This is Hoover.
She is called Kitty at home – her home, that is. She is an everyday sort of cat: longish fur, shortish legs, ears, a tail, a bit scruffy, round green eyes … you know the kind.
One day about sixteen years ago she appeared on our roof. She was about the size of a loosely curled fist. She squeaked, we said hello and she came in and went to sleep on AJ’s lap. That was him conquered. She belongs next door, but from day one she has treated both our properties as hers. Both gardens are jungly and explorable, moggy heaven, full of mysterious corners and dancing shadows.
She rules her world, and she’s the smallest one in it. She lives with a large exuberant dog that she ignores. She takes no nonsense from any creature on Earth, including the aged griffon who is the bravest dog in the neighbourhood. She marches over here and stalks past my two resident furries, who let her do anything she wants. She’s always in the sunniest patch, the shadiest corner, the softest chair.
We called her Hoover because she eats anything, and can hear a tin being opened within fifty metres. She is responsible for the death of at least two baby rabbits and most of the mice around here – everyone knows because she makes a song and dance about it. She catches the occasional bird, even though they post sentries. She is careless of rain and can usually be seen perched on roof or fence, sopping wet. She dries herself on whatever I’m wearing.
Hoover has never been fed in this house but is always hopeful. After breakfast at home, she scoots over here wafting whatever scent her owners have hugged over her. She still sits on my kitchen bench waiting for the single drop of milk that AJ allowed her, although he knew milk was bad for cats. No milk here now, and she complains gently when I toss her out before feeding my two.
She’s still fast, smart, can leap two metres up and into a forgotten window, and she never gives up. She makes sorties at all hours of the day or night to hoover up stray cat biscuits or anything else she might detect. At night she sits outside on the deck unblinking, watching me watch television. I harden my heart. The second I turn off the set and get up to go to bed it’s a race to the back door – me from the inside to snatch up left-overs before unlocking the cat-flap, and Hoover all round the house on the outside. As always, ever hopeful.