The cat world is an intricate one. Ultimately, it is about being loyal to one’s self and making choices about those we choose to have around us. Some cats will sacrifice their own watchers and whisperers for a gain of territory; thus it’s hard to find cats to trust.
Almost every cat has a whisperer, a cat who informs them of what’s happening in the Neighbourhood. Whisperers sit close to the ground, hiding in the shadows, watching and listening to everything happening. They usually know what the news is before it happens. My whisperer was Curly Whiskers.
Curly was a black cat with the curliest whiskers I’d ever seen. I never asked him how they got like that. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t curious, but he was good at his job. I didn’t question because I didn’t need to know. Curly was good enough that I didn’t even know he was there until he swiped my legs for fun.
That should have been the first warning. I rarely got things wrong. After all, I was a cat, not a dog. I lost my instincts because it was my first real case. Sit back, as I explain.
Besides a whisperer, almost all cats have a watcher. Watchers usually sat on the rooftops and only went inside when it poured with rain, or they wanted food. To ensure that mine could do the best job, I always made sure she had food. Stripes had humans but spent next to no time with them. She made it her business to watch the world. She slept little and missed even less. Watchers were lean without being skinny and were always the best climbers of the feline world.
Stripes was the best watcher I’d ever known. She chose the tallest spot she could find to allow her to see more of the Neighbourhood. There was little that she didn’t see. I’d have trusted her with my tuna. She was the only one who wouldn’t eat it. Apart from being a tortoiseshell, she had earned every single one of her markings.
It was six o’ clock. I gave Stripes the nod to head down to the roof below. I wasn’t nimble enough to make it up to her spot. Besides, I wasn’t an informer. I wasn’t about to put myself out for something that I didn’t have to do.
I dropped the sparrow I’d caught at her feet. Normally she would’ve devoured it in a couple of bites, but she was cautious. I hissed – she had no reason to question me. That should’ve been the first warning, but I’m ashamed to say that I was offended. I should’ve seen that she didn’t seem right. She chewed the sparrow, taking much longer between bites. It was almost as though she was thinking about something.
“White Tip, I need you to do me a favour. I need you to find out what happened to Skinny. He’s been gone for three days. I think One Fang and his gang have been hanging around. I’ve seen them heading in that direction. It won’t be long until one of them tries to take over,” she said.
Stripes was right. One Fang and his gang were thugs. Most were just brawn and only intimidating in numbers. They would’ve been good fellas if they belonged in other gangs, but that didn’t make them forgivable; they made their choice. They knew what One Fang was like.
One Fang was an oversized Persian cat, who was treated to a roast chicken every day. It was the only thing that he said that I actually trusted. There was no way he got that big from cat biscuits. He received his name because he had only one fang left, which he used well against his opponents. Some cats were shaken by his sheer size. He was a boulder, but if they thought about it, they could have easily outrun him. One Fang liked to surprise his opponents by sneaking up on them. He was surprisingly inconspicuous for his size.
It was bad news if he was hanging around. He’d wanted Skinny’s land – that was common knowledge. He’d brooded over it for ages. He sat watching his house daily, for hours on end.
I could’ve been curious about what was so special about Skinny’s land, but One Fang didn’t interest me. As far as I was concerned, Skinny’s land was Skinny’s land. That was until he went missing. I should’ve known that as soon as Skinny went away, One Fang would’ve been there sniffing around, making it his territory. He’d wanted it for far too long.
There was also a sense of protection that we felt for Skinny Hind. He had already lost one life through heartbreak. His first human had loved him as a kitten, but then he grew up. Kittens don’t stay kittens forever. They had doted on him and he used to ride with them in the car, so he never suspected a thing when they shouted him in. Skinny thought he was going on another adventure. They drove for a little bit, and then they pulled up by the pavement, wound down the window, and threw him out of it when they were nowhere near his neighbourhood.
The poor kitten had barely even used his claws. The only thing he’d scratched was his kitten post. He couldn’t have been more lost if he’d tried. He looked dishevelled with his fur clung to his ribs. He sat on the pavement for days, in all weathers, waiting for his humans to come back. Curly told him there was no use waiting, but he stayed for a long while. When he realised that there was no point in hoping anymore, he looked like he’d lost another few lives.
It took him ages before he trusted another human again, and even then, it was a surprise that he ever did. Curly took him under his paw and taught him to hunt. It was lucky that the garden they chose was one where the human was fed up with the birds taking over. He wanted some control restored. He fed Skinny every day until the name Skinny no longer made sense. He deserved his land. One Fang and his gang needed to find somewhere else.
I should’ve heard about Skinny’s disappearance from Curly Whiskers. Then, I could tell Stripes what I needed her to look after, but I’d never had a reason before to question her. She usually told me about what she’d seen, kept an eye out for my land, and informed me if there were any intruders. I usually went to her with the jobs, not the other way round.
“Who else knows that he’s missing?” I asked.
“Just One Fang and his gang. Be careful. One Fang has been in there several times. He’s bound to have the others watching,” Stripes warned.
I knew that Stripes was right. One Fang operated with a lot of cats, but he wanted Skinny’s land for himself. He had always wanted it for himself and he wasn’t about to share with anyone. I looked over at Skinny’s land. It looked empty without him. Since he had a human, we saw less of him, but that didn’t mean we felt any less protective of him.
One Fang’s behaviour irked me. Cats fighting about land wasn’t the issue. A cat’s got to cat, which means having to fight once in a while to keep or gain territory. It was the way he did it, that got my back up.
Every cat knew that all land was up for grabs except where a cat lived with their human. It was pretty low to think that this land was up for grabs. If a fight occurred here, the Cat Council ruled that the land was restored to its rightful owner, and the trespasser was told to leave. One Fang knew the rule.
There was no confirmation that Skinny was no longer around, yet One Fang seemed to think he could claim the land as though Skinny had never been there. The first thing I needed to do was find out what had happened to Skinny, but if One Fang also got the message to back off, that wasn’t a bad thing.