Cat Alley And The Alley Cats

Dear Mum,

Every day, I leave my apartment at around 7am to exercise my dog, Cleopatra. We turn right towards Egypt and walk to the end of the street, at which point we have to make a choice. We could go straight over and along a short road, cross over the next one and turn right, then left, follow that road round and cross over the next one we come to, and we’re there.

Or we could turn right and walk in the direction of Crete and then cross over the road a bit further up, then across another one, turn right into a small backstreet, left into a small alley, cross another road, along a bit and we’re there.

Mornings tend to favour the second route. But there’s been a bit of a problem recently cutting through that alley.

As you approach the far end of that backstreet, there’s a small parking area for two or three cars on the left, and a one-storey dwelling on the corner at the T-junction. Between the parking area and the edifice is an alleyway which cuts off the corner. It’s very short and very narrow, bordered on the right by the back of the dwelling, and on the left by a raised container used as a store room, and some baby palm trees and other bits of vegetation.

Using this short cut probably saves about ten seconds! But it is the shortest route and the street corner can be a bit dangerous as there’s no pavement, so we always use the alley. But recently, it’s become a bit of a gauntlet.

There are two cats who live in that alley. Cute little things. One is black and white and the other is a long-haired tabby. They’re always there, resting under the container or the vegetation, or feeding from a bowl in the parking area supplied, I suspect, by the workshop next door.

Cleo always wants to play with them of course, but they don’t want to know. They treat her with total indifference. Fraternising with a short-haired German Pointer is very clearly beneath their dignity.

And that’s the way it’s always been for the past year. Until about four weeks ago.

The long-haired tabby suddenly started attacking Cleopatra. Well, threatening to anyway. She’d arch her back and hiss and make a feint attack with her claws out. Or she’d be hiding under one of the cars and make a lunge for Cleo.

This started happening every day. I couldn’t understand it. The tabby wasn’t even scared of me. I said a very convincing “Shoo!” on a couple of occasions and made a move towards it, but the tabby stood its ground and hissed at me instead.

Ok. Point taken! It’s your alley.

Cleo became increasingly apprehensive every time we neared that short cut. She’d look diligently under any cars that were parked there, and constantly be alert until she’d identified the whereabouts of her would-be assailant. And she’d hightail it through that alley at top speed, dragging me along behind her. The cat was always there, somewhere, waiting to pounce.

Two weeks ago, I discovered why. I saw the tabby one morning with her two kittens. She was simply being protective. It wasn’t personal. She didn’t know that we posed no threat to her or her newly-born offspring. But I guess she gradually got the message because the attacks seem to have subsided. She still sounds the alarm whenever we approach and goes to action stations, but the attacks have stopped, although the threat is constantly there.

But although the attacks have stopped, Cleopatra is still very reluctant to run that gauntlet. She hates it!

It all came to head yesterday morning. Cleo did her usual bit of crouching down and looking under the cars, but there was no sign of tabby cat. She wasn’t feeding at her bowl either. We rounded the rear end of one of the cars and started making for cat alley, looking around nervously for that maternal moggy mugger.

We both stopped dead in our tracks.

For there, spread across the narrow alley, were three cats, with the tabby in the middle, all crouching low to the ground, all staring at us, all looking ready to strike. Mrs Tabby had clearly decided to put an end to us traversing her territory and had rounded up some reinforcements.

Cleo took a very deep breath and stepped back a couple of paces. It was like the shoot-out at the OK Corral, both sides staring each other down, ready to draw.

I just burst out laughing! It was so incongruous. And ever the pacifist, I put my hands up and said, “Ok. You win”, and we went round the long way, much to the relief of Cleopatra.

And as we passed the other end of the alley, I couldn’t help noticing that the three cats had all turned round to face us, just in case we decided to attack from behind!


©MPB 16/November/2007


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