This is the beautifully written account of Lucy, a young feral cat, who came to share Elizabeth Mppre's life. I hope you'll enjoy reading this extraordinary story as much as I did.
I was aware of Lucy before we actually met. Our vet had rescued two litters of kittens and they were all playing in a large enclosure when I went to collect food for Toby – our tuxedo cat.
There was a beautiful champagne tabby cavorting with her siblings. When I returned in two weeks she and several other kittens had been claimed. The remaining fur balls rolled, played and stalked on.
It was several weeks before I returned. There had been a juvenile whale found in a waterway in Sydney’s north and it was not expected to survive. As I parked the car the newscaster revealed that the decision had been made to euthanase Colin the whale.
I pushed the surgery door open feeling sad and even a little teary. Without even thinking I checked the enclosure and made eye contact with the last kitten. A loud trill came from this tiny, tortie creature. I was being summoned.
The vet was managing the front desk as it was quite early. I looked at him and made some comment about the poor whale and he nodded. The decision by the marine vets was for the best.
I sighed and looked back at the little lady who was demanding my attention - talking and trilling. We had quite a conversation and I felt wretched that she was the last of the two litters. “That’s Lucy.” I was informed. “Staff members always name the kittens when they are caring for them.”
I was late for work but the germ of an idea was hovering. I mentioned Lucy to my husband and for once he said “Let’s talk about it when we get home.” He always countered any kitten request from me in a kind but firm negative. Not this time.
As soon as I finished work I drove straight back to the vets. Lucy was not in the enclosure. Relief – she was behind the scenes with one of the nurses. I asked if I could meet her as I was interested in adoption.
I was ushered into one of the examination rooms and the nurse arrived with Miss Lucy. Lucy made all the right moves for an adoption interview. She snuggled and purred and rubbed her head on my wrist.
To the practice’s credit, the nurse was conducting a covert interview. She pointed out that Lucy was not really a tiny kitten anymore – she was a lanky 5 month old and growing fast. I told the nurse I didn’t really want a kitten – I wanted a cat. Right answer apparently.
“Besides” I added remembering our exchange earlier in the day, “She is an amazing talker.” The nurse looked askance at me. “Lucy never talks.” Now that really was incredible. I quickly asked about all the necessary adoption details and hurried home to convince my husband.
He was curiously amenable and so next day Lucy and I became an official item. She had spent all her time in a vet’s enclosure so I decided to start her off gently and gave her own little room with all the basics – a bed, food, litter, water and toys. I would head in every half hour or so and sit on the floor with her while she sniffed, played and explored.
That night my husband and I could hear what can only be described as cat Olympics as she bounced and jumped and skittered in her new, very own space.
Our next task was to introduce her to Toby. He was interested but she put on her best firebrand impression and made much noise. Within minutes they were firm friends and remain inseparable.
I had been warned when I collected Lucy that she was possible very close to her first oestrus. Her sister Annabelle had been de-sexed the week I met Lucy and staff described the signs I needed to watch for.
Naturally she began calling, trilling and shimmying on our first weekend together. All night and constantly. I called the surgery and she was booked in for the following Tuesday.
I took her in for her surgery and felt dreadful. This dear little girl had spent three full days with us and I was carting her through the door and back to all the familiar sights smells and voices she knew so well.
I fretted. Would she think she was being abandoned? Did she imagine she had not been the best cat she could have been and we had decided we didn’t want her anymore? It was awful standing in the waiting room with all these thoughts chasing around in my head.
Thankfully she was soon home with a shaved tummy, stitches and instructions about keeping her quiet and rested while she recuperated. The nightly Olympics resumed immediately. She did not miss a beat.
Lucy slipped seamlessly into our lives. She adored Toby, loved my husband but was obviously my kitten. Each morning she would jump onto the bed accompanied by her lovely trilling calls. We would snuggle and then I was gently encouraged to start her day with food and litter duties.
One morning, her snuggles varied a little. She leaned across me and pushed my left breast with her head. I moved her away as I was about to get up and attend to her breakfast.
She repeated the behaviour the next morning but this time she was much more insistent – annoying even. I reached across to stop her and as I moved her head I felt a lump. A lump that was not going away. A lump I should have found myself had I not been so haphazard in my own self breast examinations.
Everything changed in seconds. My doctor saw me without an appointment, I spent a day at the Sydney Breast Clinic confirming my fears and by the end of the week I was in surgery.
There are numberless accounts of surgeries, chemo and radiotherapie. I won’t go into detail. I spent months dutifully following every instruction I received, attending every appointment and downing every medication. Eight months later I was pronounced fit for work. Five years later the powers that be were tentatively pleased with my progress.
So – was it sheer happenstance? Dogs sniff cancer – but cats? I honestly don’t know but Lucy found my cancer. I really don’t care how she did it – she essentially saved my life – at the very least she hastened my diagnosis and treatment.
She has tortitude by the bucket load. She loves my husband and me unconditionally and occasionally my daughter. I have friends who do not believe Lucy lives in my house. All strangers are to be hidden from, but supervision of the tradesman working on our renovations is deemed necessary, albeit from a safe distance.
I knew very little about torties before I met Lucy. I know a lot more now and have become one of an elite group, enchanted tortie lovers. It’s an exclusive club – by invitation only and I and so glad I was asked to join.