Cambridge 2000: dedication

Dedication

Two special cats (but they all are) died in 2000, and others in 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Murmur the cat on lawn Murmur (pronounced moor-moor, chosen to represent in human speech the trill he made when greeting you) was a London stray, probably born in 1988. In 1989 he was fortunate enough to be rescued tail first from a garbage bin and move up to Cambridge, after being treated by a vet (not for the last time). His first outdoor excursion was in the Trinity College Fellow's Garden, he was estatic just smelling all the greenery, this was as close as you could get to cat heaven. He was always an outdoor cat and loved to climb trees, the higher and more precarious the better, and he was completely oblivious to the small branches sagging under his weight. His greatest achievement in life was to catch a small rabbit, drag it some distance and then up several flights of stairs, all without harming it (much). When he got restless, he would announce that he was going to go on a walkabout, and then disappear for up to a day or two. Murmur never had a bad word to say, except to other cats. He died on 27 November 2000 after a long fight with nose cancer. (Photograph taken 27 April 2000.)
Misty the cat asleep Misty was a Cambridge cat, probably born around 1984. He was mostly an indoor cat and loved sitting in your lap, or even better dangling on your chest with his two front paws around either side of your neck, purring loudly. He had several owners but for the last year of his life he managed to find comfort and warmth and a full food bowl and for the last week he spent almost all his time in bed looking angelic and realising that the pillow was as good a place for him as for anyone else. He died on 9 December 2000 shortly after being diagnosed with liver cancer. (Photograph taken 19 February 2000.)
Misty the cat on lawn Winston was a rescue cat, probably born around 1990. He spent the last two years of his life mainly sleeping, eating and sleeping some more. In most light he looked black, with the exceptions being his green eyes and two or three white whiskers, but in good light, several shades of deep, rich brown became prominent. He spent most of his time indoors, although he did manage to catch the odd rat in the garden, some of which were dropped live indoors as he opened his mouth to explain how clever he was. He died on 15 November 2002 three days after being hit by a car. (Photograph taken 22 August 2002.)
Czarek the cat in tree Czarek was a Cambridge stray, probably born around 2001. He already appeared on the scene before Winston died, and indeed was originally mistaken for Winston, also being all black. He moved in three months after Winston died. He was a big cat and at his peak he weighed over 7.5 kg, but was almost all muscle, not fat, and he was an amazingly strong and fast cat, often running to get home. He tolerated no other cat, and was not very keen on anything else being on his property, usually growling when the doorbell rang. He was an extremely good hunter, mostly of rodents but also of birds, including at least one large pidgeon. He would often have a perfectly good dinner and then go out to hunt, and catch something within a minute or two. He would usually bring his catches home, and sometimes drop them in the house still alive but other times growl if you got anywhere near him because it was his prize. He died on 13 June 2007, less than three weeks after being diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, which made it increasingly painful for him to eat and even drink. At the end he was walking with difficulty and had given up eating, but on his last day he unbelievably caught his last rodent. A hunter to the end. (Photograph taken 25 January 2004.)
Kaj the cat next to fence Kaj (pronounced to rhyme with "eye") was a Cambridge stray, of unknown age. He started appearing in the garden (along with a few other cats) a few weeks before Czarek died, so around May 2007. Unlike other strays, Kaj never trusted humans and so never came into the house. Instead, he would eat all his meals in the garden and lived alternatively in one of two small huts left for him. His favourite pastime was to follow the sun around the garden sleeping in the grass. He was a very peaceful cat and seemingly never bothered or was bothered by other cats. When he arrived he was skinny like most strays, but by early 2008 he was looking like a well fed cat should look. In early March 2008 he disappeared for almost eight weeks. Perhaps he had decided to wander around Cambridge. He re-appeared in early May, but was noticeably thinner. Unfortunately he had also lost his appetite, and it seems he had caught some major infection, which killed him less than two weeks after he had come home. He died on 16 May 2008, never having trusted humans. (Photograph taken 25 February 2008.)
Ricky the cat on the lawn Ricky lived in several homes during his long life. He was born around 1991. He was the third stray to appear after Czarek died, and he did not even hesitate letting himself in the house and helping himself to food and a sleeping area. He was not a big cat but more than held his own against other cats, with his steely gaze. In early 2008 he developed sores in his mouth which made it difficult for him to eat. Various treatments were tried, and interferon gave him the best results, but in the end even that could not sort out his eating difficulties. He died on 23 July 2009. Right up to the end other cats would give him a wide berth, knowing that he was not one to tussle with. (Photograph taken 24 November 2007.)
Faris the cat in apple tree Faris was the second stray to appear after Czarek died, and was probably born around 2005. His nickname was "Ferocious" and while he would have liked to have been a dominant cat, he was never quite up to it, and was a bit of a mama's boy. He had beautiful black stripes, including on his tail. He was a champion messy eater, quite happily spraying his food in all directions, and after making the mess he was a champion burier, to show his displeasure, and in general he was a cat that let you know exactly how he felt. At his peak he was over 6 kg in weight but in 2012 he had a major infection in his throat, which almost killed him, and one of his kidneys started failing, and he lost a quarter of his weight. In the end his liver completely packed up, and he died 9 January 2013. (Photograph taken 23 February 2008.)
