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Miffy - A True Story

Miffy (1979)

Miffy (1979)
In the early hours of a sultry June morning in 1979, I fell asleep with the radio softly playing. Miffy, my beautiful, black cat, just seven months old, was fast asleep, curled round my feet, as she did every night. Suddenly she was tapping my nose with her paw - her method of waking me up. She squeaked, jumped off the bed and padded quickly down the hall to sit, mewing plaintively, as she had when I first saw her. I sat up in bed, rigid, listening.

Miffy had been given to me on December 27th 1978. I remember it as if it was last Christmas. The knock at the door had sent me clattering down the landing, stairs and lower hall. I opened the front door, then the porch. Lynsey stood there holding a small bundle in her arms. All the Christmas festivities were over, yet here was another present - a very special present.

"Come in. I've got the fire going upstairs. It's lovely and warm." Lynsey smiled, stepping in from the white, frosty garden path, following me upstairs. In the living room a steeply banked fire flamed orange, lighting up the whole room.

"Do sit down. I'm dying to see Miffy."

"You've decided what to call her then. We've had an awful job trying to keep her apart from Viola. She hates any other cat on her territory." I had been talking to Lynsey at the school I was teaching at, mentioning that I would really love a cat. I had been thinking about getting one for a long time. Lynsey had told me her friend's cat was having a very unseasonable litter of kittens soon and would I like one? And here was the one destined for me born on 19th November 1978.

I took the woollen blanket from her arms, put it on the floor, unwrapped the squares of colour and there, on the green carpet, emerged a black, round shape of fluffy fur with a tiny, blue-eyed face and a tail smaller than my little finger.

Miffy In Her Basket

Miffy in her basket.
"Isn't she lovely!" I exclaimed. I loved her the minute I saw her.

"I hope you didn't mind me choosing her," said Lynsey. "I know you like black cats. They were all beautiful kittens, but there's something about her You wanted a female, didn't you?"

"Oh, yes." I was enthralled as the kitten began to walk on rather wobbly legs towards the rug near the hearth. Then she turned and frisked towards us I knelt down and picked Miffy up. She was so small and fragile, so vulnerable. She fitted easily on my hand with room to spare. She was five and a half weeks old.

"She's a little young to leave her mother, but she's weaned onto solid food, mashed well and she's trained to use a litter tray." I had bought a cat care book, which gave detailed and invaluable advice to the novice on how to rear kittens and all aspects of cat management. Miffy needed four small meals a day to begin with.

Curled up against my shoulder, Miffy began to purr loudly. I realised I hadn't got a basket for her. I had a tray, cat litter and food, but Lynsey had thought of everything.

"I've bought a shoe box with an old jumper in with her smell."

"I'm going to get her one of those wicker baskets with a lid. One she can sleep in, I can take her to the vets in or on journeys," I said. Miffy's eyes began to close. "Would you like a drink? Or a cup of tea, coffee?"

Miffy Watercolour By Vivien Steels

Miffy watercolour by Vivien Steels.
"No thanks, Tim's in the car. We're on our way to see Marie and Simon."

"You should have invited him in too. Anyway, thank you very much. I think Miffy's gorgeous. Do tell Sophie she is just the one I would have picked myself." Lynsey stroked Miffy gently on the head.

"See you after the holidays." I accompanied her to the outer door, still holding Miffy. I waved to Tim, who was patiently waiting at the wheel of their car, then I hurried back upstairs.

The turquoise litter tray was on the landing. Carefully I put the kitten down on the soft, white granules where she totally disappeared behind the sides. She began to scratch frantically, parting the litter this way and that, bits of white flying like snow onto the hall linoleum. She wriggled her bottom down, looked up at me with trusting eyes and a damp patch appeared behind her. The excited scratching was repeated, then she leapt over the side and scampered up the landing, then back down, skidding to a halt just before the banisters at the end.

An exploration of each room commenced. I put her on the quilt on my bed and she turned a sideways somersault, skittered to the pillows, darted across to the bed's edge, falling off, careering into the living room again. That night she slept in the crook of my shoulder and neck, cuddling up for comfort and warmth.

