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Wee Tortie Mends Broken Hearts

Well, hi! It’s been a while. In fact my last column was in December of
2020, which I find hard to believe, but here we are. How are you?

My absence is down to a few things. Well, one thing, really. In a way
which sounds impossible, I simultaneously had too many words, and no
words at all. On the one hand, I knew that ANC/FFT had taken a
different turn over this past year and more, as Doni and other
contributors have tackled the hard issues in Shasta County (and rightly
so!). It meant I haven’t submitted any of my typical warm and fuzzies
even though Doni assured me that I was welcome to send in a column from
time to time. But on the other hand, really the reason I haven’t
submitted anything is because I have been filled with rage, despair, and
loathing for the selfishness of humanity as a whole.

And that was my difficulty. Each time I started to compose an article
it side-tracked immediately into my fury over the spittle-flecked howls
of the BUT MY RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS brigade. In fact, I have had to stop,
go back, and delete this paragraph about four times now, because I kept
going into tangents. Suffice to say that over the past year and a half
or so I have been angry and upset at just about everyone in my life
and/or extended circle, in terms of Covid and all that has gone with it.

Oh, heck. I just had to delete another few sentences about that because
it was turning into a rant. I’ll try again:

What brings me here to you today? Well, I have a (literally) warm fuzzy
to share with you, which might cheer you as much as she has cheered us.
Allow me to introduce her: we started out calling her ‘Wee Black
Tortie’ which then turned into ‘McTavish’ until we found out her real
name. Some of you will know about her already if we are connected
through Facebook, but I thought I would share with all of you one of the
few good things that this past year has brought us.

Smartie vs. McTavish: Face-Off

We first met McTavish when we moved to our wee apartment in the far
north of Scotland almost five years ago. Our dear Smartie was still
with us then; she ensured that no other cats wandered too far into her
territory but McTavish was always around. She is an inquisitive,
friendly little creature who makes it her business to know about
everything that’s going on in our street.

Quality Control Inspector

Over the years if we were outside (and Smartie wasn’t), McTavish would
saunter by and allow us to fuss over her for a few minutes until she
trotted off on other important cat business. She was (and is)
unbelievably charming, and she has more than one admirer in our street,
particularly one little boy who plays with her each day when he comes
home from school if she’s outside. Her owner, a nice elderly ‘wifey’ a
couple of buildings over, once appeared at our door looking for one of
our neighbors. “My cat snuck into his car,” she explained, “and I need
him to come and unlock it so that she can get out.” She went on to tell
us it wasn’t the first time the wee tortie had found her way into
someone’s car, being somewhat of a… what’s the opposite of an escape
artist?

As some of you may remember, we lost our Smartie last December after she
became very sick; we miss her very much, and always will. She was
fierce when it came to her patch, and it took about four months before
the cat-jungle-drums beat out the message that our back yard was
un-patrolled. Gradually the various neighborhood cats started
approaching to see if they could catch any mice from under the shed. No
such long hesitation for McTavish, though.

In early February she appeared while I was outside, giving me a very
pointed look when I approached the building entrance. So I held the
door open and she hopped over the threshold without a second thought,
then peered interestedly around our open apartment door. I called out
to Sem to come and say hi to her and within about two minutes McTavish
was zooming through our home, whiskers bristling, tail up, having a fine
old ‘nosey’ around the place. We were delighted. It did not take long
until she made herself right at home, especially when she realized that
she was allowed up on to the furniture.

What? This is my bed now.

This little darling started visiting us every day. Some mornings she
would dart in to our apartment when the postman came with packages, and
other days she would appear at a window demanding entry (or just helping
herself if a window was open). She well and truly adopted us, to the
extent that we started feeling bad that she spent so much time here
rather than at her own house. But we eventually learned that her owner
was fine with letting her cats live their lives however they pleased,
providing them with an open window and a home base to come back to but
otherwise leaving them free to roam.

We went through a period of adjustment, with McTavish. If she had her
way (and being All Tortie she definitely wants her own way!), she would
be here all the time. So while it took a little effort, in the end we
set some boundaries. McTavish would disagree, but (1) she can’t have
sleep-overs, (2) other than a little taste of our meals, we don’t put
food out for her, just water, and (3) she only gets a few cat treats
when she first comes in, in the morning. That last rule came about when
she started exploiting the original system which was that she got treats
upon arrival as a welcome, and on departure as a bribe to go out without
a quarrel. She caught on to that all too quickly and soon she was
asking to go out multiple times a day only to reappear instantly at the
window, running to the place where the treats live and waiting
expectantly like we were human Pez dispensers. Cats!

