Meet Nibbles. He’s one of the second litter of cats born to Jetta (a feral), in the old ruined house just over the wall at the end of our finca’s field. He is now eight years old and – like his remaining siblings – still comes to us twice a day for food.
When the kittens were born at the end of March 2011, we didn’t intend to give them names. We expected they would go off their own separate ways once they were weaned. My dad and Uncle Ray were fortunate to be staying here for a spring holiday when Jetta decided to bring her first kittens up to the house. They were just the cutest things and full of mischief and made that family holiday particularly memorable.
“That one has to be called Dusty,” Dad said, taking photos as the playful kitties performed their antics around a flowerpot on the front terrace. “With those eyes, he looks like Dusty Springfield.”
Before you could say Son of a Preacher Man, we’d named all of Jetta’s first litter: Dusty, Beamer, Bear, and Brownie.
We tried to catch Jetta and take her to be spayed, but the sleek black feral cat proved to be as slippery as fallen leaves on a pavement after heavy rain (and, boy, we had a lot of that in Mallorca on Tuesday night). A local tom cat had better luck catching her: before long she was pregnant again. And this time, she had five kittens – one of which was Nibbles. You’ll be relieved to learn that we did manage to catch her this time; I think she was too exhausted by her mothering duties to run away from us.
You can probably guess how Nibbles got his name. He does love a fuss and will often jump onto The Boss’s or my lap if we’re sitting outside. But when he’s had enough of being stroked, he lets us know by (sometimes) gently applying his teeth to the offending hand. These little nips remind us that, however affectionate he can be, Nibbles was born feral and is still an outdoor cat – although we had him and all the other cats neutered or spayed as soon as they were old enough.
If there’s going to be an unscheduled visit to the vet’s, it will almost certainly be with Nibbles. He seems to be one of those accident-prone cats.
A bite on the head for Nibbles
One day in August last year he came home with a wound on his head, looking sorry for himself. Off to the vet’s we went for treatment. We had to keep him indoors for a few days – a prospect that filled us with dread all the way home from the vet’s. How would Pip react to having another cat in the house? And how would Nibbles react to being kept indoors when he’d spent his entire life outdoors?
Somehow we got through those few days. The cats kept their distance from each other and, at night, while Pip stayed in the dining room and kitchen, Nibbles was in our large guest bathroom, with a ‘bed’, litter tray, and food and water. He entertained himself during the first night by shredding an entire roll of toilet tissue, which I’d forgotten to remove; the bathroom looked like a snow scene the next morning. I think humans and cats were all relieved when, later that week, the vet declared him recovered enough to go out again.
And next, a leg bite
Almost a year to the date later, Nibbles arrived one evening, limping. He wouldn’t allow us to examine his back leg or pick him up. We couldn’t see a wound, so we thought he’d maybe landed badly after jumping down from a tree or wall. We set up a box with a blanket in it on the terrace, with water and food bowls alongside. We hoped he’d use the chance to rest in comfort and then we’d take him to the vet’s in the morning.
Of course, Nibbles was nowhere to be seen the next day. Or the next. He didn’t come for food at the usual times. We were worried sick about him, wondering if his limp had been due to something more serious. The Boss scoured our land – even venturing down the precipitous slope into our own valley, which is an impenetrable tangle of wild vegetation. We searched daily for Nibbles but didn’t see him for almost a week.
August was a very hot month and, if he were unable to walk to the terrace for food and water, we feared that he’d be badly dehydrated. We were both subdued, imagining the worst.
Then Nibbles reappeared – just like that. I spotted him drinking from one of the water features we have around the place. “He’s back!” I yelled with excitement to The Boss, who was indoors. Nibbles limped over as though he’d never been away, looking otherwise fit and well fed. We guessed that instinct had made him avoid the blazing sun, as he couldn’t trot along at his usual food-here-I-come pace, and he’d come to eat and drink during the night.
We managed to catch him and bundle him – with care – into a cat carrier and take him to the vet’s. Nibbles was a model patient and allowed the vet to examine his leg. Verdict: another bite. More antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, pain meds and another period of convalescence.
It was the same routine as before: Nibbles spent the nights in the guest bathroom – after I’d removed all toilet tissue. The window shutter (persiana) was closed but we left the window itself open for fresh air, as it was so hot. The next morning, we discovered that Nibbles had completely shredded the window’s mesh mosquito screen. What a mess! Apart from this, he enjoyed his convalescence – sitting in comfort on the sofa or a chair and even watching a bit of TV one evening.
Check out the neck
Nibbles didn’t wait another year for his next bite. Last week, as I sat writing a page or two of my novel, The Boss called out to me from the garden: “You’d better come and look at this!”
At some point since his breakfast that day, Nibbles had sustained another bite – this time on the side of his neck. Off we all went to the vet’s again. It was like Groundhog Day.
A week later, Nibbles is back outside and has made a good recovery. Fingers crossed, he’ll stay out of trouble for the foreseeable…
Jan Edwards ©2019