We have a surplus of cats. I know there are people out there, living in a shoe box with a hundred cats, but even so, our four -plus-three count as a surplus.
We don’t necessarily see the plus-three that often. Thug, the ginger beast from a half mile down the hill has only visited us a few times in the last couple of months (most memorably with the four-foot tall “hedgehog” incident), whilst Willow from next door can often be seen mooching around the outbuildings, or strolling across a field. From time to time, Willow can also be heard debating ownership with Ginge, and I usually leave them to settle it between themselves – there’s a great deal of yowling and staring, and I try not to get in the way.
Then there is number three, the black cat. The first time I saw him, I assumed that it was Squeak, the little black cat who rarely leaves the house these days. It was only when I tried to walk over to Squeak and “she” ran away that I worked out it wasn’t her. So, he’s bigger, and not a she, but apart from that one black cat in the distance looks much like another.
We see the black one occasionally, and normally at a distance, except for that memorable occasion when I left the back door open when I went to feed the chickens and he snuck in to hoover out the food bowls and do a little territorial marking in the kitchen. Tom-cat pee is another of those little gifts that just keeps on giving.
I think the only time I’ve actually been close to him is in the old cow shed. I walked in to fetch something, he was asleep on a shelf, and we were both very surprised when he woke up as I passed by. A startled cat can go from coma to the speed of fright in a fraction of a second. Since then, it’s been a distant glimpse, the occasional photo, and the passing wail in the night as he saunters past the house issuing the classic feline challenge to all comers. In response, all possible comers hunker down a bit, flatten their ears and mutter the feline equivalent of na-na-na-can’t-hear-you.
He is so elusive that if he weren’t a cat, you might wonder if he was real. There’s barely any more evidence for him than a few dodgy eye-witness accounts and some blurred photos. And a few seconds of video that looks exactly like Loch Ness Monster footage. Apart from the lack of water and Cornwall substituted for Scottish countryside.
I know the film is real because I took it on my camera, at dusk, at a distance of maybe fifty meters. The picture is grainy, the zoom on the phone is maxed out, and in the distance a black shape can be seen rolling around on the grass. Honestly, if you didn’t know it was a cat, it would be ripe for filing under Nuts and Conspiracy Theorists.
One day, our Loch Ness Moggy will be gone with only the most ephemeral evidence that he ever existed.
Or he’ll be sleeping on the sofa like those earlier Loch Ness Moggies, Oatmeal and Piper. At least then the photos might be in focus.