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Teeto the Intrepid Explorer: MovingImage

I was first warned of his arrival on a sunny May morning, 5 a.m. by the watch on the phone by my pillow. A springy new cat, just freshly released from next door’s protective confinement, out into the big wide world. I could see him from the bedroom window, swaggering confidently down the garden path. Gleaming white with a well-placed black patch on his face, tail waving high. Full of adolescent joy. Sniffing the air eagerly for every new scent. Soaking up new experience. Stalking a solitary scuttling woodlouse. Intensity of interest following a long snaking trail of busy red ants. Paw snatching at butterflies. Just missing an angry early-foraging bumblebee.

What disturbed me with this cat was his energy. His unashamedly youthful confidence. The way he immediately took ownership of his chosen space under the slate table in front of my window – carefully arranged for my prime viewing of feeding squirrels and birds. I rushed out and filled all the gaps between ornamental support slabs with less than ornamental piles of some nearby bricks. But as soon as I went back into the house he simply relocated under my rocking chair. I had to stuff that hole with rolls of wire.

It was fledgling time. The first fledglings came fast. Learning to fly in a flash. In the air and away, no problem. But the last one was not so agile. It was crouched flat on the ground, wings splayed as if frozen. Pink mouth gaping, vulnerably expectant. The cat pounced. Just missed. The leaves behind the flower tubs trembling, panting for assistance. I was wide awake now. I got up and dressed. Maternal instincts pounding. Thoughts racing. I had to act quick. Whitewing calls now shrilling to panic, demanding sisterly solidarity.

I got up and dressed. Maternal instincts pounding. Thoughts racing. I had to act quick. Whitewing calls now shrilling to panic, demanding sisterly solidarity. I remembered the cylinders of wire netting – prepared several years ago to protect peas and raspberries against squirrels. The old iron gates and spare wooden trellis waiting to protect the pond against long-hoped-for grandchildren. All unused, heaped under ivy behind the shed. I sprang to the rescue. Eager to be of use. Tearing through the ivy. Wrenching out anything with bird-safe holes. Rushing around the garden. Erecting barricade after barricade, blocking every conceivable cat-sized hiding place and stealth way I could see. While the cat sat watching, waiting, semblance of fascinated innocence. Occasionally following, prowling low, listening surreptitiously for any sign of rustling life.

I could not follow him all summer. It was clear still more would need to be done. Next door offered to bell their cat. I blocked off all apparent entry points under the fence. He learned to climb. He was not going anywhere. He liked my garden. I decided a more systematic tactic of carrots with sticks would be better for my mindful health. Over the following month we made friends. He greeted me each morning, bell tinkling and wafting his tail. He rolled over for tickles. His fur was soft as his purring. He continued his intrepid explorations. Climbing higher and higher. Watching me, as if for approval as he calculated risk of leaping after squirrels. But getting stuck on the top of archways and sheds when I was absent, unable to back down. Creating new parental angst and worry.

But he grew up fast. Calming down by midsummer, less crazy about the world. Almost lazy. I haven’t seen him for some time now. I heard he now crosses the road to the other house. He will be courting soon.


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