I came rather late to cats in life. For my first thirty years I thought them selfish and quite uncompaniable animals. Thank goodness we change opinions! Our cats are truly part of our life’s furniture and are both incredibly personable (perhaps I should say “cat-able”) and useful. For example, Carlotta killed a viper last year (see https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/aspicious-rescue/) and the mice haven’t been able to play in the house for a rather long time. Then, of course there are the various creepy.-crawlies such as scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, daddy-long-legs, spiders, and flies etc., endemic to stone walls, which provide hours of endless fun for our felines to swat at.
The first cats to take part in our day-to-day existence in Longoio were those born in a wood-pile outside and pointed out to us by a neighbour. They were five plus the mum and were very wild and quite unapproachable.
We named the brood (always a tell-tale sign of succumbing to adoption – by them, of course) after the famous Cinque Terre stretch of coastline in Liguria: Monterosso, Corneglia, Manarola, Vernazza and Riomaggiore. Of those five “Terre” two still remain after almost nine years: interestingly the friendliest of the batch and the most unfriendly. They are in the centre of this photograph: the tiger-striped one and the white faced.-one.
For the first couple of years the five cats used to sleep in the adjoining annexe which had been used to store bee hives. They truly made it into their own home. The tiger-striped one has become very friendly by now and together with Carlotta (2012-) and Napoleone (2006-) I find it regularly on my bed when I wake up in the morning. So too do I find the white-faced one but she remains very stand-offish and quickly rushes away.
Interestingly, cats have converted and adopted several ex-pat humans in the villages around us. Do Italian cats have increased slyness over their British counterparts in “capturing” gullible human servants, I wonder?
Cats, like several other species, are very good for helping cure certain physical and psychical conditions. Of course, the best cats for doing this must have a particularly calm temperament. “Therapy cats” can help in the alleviation of high blood pressure, depression, hyper-tension and so forth.
At the same time cats, although seemingly so independent-minded, need real care and attention. First thing is to ensure they are sterilized as feline disease is endemic among the feral cats here and, furthermore, the population needs to be kept within bounds. And, as I recently discovered, cats too can suffer from high blood pressure and even depression!
If I ever make it back to blighty one of the first places I’d want to visit is Simon’s grave in Ilford, London. Awarded the Dickin medal, the highest decoration for animal bravery, this cat, even when injured by enemy fire, remained both an exceptional morale-booster and a great rat-disinfester when in 1949 a British Royal Navy ship, HMS Amethyst, came under fire from hostile forces in the Yangtze river during the Chinese civil war and remained trapped for three months.