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Hodge the Hedge Cat

May 2013

Hodge decided she wanted to live with us we had no decision in the matter. A black, short haired cat, with a white bib on her chest, and what appear to be furry white knickers on her nether regions. She had left the previous owners round the corner from where we lived due to being bullied by a large grey cat. Her face was almost Siamese with long pale green eyes, and high arched eyebrows.

She started appearing in our garden. One day I was sitting on a garden seat, and she came and sat next to me purring very loudly. She seemed very big, so I assumed she was a male, but very thin. Her head seemed very large in contrast to the thin body. I gave her some ham which she gulped down. We found out she had been living rough in the hedges and woods. The previous owners had given up on her ever coming home. They had tried to bring her back, but she was stubborn, and refused to come back. They said we could have her, but that she would take off, and to be prepared for that. She was seven years old at the time and they gave us her medical records. They said her name was "Ruby", but she only answered to the name we had called her which was "Hodge". Named after the 17th Century writer Samuel Johnson's cat "Hodge". She took off when her old owners came round the house, and had to be coaxed back in to the garden after they had gone.

She had gone half feral, we could get her to sleep in the shed, and we bought her Felix, which she gulped down, but she would not come into the house. It was difficult for my husband, who had never had an animal. She was hard work, always taking off, being nervous, and skittish at the slightest thing. We never knew every day if it was the last we would see of her. Getting her to the vets was a horror story, it was like trapping a sabre tooth tiger. My husband and I would have to pin her down, but for all her wildness she has never scratched us.

The loud shrieks coming from the cat basket we had purchased caused our next door neighbour to come out and ask if she had been hurt. To this day de-fleaing, taking her to the cattery when we go on holidays, or the vets brings melodramatic shrieks of terror from her. When she returns from these unpleasant excursions we are cold-shouldered. We get the "Queen Victoria stare".

It took nearly a year to get her in the house, even then she would go in the early hours of the morning. I would have to get up at 4.am every day to let her out. I always gave her some food in case I never saw her again. She was very loving, but you could not pick her up. There was something very vulnerable about her. She also to this day hates the postman with a vengeance. He sometimes drops parcels off in her shed. We now realise she thinks he is trying to move in to her shed, and she comes into the house and shouts about it until we go to the shed and and see what all the fuss is about. Brushing her was difficult at first, but now she loves it and sticks her feet in the air. Now after more than three years , she comes in at 7pm or earlier, has her tea, sits on her throw on the settee, and seems to like watching "Midsommer Murders". If we have a snack in the evenings, she has Dreamies as a snack, She now lets us tickle her belly, loves us both equally. She even plays hide and seek and wants you to chase her. She still takes off if anyone comes round the house, but appears to like the next door neighbour and us and no-one else. In the early days I had caught her drinking water with both paws out of the drain, yet would not drink it in a bowl. Another game we play with her is 'which hand is the toy in?'. She thinks for second and kisses the right hand each time. Then rolls on her back to do a victory roll. She also has an almost autistic outlook on articles on the house.

Recently we purchased a large cream rug for the sitting room. It has been down for a week, yet she still walks round the sides of it to get to the settee. She howled when she first saw it, and appears to think it is an evil entity. Even a cat toy will not persuade her to walk on it. We would not be without her. From a neurotic cat she has turned almost matronly, her coat gleams, she has put on weight, and purrs all the time. She sometimes sits with her paw in my husbands hand watching t.v. People who do not know this loving animal, think she has been too much hard work. It has been worth it to see her coming into the house in the evenings, not leaping in the air because you have got too close to her. Fortunately, she has stopped bringing in field mice. She is getting very short-sighted and has to screw her eyes up to see things these days. We once had a madcap incident when I had heard a loud noise in the sitting room early in the morning. I came downstairs, and found she had corned a large brown terrified mouse, I shooed her away, and opened the front door then sectioned her off. It would not go out the front door, but instead ran up the grandmother clock. I locked the sitting room door. The clock was in the hallway. I dragged it to the front door, it was a weight, and all the time, it chimed loudly in my ear. The mouse then appeared to develop mouse suckers on its feet and even though I attempted to shake it off the clock to get it in the front garden, it hung on. Of what seemed like an eternity , it let go, and I, deafened ,watched it scuttle down the path. I then dragged the clock back to its rightful place and locked the cat flap in the garden, so "Hodge" could not torment it further. Out of that I received an aching bad back, and a slight ringing in my ear. We know we are her household staff, meals have to be served at a the exact time, and not too many fish dinners, otherwise, the thin blacks lips purse up at us. We would not be without out her, she is an eccentric delight. My husband retired recently and "Hodge " and my husband have their own set routine now. I really think when "Hodge" saw us she had also retired and wanted a quiet life. The only hedges she goes into now are for shade from the sun.

Story by Amber Cross


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