks in the apartment had somewhat tamed her and, now she was returned to her small domain, she allowed me closer to her. I made to leave but came back again – I didn’t want to go. In the end it was she who got up and strolled away down those steps, oblivious to the pain of my parting from her.

‘Goodbye, Lizzie,’ I said. ‘Take care of yourself.’

There were tears in my eyes as I walked away.

Jennifer Pulling runs Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. She is the author of The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue (John Blake)  Jennifer has a website on writing:

http://www.jenniferpulling.co.uk

 

A Cats Purr

"Cats make one of the most satisfying sounds in the world: they purr ...

A purring cat is a form of high praise, like a gold star on a test paper. It is reinforcement of something we would all like to believe about ourselves - that we are nice."

Roger A Caras