Nowadays she’s usually already at the kitchen window when we first open
the blinds in the morning. She trots through the apartment checking on
things before having a few treats and some water, then either demanding
some cat-worship or going straight to bed. She goes out around
lunchtime and again at dinnertime (home for a can of cat food, we
figure), coming back each time for another nap. Every evening at around
8pm I carry her to the kitchen window and encourage her gently to go
home for the night, if she hasn’t gone on her own, already. She’s not
always on board with her ‘curfew’ but she doesn’t kick up too much of a
fuss; it took a few months but she finally realized that it’s not
negotiable.

One of her favorite tricks is to pretend she wants to go out the door
with us if we are leaving, only to run straight up the stairs to the
apartments above us. She sits on the landing staring down imperiously
with a definite, “Whatcha gonna do about it?” look on her face. One
neighbor laughingly told us that he has ‘raced’ her to the entrance more
than once on his way in, when she wanted to get into the building. In
fact she often tries to get into his apartment too but he’s definitely
not a cat person, and while he is not unkind to her, he does chase her
out immediately!

McTavish is a good-natured, mostly well-behaved little beast. She
always asks to be let outside if she needs a bathroom break or wants to
go home for a snack, and while she has scratched chairs once or twice,
normally it only happens if we don’t notice that she is making definite
“let me OUT” motions. For the most part she’s as good as gold.

A couple of months ago I noticed her rooting around under a cabinet – I
thought she was digging at a rug which had bunched up a bit but on
closer examination I realized she’d found one of Smartie’s cat toys
which I didn’t know was still there. I pulled ‘Ratty’ out (now re-named
‘Claude’) and McTavish immediately claimed him as her own. Poor Claude
regularly gets clawed and bunny-kicked when McTavish is feeling fractious!

So how did we find out her real name? A few weeks ago she scampered out
into the hallway when I opened our door for a grocery delivery. The
delivery guy grinned as I explained that she wasn’t our cat, she just
comes to visit, and he said, “I know!” He reached down to give her a
scritch and said, “Aye, I know this cat – she used to come visit us when
we lived a couple of buildings over.” Just then she ran up the stairs
and he laughed, saying, “She did that all the time in our building,
too.” I said we didn’t know her name so we just call her McTavish and
he said, “We used to call her Molly until we heard her wifey speaking to
her outside and we finally found out her real name – it’s Tuppence!”

If that isn’t just the most adorable thing… much like wee Tuppence
herself! When I told Sem about it later, joking that generally cats
don’t answer to their names anyway, Sem looked over at her and said,
“Hey, Tuppence!” Her little furry head snapped around and she looked at
him inquisitively with an answering, “Mrrrowr?” It wasn’t a fluke; any
time we call her by name, she answers. Cutest. Cat. Ever.

When Smartie died we had to make the heartbreaking decision not to adopt
another cat; it’s just not possible, for too many reasons. Then Tuppence
McTavish entered our apartment… and our hearts. Now before anyone gets
grossly saccharine about it, she is not a kitty-angel, she did not sense
that we needed a cat to love, and Smartie did not send her to us, so
please just don’t, with that nonsense. What she is, is an absolute
darling who opportunistically sensed that there was no longer a resident
cat guarding the garden, the windows or the door. Always friendly, she
could easily see that she was welcome based on the happy reception she
got on her first visit, and she has certainly filled a great void in our
lives. Her self-satisfied impish face, the way she rolls around while
grooming, her squirks and trills, head-butts and enthusiastic
hand-nudges are all a delight. She has given us countless laughs and
loads of catly love, her rumbly purr always at the ready. Some evenings
it’s kind of hard to send her back home but in truth she is exactly what
we needed; a friendly little creature to love, who has a safe home to go
back to each night. And we’re pretty much what she wanted: complete
pushovers who love her to bits!

Sem has said more than once that Tuppence is a blessing. “Just looking
at her makes me feel calm and happy,” he says, and it’s true that her
daily visits are a tonic. In these ongoing times of anxiety, isolation,
and worry, this little cat has brought us a whole lot of joy.

Deb Segelitz

Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands, sharing life with her husband, a Highlander she stumbled across purely by chance on a blog site. They own a small business restoring and selling vintage fountain pens, which allows Deb to set her own schedule and have time for photography, writing and spontaneous car rides in the countryside. She is grateful to the readers of ANC for accepting her into the North State fold.

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