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The gratitude of the stray cat.

Updated on June 13, 2012
The Toof at Sunset ...
The Toof at Sunset ... | Source

The moggy moves in ...

Okay, first I better declare my bias. That's him, right there, in those photos. That's The Toof and he's a born-again ginger tom and a real smart cookie. So smart that when he was a starving, worm and flea ridden, abscess-oozing youth about the shrubbery he knew he needed help. Despite being a stray, or maybe even feral, who can tell, he knew that there were certain sorts of humans who could help, usually females.

So he moved in on my neighbour who lived alone ... except for the five cats she had rescued at various times. See the smart logic there? This person has cats, i.e. people like me, ergo it must be a safe place to go. He was a bit like an old dosser going to the Salvation Army for a meal and a warm up.

When my neighbour came home she found that her cat-flap had let in a stranger who was now basking in front of her log burner, fumes pungently rising from him, as her own cats kept a watching brief from a safe distance on the backs of the furniture. Even as soft-hearted as she was, another cat to feed and doctor was just one more cat too many.

So we struck a deal, she would have him neutered and I, who was between cats at the time, would give him a home. My husband, not a pet person, eyed him dubiously and pronounced him a 'rum-looking crittur' and sadly I had to agree with him, though I knew he would blossom with care and good food. We decided to call him Rufus.

Doing charity work for Help the Heroes
Doing charity work for Help the Heroes | Source
'... so I said to Eric Clapton, ' Like, dude!'
'... so I said to Eric Clapton, ' Like, dude!' | Source
Zzzzzzzz..... | Source

No teeth but cheeks ...

That was six years ago, and since then his name has degenerated from Rufus to Roof the Toof to The Toof, (a corruption of Tooth) or more familiarly Toofie, due to the fact that we found he had only one fang left, the other three having mysteriously broken off. Sinisterly his whiskers were also cut short when he arrived and I hoped all this was the result of poor nutrition. He was noticeably nervous of men and it worried me that he could have been ill-treated or even tortured.

He adored women however and was, and still is, quite an old tart. His age was anybody's guess, although the vet said he was over two years old because 'his cheeks had arrived' much to the delight of the vet's nurses whom he fawned over disgracefully (The Toof, not the vet). The cheeks thing is what happens to a tomcat when he reaches maturity. He develops especially thick muscles on his jaw to protect him when fighting as, the vet informed us in all seriousness, a tom cat is really an 'armoured fighting machine'. I looked dubiously at The Toof.

But despite the fact that he had very few teeth of any description, The Toof did in fact support this idea, fiercely protecting his garden, and anybody else's he might covert until the testosterone had drained out of his system. Now however it appears all and sundry are welcome in our house and garden, although he does rather draw the line at dogs and will escort them off the premises whilst hissing and inflating himself into the largest and most intimidating ginger sphere he can manage.

Gratitude and memory.

I have lived with cats all my life and have taken in many cast-offs but the thing that I have found most remarkable about The Toof is his constant gratitude. I make no apologies for sounding anthropomorphic.

Most people believe that cats trade affection for food but I have found this not to be so. The Toof has a ritual of meeting and greeting me each morning and being a creature of rigid routine this has to happen. My husband calls him and rattles his plate but he insists on touching noses with me (his wetter than mine unless I have a cold), being fiercely cuddled and having his famous cheeks rubbed. Only when he is content that we have bonded enough will he go and see what's for breakfast.

He still has what seem like 'flashbacks' if I can call them that, when I do something to panic him, but now he no longer lashes out with a lightning paw bristling with scimitars. Occasionally when I really annoy him by wrestling him too vigorously I get a half-hearted attempt at a soft bite but then, without teeth, it's a bit like being sucked by a duck.


Whilst it is true that pedigree cats are lovely to look at and they may display your wealth 'cos they ain't cheap to buy, there is something undeniably rewarding about repairing, taming and nurturing a cat that has had a hard life. In my case the reward I've found, is love, devotion and the utmost satisfaction in seeing such a creature, once so derelict and neglected, blossom.

For more cat tales see:

Never underestimate the feelings of animals.

Experts are always telling us that animals are not like us and that we shouldn't anthropomorphise them. So how do they explain this clip below? If that isn't gratitude and love, what is? I warn you, you will weep ...


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