The Cat That Chose Us

The cat that chose us

When I was 10, the cat that I had received as a gift at the age of 4 died.

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His name was Snowball. He was a birthday gift from my Aunty Vonnie. He was snow white, and according to my cousin Peter, turned his arm into a feather duster on the drive to our house. At the age of 4 I thought that was hilarious.

When I was 11, I wished and prayed for another cat. My prayers were answered when I was 12.

The New Cat On The Block

A lovely tabby started to appear in our back garden. We children fell in love with her immediately. Mum and Dad reminded us that we lived on a main road, and what would happen to her when we went on holidays? Dad announced (again) that we were not going to have any pets.

My sister and brother and I named her Musshie because the fur along her back was the color of a mushroom. I loved to go and sit outside, because presently she would appear beside me, and I never saw where she came from.

She was a magical cat.

However, unlike other cats that wandered into our garden, this cat had an owner. We found out that her name was Abby, and she was one of five cats that lived a few doors up the road.

Abby apparently had trouble getting enough food among her brothers and sisters, and craved attention. When Dad asked Mum why that cat was hanging around, Mum simply replied “The kids."

After a while, the newly named Musshie Cat hung around our house full time. She was there when we got home from school, and we looked forward to seeing her. We weren’t allowed to feed her. Mum and Dad hoped she would come to her senses and return home to her owner, Val. Mum and Dad had spoken to Val. She was very understanding, and said that cats can’t be forced to live away from where they want to be.

A couple of months later Dad said to Mum “You better feed that bloody cat, it’s starving at the back door.” I was overjoyed.

The New Cat Moves In

Musshie Cat was accepted into our house lovingly.

Dad was a shift worker and was able to observe Musshie Cat more than we could. Dad was lying on the couch one day, and Musshie Cat was sitting on the lounge chair next to him. As we arrived home from school, each of us kids went in to say hello to Dad, and each time Musshie Cat responded. Dad hadn't had much experience with cats previously, and he was amazed that the cat was communicating with us. Dad talked about that for years afterward. Dad was an Engineer, and used to study Musshie Cat when she was washing. He couldn’t understand how Musshie washed her paws without getting her tongue caught in her claws.

Musshie Helping With Homework

The name we had chosen wasn’t completely successful. Mum was happy to call her Musshie around home, but when she took her to the Vet, the cat’s name was Abby. The Vet knew the story and rarely charged Mum for Musshie Cat’s visits. He said that Musshie’s long life was a testament to how well she was looked after.

My sister’s boyfriend, who later became her husband, would shake his head about the cat. When they were driving home, my sister would say “Watch out for the cat” at the top of our driveway. He maintains that he never saw the cat outside. Musshie was always inside the house, usually in front of the heater.

We ordered delivery pizza from Pizza Hut. That was back in the days when the uses of computers were still being developed. They had a record on the file attached to our phone number along with the note about no anchovies, and it said “Watch out for the cat”.

Musshie Cat was a very smart, sensitive and affectionate cat, and frequently helped me with my homework. Her favorite spot was on Mum’s lap.

She had some funny habits. She stayed inside at night, but sometimes wanted to go "walkies". She would stand up on her hind legs and "scrabble" on the door of my and my sister's bedroom. If you tried to ignore it, the scrabbling would just go on. And then you would finally get up bleary eyed and stagger to the front door. Then wait, leaning on the door frame and already going back to sleep. Musshie Cat would always say thank you with a rub as we staggered back down the hallway to bed.

Musshie Cat didn't like the rain. We would open the back door and she would do her appraisal. Rain meant a negative reaction. She would then trot to the front door and ask for that to be opened. The judgment here was a sliding scale because there was a veranda roof to stand under. So, if it was raining but not windy, Success! We would agree to go out.

A Sad Time

Musshie Cat was about 4 years old when she chose to live with us. As she got older she slowed down, and at one stage wasn’t eating. Mum bought canned shrimp (prawns) for her. Mum thought Musshie would eat that because it was so smelly, and she was right.

Musshie Cat was about 20 when her breathing became labored. I went to visit Mum and Dad and found her sitting on the couch, very still and not looking happy. I commented about how she looked to Mum, and she said she was keeping a close eye on her.

That was the last time I saw Musshie Cat. Mum rang a few days later to say that the poor cat had been suffering, and the Vet couldn’t do anything for her. Mum made the decision to have her put to sleep. Mum apologized to each of us, but she commented that she knew we would understand. Mum knew that we wouldn’t want Musshie to suffer just so we could say goodbye to her.

I couldn’t imagine a world without Musshie Cat, even though I had moved out of home.

Dad buried Musshie Cat under the Blue Moon rose bush that I had planted many years before so we could still go and chat to her.

A Lovely Surprise

Years later we were cleaning out our childhood home after my Dad died. We came across our grandfather’s old Instamatic camera. It had film in it and was up to about number 8. I used up the film, rewound it and put it in my handbag.

Many weeks later I had the film developed. Luckily someone in Hobart still knows how to do this.

I expected ruined film but found photos of the back garden and of one of Mum’s friends. Then my heart jumped when I saw a photo of Musshie walking up towards the back steps, ready to say hello. I believe this photo was taken by Mum while she sat on the back steps.

I thought things like this only happened in the movies.

I consider it a lovely gift, and I treasure this photo.

The Surprise Photo

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