Bob finds her home
I used to live in a nice house with my favourite brother and our kitten, and two humans who looked after us and seemed to love us. We were all very happy.
And then our humans decided they didn't want us in the house any more. They put us out in the garden one day, and left dishes of food in a cardboard box by the gate. At first we didn't mind: it was summer and we liked playing in the garden, though sometimes we would cry to be let back in the house. But the doors were always shut: we were never allowed in.
But the food in the dishes got dirty and stale, because our humans didn't change it very often and never washed the dishes. We weren't very clean or tidy cats any more: we were flea bitten and dirty. The three of us stuck together, and sometimes we could get the neighbours to give us food, but no matter how we cried, they wouldn't let us in. They would give us scraps and sometimes they would go talk to our humans, and ask if we could be "rehomed", but our humans always said no, they're our cats, we don't want to give them away, we just don't want to let them in the house. At first it was BecauseI'mPregnant, and later, after the first winter, it was BecauseOfTheNewBaby.
The second winter was worse than the first: we huddled together in cardboard boxes and ate rubbish and we smelled and we were cold all the time. No one wanted to pet us or love us any more. Our humans still put out food sometimes, and said we belonged to them, but they didn't ever touch us or pet us.
Then one day towards the end of winter I was crossing the road and a car came along very fast and I felt a horrible pain in my tail. Our humans came out of the house where we used to live when they heard me screaming, and they put me in my old basket and took me to the vet.
The vet seemed a bit surprised at how dirty I was and asked if I was a stray, but my humans said no, I was an outdoor cat. It had been a long time since I went to the vet. I used to hate it, but it was nice to be touched and petted. The vet gave me an injection and I went to sleep, and when I woke up, my tail didn't hurt any more.
My tail wasn't there any more.
My humans didn't let me back into the house. They talked about it on the way back in the car, but they told each other I was too dirty, and the fleas, and I would be fine in the garden. For a week or two after it happened, they remembered to check our food, but I couldn't chew it properly any more: my mouth hurt whenever I bit down. I could still eat soft food, but we didn't get very much of that.
I couldn't jump properly, and when I ran I felt like I wasn't balanced right. My brother and our kitten were confused by the change. They still loved me and we still snuggled together, but I couldn't hunt anything very well any more.
The third winter we had found neighbours who would feed us regularly, and we used to spend most of our time in a cardboard box in their garden. I was losing my fur and I would lick myself until I licked away patches of skin. I had scabs all over me from doing this, and a big scab where my tail used to be. I felt dirty and miserable.
The neighbours used to say Butwe'removingsoon, and Howwillthosepoorcatsmanage? And then one day, when a big lorry had visited them and taken away lots of their things, and they were packing some more things into their car, our humans visited them. We don't know what was said, but our humans left quite quickly, and we never saw them again.
The neighbours came out and picked us up. They were wearing gloves, and acted as if they were afraid we would bite or claw them, but we were all so happy to be touched that we hardly struggled even when they bathed us. They put us all three cleaner and dryer into a big box with a blanket and a bit of dry food, and the box went into their car, and the car began to move.
We never saw that street again. Hours later we were let out of the box in a new place. We had to live in their bathroom, because they had three big dogs and three big cats of their own. The dogs scared me, and the cats hated us. They ignored us if we stayed in the bathroom, but if we came out, they spat at us and called us dirty names.
We were almost happy in the bathroom. We were warm and inside and being fed. It didn't matter that I couldn't jump. We had our own litter tray.
But my brother was ill. Even being inside didn't help. He spent more and more time asleep. The neighbours moved him to a warm bed in the kitchen, and sometimes I would venture out there, but when I did I felt ugly and small next to the big handsome cats that belonged to the neighbours. And the dogs would come over and sniff at me, with their big jaws and teeth. They never hurt me, they never hurt any of the cats, but the whole house smelled of them. This wasn't home. I wanted to go home.
One day a new human visited, no one I had smelled or seen before. She petted the dogs and stroked the cats, but she was watching me. She held out her hand for me to sniff, and petted my head, and then she picked me up: her hands held me comfortably and she looked me in the face. She had a kind face, but quite sad. "Oh, you're beautiful," she said.
I licked her face. Her skin tasted salt. She jumped as if she was startled, but her grip on me stayed firm.
"I've never seen her do that to anyone before!" said the neighbour, sounding surprised.
The new human took me out to the living-room, where I didn't go normally, and sat down, so that I was on her lap, and stroked my back. She must have felt the ugly scabs under the fur, but she just went on stroking me. I started to purr. The new human laughed, but in a strange kind of way she still sounded sad. "How old is she? When did you get her?"
The neighbour told her the story, and the human stopped stroking me, and held me hard. "How could anyone do that to a lovely cat like this?"
"There were three of them," the neighbour said. "The male cat's dying - he had a kidney infection, it was never treated. Their kitten's in good shape - but she won't leave the bathroom. They all have lovely natures. I called this one 'Bob', because of the tail. She's got to be at least eight - you wanted a younger cat, didn't you?"
"Yes," the new human said, but she didn't let go of me.
A day later, she put me into a cage and took me home. It was a long strange journey by train: I wasn't scared so long as the new human was somewhere I could see her. She took me out of the cage and held me sometimes, but I was quite happy to go back in: I didn't want to get lost.
I think my human had a cat before me. I think she loved the cat and the cat died. The cage I was in for the journey was old: there were other things around her house that a cat had used before me.
When we got home, I didn't leave it again for six months, except to go to the vet in a cage. The vet said I had three broken teeth, and fixed them: and I could eat dry crunchy food again without it hurting. After weeks and weeks, all the scabs had fallen away, and my fur was long and silky again.
Sometimes I would stand in the doorway and watch as my human worked in the garden, but I didn't want to go out. Then one day, as my human sat on her front steps, she reached out for me with her hand, and I came outside and sat on her lap and purred as she petted me. I was outdoors, but it was warm, and the house door was open: I could go and explore, and come in again. I wasn't shut out.
That was four years ago. Now I love going out, and playing in the garden, and being petted by the neighbours, who say I'm a lovely cat. I feel like a lovely cat again. My human says I chose her, when she was very sad: she says I make her happy. I am home.