The next seven days found me bleary-eyed and tired. Miffy would wake me up with her paw tapping my nose in the middle of the night, wanting to play. When I went to the bathroom my feet became the object of surprise ambushes, my pyjama bottoms the rigging whereby she would climb up to her favourite place on my shoulder. Life was never boring and the depression over a recent illness miraculously lifted by this wonderful, innocent gift of life.

Miffy On Her Deckchair

Miffy on her deckchair.
As a kitten, Miffy had her own distinctive personality. She wanted to play, explore everything and eat whatever I was eating. She loved scrambled eggs, bacon, mince, sausages, brown rice, butter, cream, fish (especially sardines in tomato sauce). She crunched tiny cat biscuits with her needle-like teeth. I made toys for her; a piece of fluffy material on a length of string, a Ping-Pong ball to bat, a cotton reel, a toy mouse, a sheet of tissue paper, a plastic bangle. She would play intensely for a while, then fall asleep in her shoe box, waking up as lively as ever. As I walked round the flat and she wanted a lift, she would clamber up my legs (not too painful if wearing jeans) and perch on my shoulder like a diminutive parrot, watching intently what I was doing, or drape herself round my neck like a small, black panther collar. Typing was one of her favourite pastimes. She tried to catch the keys with her paws as I typed. One when I had left the case off my old manual typewriter, I found the inky ribbon cascading down from the table. Painting afforded the luxury of paddling in different colours and nudging brushes just as I was about to make a master stroke.

At Christmas I had been given a voucher for 'Habitat' and one Saturday, after battling with the January sales crowd, I arrived home with a rectangular wicker basket with a hinged lid and handle. Miffy was excited, as I lined the bottom with kitchen paper, then a folded blanket followed by an old, mohair jumper, which she loved to curl up on. She had trouble entering the new basket, as the sides were high. The basket overwhelmed her and I couldn't believe it later when she actually filled the space comfortably. I bought her a jade green, velvet collar and a silver disc with her name, address and telephone number on it.

Miffy In Her Garden

Miffy in her garden.
It was a wrench returning to teaching after the Christmas holidays, for watching Miffy growing up with all her funny little ways patterned each day with her rich, velvety presence. She was the best Christmas present I have ever had and still is to this day.

I heard the sharp, repetitive noise. Where was it coming from? I got up, switched the radio off and quietly switched the hall light on. The noise stopped. Miffy was sitting, ears pricked attentively, outside the spare bedroom, where I kept my ironing board, easel, paints, frames and lots of cardboard boxes full of books to be unpacked. She looked up at the door. All the doors of my flat were rather old-fashioned, heavy, carved wood and locked from the outside with a big, iron key. I rarely locked this back room but that night I did for some reason.

I went to the bathroom, turned the hall light off, picked up Miffy and went back to bed. Immediately she gave a funny sort of squeak, then shot down the hall to sit outside the back bedroom again. The noise returned. I felt very cold and alone. I thought quickly. There was the noise again. It sounded like the Chemist shop below was being broken into. I wanted to go into the back room to have a look out of the window. Miffy danced and scampered up the hallway into the living room, where she mewed plaintively. I was just about to unlock the bedroom door, when Miffy mewed again, even louder, from the doorway of the living room and ran in again. Something was not right and I felt propelled in to the living room, where I telephoned the police, hardly able to speak as fear constricted my throat.

The Police, two Panda cars, two plain clothes detectives (six policeman altogether) arrived at my flat about five minutes later. The Chemist had not been broken into. My spare bedroom had. Two policemen with Alsation dogs searched the garden outside. "Lucky you locked that room. Could have been nasty," said one of the policemen, as they sifted through the back room. "You get that window fixed tomorrow and we'll send a Crime Prevention Officer round asap." I showed them out of the flat, cuddling Miffy, who had alerted me to the strange noises in the first place.

I look back on those series of events as rather extraordinary. Miffy was a very loyal cat, who sadly died aged thirteen years and four months on March 14th 1992. I still miss her dreadfully. As every cat owner knows cats are telepathic. I only had to think "Where's Miffy?" A few minutes later she would materialise, winding herself in and out of my legs, purring ecstatically, as if to say, "Here I am!" Although I have another cat now called Misty, I am aware of Miffy's presence at times. She certainly knew something was wrong that night and made sure I knew too. I owed my safety to her and her special sixth sense.

By: Vivien Steels - Copyright © 2005
Website: Pet's Place - My Pets by Vivien Steels

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