Tiggy the cat on the lawn Tiggy showed up under the garden shed in the summer of 2011, skeletal from lack of food. She was lucky that Buster, the then alpha male, was seriously ill at the time, otherwise she likely would not have made it into the garden. She was born in early 2011 and was likely dumped, as a young kitten. Her time as a stray was so traumatic that she barely left the house for the next two years, only occasionally going a few feet into the garden until a gust of wind or other noise frightened her back into the house. But in the autumn of 2013 she finally realised that the outside world was a nice place, and she switched completely to almost always being outdoors, only coming back into the house for food, or for serious sleeping, or because it was raining. She was an unusual cat in that she enjoyed the company of other cats, although unfortunately that feeling was not usually reciprocated, especially in the case of Buster, who never really forgave her for sneaking in when he was ill. And she didn't really know how to purr, although she sometimes emitted a high pitched noise when her tummy was being rubbed. She could have been a Hollywood star, with her beautiful grey coat and fluffy tail. She died in mysterious circumstances the night of 21 June 2014, possibly having been hit by a car, at the ridiculously young age of three. (Photograph taken 15 Sep 2012.)
Freya the cat on the garden chair Freya was living wild at St Catharine's College although she must have had a previous home because she had a collar. Unfortunately in October 2014, she got her front leg stuck in her collar and by the time she was ill enough to be caught, the wound was fairly serious, but she recovered well. She was happy to play with humans, attacking string, grass and legs, but she really did not like other cats and would tell them this loud and clear. She was not very big so evidently realised that the best defence was a good offence. And the other cats mostly learned to leave her alone. She was full of energy and would have been quite happy to walk into town with her humans. Unfortunately this meant that she wandered too far for her own good. Freya was hit by a car and died the night of 11 April 2015, aged possibly only around two years old. (Photograph taken 9 Feb 2015.)
Buster the cat on his pillow Buster was the son of a feral cat, who disappeared not long after Buster and his twin were born, in 2008. He had a good home but one week in 2010 when his humans were on holiday, Buster started wandering and looking for a new home. Quite possibly he had decided that he was now an adult and so needed to leave what he likely viewed as his maternal home. The one advantage of his new location was that the garden was large and wild, which meant he could have lots of adventures. He quickly took over from Faris as the alpha male, although he was discouraged from causing any trouble. He was seriously ill in 2011, and from then on his health was never good. In 2015 his health declined more and more, until at the end he was not eating and barely drinking. He died 12 April 2015. (Photograph taken 10 Apr 2011.)
Piper the cat with his football Piper was one of two twin male kittens likely born around June 2014 and rescued from St Catharine's College in September 2014. Piper was the more dominant of the two, and also cleverer. He figured out the cat flap immediately whereas his brother never really figured it out. He had lush black fur with a bit of white trim, and his tail was bushy almost like that of an Arctic fox. His mother taught him one very important lesson, which is not to trust humans. Piper spent most of his time outdoors, unless the weather was bad, or when he wanted some food or to get some deep sleep. And outside he was always wary of humans. He was happy to play with his twin, Saltie, and even sometimes with Klevie, the alpha male. Piper would likely have been the alpha male after Klevie, but unfortunately he was hit by a car and died the night of 10 August 2015. (Photograph taken 20 Apr 2015.)
Klevie in his sleeping area Klevie arrived in the garden in September 2013 with a serious gash on the back of his neck. After a visit or two to the vet, he recovered for a few weeks in the bathroom and never complained once. He was at least two years old, and possibly older. He might have come from a farm, and was not the cleanest cat until he learned from the other cats that washing was a good idea. Klevie took over from Buster as the alpha male. He never directly chased another cat, but would just go up to them and sit a few inches from their face, and wait until they lost their nerve. He sometimes played with Piper and Saltie, even though he was a different generation. After Piper died, Saltie really looked up to Klevie. Klevie figured out how to leave the house via the cat flap, but never managed to figure out how to get back in. So he was not quite as clever as his name might indicate. To make up for this, he was the perfect combination of black and white. He went into quick decline at the end of October 2015, probably as an after effect of his original injury, and died 9 November 2015. (Photograph taken 29 Oct 2013.)
Tipps on the lawn Tipps was born in 1999. She was the first cat that appeared after Czarek died. She had already had two or three homes, but for various reasons decided to move yet again. She was happiest as a solo cat but managed to live in the house with the other cats as they came and went. For many years she would only visit the garden in the front of the house when she went outside, but Tiggy somehow made her more adventurous and she started to wander also to the back garden. Being the matriarch of the house, the other cats respected her and especially in later years, when she was starting to become frail, left her alone. She was happiest sleeping in the morning sun in a sheltered area in the garden. She died 23 April 2016, after a short illness brought on by an inoperable tumour. (Photograph taken 2 Apr 2011.)
Pytoo on chair Pytoo appeared in the back of the garden in 2014 and lived near the compost heap and did not want anything to do with humans. In April 2015 he decided that moving into the house was a lot better than living outside, so much so that for some months he then refused to have anything to do with the outside world, perhaps fearing that if he went out then he would not be allowed back in. Eventually he started being more adventurous, although he still preferred to mostly be inside. He had a nice purr but his normal cat cry made it sound like he was being strangled. His age was uncertain, but possibly he was born around 2009. His time living outdoors must have caused a toll on his body, and he wanted to sleep more than anything else. He didn't get on with the other cats and they generally figured out soon enough to leave him alone. He died 15 August 2016 after suffering a virulent form of cancer in his mouth and throat. (Photograph taken 12 Aug 2015.)
Phara on her plinth Phara, proper name Chantina Enky, was an Egyptian Mau born in 2001. Her original owner died in 2016 and she then moved, with her daughter, Ubi, and grandson, Remi, to a new home. She settled in very quickly and played the role of matriarch with perfect aplomb. She figured out the cat flap by herself and went outside mainly to drink water, and occasionally to help herself to a bit of food left for Mangus, the stray cat. She moved slowly, consistent with her age, but showed no signs of ill health. She died curled up asleep in her basket, likely from a heart attack or stroke or similar, on 16 March 2017, a year to the day after her original owner. (Photograph taken 14 Sep 2016.)