I was dragged out of bed early this morning. The misses was pulling the sheets off: "Come, follow me, you won't believe it!" I followed her commands, hooked my glasses behind my ears, and in my jim-jams stuttered into life as we marched down the stars.
"Look" she said pointing to a reddy brown something on one of the cats' chairs under the verandah. I stared as my eyes adjusted to the glooming light. There, curled up fast asleep was a young fox. Two of our cats, Tom and Ginja were on their chairs unconcerned by the visitor. Sheri, whose bed was now being occupied by the fox, was looking down sorrowfully from the neighbour's extension.
On seeing us it opened its eyes and then closed them again. By this time Ginja was on his hind legs banging hard on the window with his front paws to be let in. At that point the fox leapt off the chair and ran down the garden. We went back to bed.
Waking a couple of hours later we found the fox had returned and was sleeping on another of the cats' chairs.
I think we have a problem here.
For twelve years we have had just two cats: Tom and Sheri (The Mice Girls). Last year Ginja the Ninja joined our small family and he is a joy. We call him our dog cat because he follows you everywhere - into the loo, into the bath, on the loo. He also has the most expressive face which clearly conveys his inner most thoughts and frustrations.
Recently, his expressions have been cross, more recently he's shown deep hurt and humiliation.
Sylvester is the cause of these mood swings. Sylvester is a long haired black and white tom with white blotches on his chest and white spats on his feet. He is so like the cartoon character; which is why we named his thus.
He can eat for the nation. Any plate with food on is targeted, along with the saucers of cream. Initially he'd sneak up, pounce on the food and run off. Now he's permanently attached to our back door and takes any opportunity to dash into the house.
As a male he's a challenge to the Ninja; except we've discovered that far from being the bully on the block Ginja's a softy. Oft-times he's had to be rescued from a beating up by Sylvester (Stallone). Now when Sylvo's around Ginja looks the other way or closes his eyes, pretending he hasn't seen him. We always know when there's been a show down: Ginja becomes hugely loving. Deeply staring into our eyes for reassurance, rubbing up against us and being attached to Lesley by a short piece of elastic. At such times he just can't bear being on his own.
Sylvester is in wonderful condition. He keeps himself spotless and we believe he must have a home in the neighbourhood - he just has an insatiable appetite.
The same cannot be said of Felix, another visitor. He's been around for quite a while, although he's not a regular. Nervous, skinny and tramp like with sad, sad eyes; he looks as if he hasn't had a good wash for ages. A short haired black and white moggie with off white paws he is, we suspect, no one's. Except yesterday he paid us a visit. What a change. Still skinny but with a gloss on his coat and white paws! He is still extremely nervous; but maybe, just maybe he has a home.
So, as you can see we have a bit of a problem. Four and a half cats and now a cat chair thieving fox. Although in truth the animals, including the squirrels, sparrows and doves in our garden have a bigger one.
Lesley has decided that after 2 years she can't carry on running her beading business at home. It's just too inconvenient and she gets distracted - with providing a table service for the cats and other wildlife. Now she's moved into a workspace, just down the road. It is fabulous, masses of natural light which is essential for the detailed work she does and at a knock down rent.
But it does mean that the cats will have to rely on me to keep them topped up with goodies and I'm not such a softie.