Steel City Cats
by Samantha Priestley
We had made up our minds. The time was right. My daughters had reached the responsible and more mature ages of 10 and 7. They were prepared. They had cleaned the house and bought the equipment ready for the arrival. We were about to get our first family cat.
I had always enjoyed having family cats when I was a child and I was eager to carry on the tradition my family had started. And when the lady from the Cat’s Protection here in Sheffield, England, came to see us for our home visit, she told us she already had a cat in mind that might suit us.
“He’s used to children,” she said, as my two daughters eagerly showed off the basket and feeding bowls they had bought ready for the arrival of their long awaited pet.
“And he’s an outgoing cat, playful, used to noise so he should fit in brilliantly here. In fact, if anything,” she went on. “He’ll find it quiet compared to what he’s used to.”
I had put off getting a cat for a while. My kids pestered me for months, maybe even over a year, before I decided they were ready to take on the responsibility of a cat. We’d done goldfish and a hamster, and I used to joke to them that we were working our way up in size, but in a way we were. It’s one thing for a child to take care of a fish or a hamster in a cage, quite another, I think, to handle and look after a cat.
But now we were ready and it seemed we might even have the perfect cat lined up for us. “He’s wicked,” The Cat’s Protection lady told us. “Really long, with this amazing tail that goes on forever.”
So we arranged a visit to the foster home and prepared ourselves to meet Charlie.
In the foster home Charlie was found striding through the house as if he owned it, his long tail following his body around doorframes and sofas like the curl of an aroma in the air. He was picked up and placed into my arms, his warm body relaxing as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I was sold there and then. He’s a beautiful cat, sleek, black with white stocking feet, tail end, belly and the cutest little face. I stood there with this cat that, in my head was now already mine, feeling totally at ease with him, when the foster lady said. “And this is his sister.”
There huddled up on the sofa was a little black bundle of fur. I heard my daughters both say “Ahhh,” and “She’s adorable.” And I could see this wasn’t going to be easy.
While I already loved Charlie, my two daughters had obviously fallen for Charlie’s sister, Fi-fi. It was impossible to choose of course and that day, as the foster lady assured us that looking after two cats is no different really to looking after one, we ended up taking both cats home with us.
But it became obvious on the way home that Charlie was not the tough cookie everybody thought he was. While Fi-fi bit at the carrying case and tried to claw her way out, Charlie just sat and shook. Once we got home we noticed Fi-fi grooming Charlie and looking after him while he was evidently still very upset. After a week or so Charlie was still reluctant to be stroked or touched at all and was scared of any loud noise or anyone who visited the house. More out of interest really I phoned the Cat’s Protection and asked if they knew where the cats had been found or what had happened to them, as Charlie was quite shaken by the experience of being brought into our home.
While it’s impossible to know if it is the cause of Charlie’s disposition or not, the Cat’s Protection very kindly informed us that the two cats had been found in a steelworks. Real Sheffield cats then, I thought. My dad worked in a steelworks and I remember as a young girl going along for the company’s ‘take your child to work day’. I walked, my little hand tight in my father’s, while booms went off in various
parts of the factory and sparks flew from machinery as we passed. The place was big, loud, hot and scary for me, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for a little kitten. I knew my grandfather had also worked in the steelworks and my husband’s father had also been employed in one of the many factories producing steel here in Sheffield for our famous knives and forks and other items of solid Sheffield
steel. Steel seems to permeate our family, from our fathers and grandfathers, right down to our pets it seems
A year on and I’m happy to say that Charlie is now fully at home with us. The kids pick him up, we all stroke him and he’s become a very affectionate cat indeed, although not quite the confident, swaggering cat everyone thought he was. It has taken time, gentle handling, patience and a lot of love to win the heart and trust of Charlie, but it’s been worth it. Fi-fi, on the other hand, is a girl who knows her own mind and will do what she wants when she wants. They have their own personalities, just like we all do, and are affected by their experiences, I expect, just like we all are.
One thing is for sure, I’m glad we brought both cats home that day. They are different in so many ways and have become a part of our family. I wouldn’t be without my steel city cats for the world.