What I know about Charlie, my cat

Charlie an alert black cat

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Charlie is a 17 pound three-legged black cat. He has character, a Siamese-like face and his voice has a lot of the characteristics of the voice of Siamese cat. He is definitely not Siamese. He just has some Siamese in him. My vet agrees. Anyway, it is fairly obvious.

He can be a bit OCDish, meaning a tendency towards obsessive compulsive disorder behavior. This may be a Siamese trait too. Siamese cats in the West have lots of “traits” 😉 The interesting bit is how he came to be with me.

My mother always liked fancy cats. Purebred cats. She always liked fancy things, period. Sort of high maintenance. At her cremation about 2 years ago, we all had a chance to say something. I said I had brought home a part of her that would remind me of her, always. His name is Charlie.

Until my mother adopted Charlie from the RSPCA rehoming centre near South Mimms, north of London, she nearly always kept purebred cats. She liked Siamese and Burmese.

Before she adopted Charlie, she cared for three Burmese cats who were siblings. Why did she suddenly change her mind about cats and select a large, three-legged black moggie?

Well this is my theory. The Burmese cats all died of kidney or liver disease at about the same time and when relatively young. In my honest opinion, lovable as they were, they were inbred purebreds and it showed. Dull personality. Great to look at, but ornaments. My mother got the message.

A more important reason why she chose Charlie was because he had three legs. My mother had lost cats. They had been killed one way or another. At least one had died on the road outside. He was a large Burmese boy, not one of the three mentioned. He came before them.

At a similar time – we are talking 20 years ago – her favorite girl Burmese cat, also well before the three siblings I have referred to, was poisoned by a neighbour. The little, sweet girl cat made it home and died in her arms. It nearly broke my mum’s heart.  Yet, another Burmese, was lost, feared killed by a neighbour. The same cat hating neighbour? Who knows.

My mother became very anxious later in life partly because of a fear of losing her beloved cats.

I installed one of those electric fences for her but it didn’t work properly. I was a different person then.I wouldn’t install one of these things now.

This is around 2000-2003. I then suggested a custom cat enclosure. At first she was reluctant but then agreed to it. It was built next to her house in the back garden. She lived in a nice house in Radlett, Hertfordshire. A cat passageway was cut through the wall of the conservatory to the enclosure.

The cat enclosure was really built for her, to calm her down. Her anxiety had become a problem but I don’t believe it was exclusively to do with the loss of her cats. It was partly what I would call, old age anxiety. The end of one’s life is no longer too far away for it to be unimaginable. Death becomes real and she had always flown above reality but could not, this time.

So, Charlie was ideal. He had three legs. He wouldn’t be able to jump over fences and escape even if she did let him use the garden rather than the enclosure. It worked. Charlie helped calm her down and proved to be a great companion.

I can remember going to the RSPCA with her to have a look at Charlie. We agreed together that he was a fine companion for her. We did not discuss her reason for her selection of Charlie. It was left unsaid.

We did not ask the RSPCA about what happened to Charlie. Why had he lost a leg? It is likely to have been an accident with a car. That is the obvious reason. For some strange reason, I imagined that his previous owner had kicked him out of frustration and ill-temper because Charlie does like to walk around your legs, which is dangerous. How many cats and kittens are walked on by their owner and badly hurt?

Just before my mother’s cremation, I was visiting her house. For about two weeks, she had been in hospital for an operation, died and we were awaiting her funeral and cremation. Charlie was in the house. The house was empty of people. There was one other cat, also a black cat. A semi-feral cat. I don’t think Charlie was that friendly with him but accepted him. My mother had adopted this “other cat” who used to roam through her garden.

When I saw Charlie in the conservatory, looking lonely, nervous, anxious and unsure of what was going, a voice in my head said ,”you have to take him home”. He was destined to be taken to a shelter. I feared he wouldn’t survive it. I had no intention of adopting him before arriving at the house. He had not even entered my head. I did not want to upset my Binnie, with whom I had lived for 15 years or so. However, the instant I saw him, there was nothing else in on my mind.

My sister, who was the executor of my mother’s Will, was delighted when I said, “can I take Charlie” because it was a problem solved. She grabbed a beaten up cat carrier and literally stuffed him into it as fast as she could!

I drove home with Charlie. He was so scared, he crapped in his carrier. He hid under my desk for a week. Now he is part of me and I have a part of my mother with me too.


Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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38 Responses

  1. Dorothy says:

    I enjoyed reading this and all the comments. Very touching, very personal. Charlie has a huge fan club now.

  2. Got to know cat “Charlie” as also a bit of England and your own personal hereditary association with cats.Its a fact that Britishers are fond of pets as also Americans.Michael, where did you inherit your gift for writing excellent topics on “CATS”? Your topics are very relevant and definitely a Internet encyclopedia for cat topics.

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Rudolph. If my writing is reasonable it is because I wrote 40,000 letters as a solicitor – all dictated, typed up by a secretary and never corrected. All first time hits. That grounding helps.

      As for cats, I think we can learn almost all we need to learn by observing our own cat and by reading some excellent books.

      I prefer books because the internet seems to just copy itself – repeat itself. I don’t like that.

      I have to say I always enjoy your stories from India. They add a fresh dimension to the cat world.

    • Marc says:

      Me too – I like hearing your stories from India Rudolph.

      • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

        Me too, it’s very interesting reading about India and seeing pictures.

      • Michael says:

        I would love to get hold of another author like Rudolph living in Asia somewhere. I would like some more cat stories from Asia and for example South America and Africa.

  3. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    Monty is laying on the bed, against my leg, rhythmically licking himself, the way you have described Charlie doing–I remember you saying that he almost rocks you to sleep as he grooms himself next to you, Michael. I hope Monty keeps emulating Charlie in this behavior. He seems less feral (always sleeping under the bed to feel safe) and more like a normal cat confidently up on the bed with me.

    • Michael says:

      I love that feeling. I make him wash himself by stroking his body. He then washes that area. Then he continues. He’ll wash for about 15 mins. It feels nice to me. Like massage.

  4. Michael says:

    I just want to add that I did not think about taking on Charlie until I saw him because I knew it would upset Binnie, my existing female cat who I had lived with for about 15 years.

    • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

      Well, just look at that face. Of course you had to take him! He looks just like Monty.

      • Michael says:

        He is very alert in this photo. An intense look on his face. His coat looks nice and glossy in the photo to. Proud dad talking 😉 I get that coat by combing him with a flea comb. Plus he is a vigorous washer. It gets the oils going and he loves the feel of it on his skin. He comes to me for a comb.

    • Barbara says:

      That’s the whole point of being responsible for your cat you have to think of the impact on the cat or cats you already have, it’s no good taking more and more cats in and upsetting the resident cat/s, it’s their home as well. Binnie did very well to accept Charlie at 15, another cat as well might have really upset the whole household. You did what you could, by rescuing Charlie who is black and missing a leg you probably saved his life, I doubt there would have been a queue to adopt him, the other cat probably did end up in a new home. All you can do is your best as you see it at the time.

  5. Dee (Florida) says:

    Lovely and touching story, Michael. You are both lucky boys to have each other.
    I love happy endings.

  6. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    What a strange story, your mother was obviously chosen by some fate to adopt Charlie and then it seems you had no choice but to adopt him too, you just couldn’t walk away could you!
    This was certainly meant to be, because look at the love you have for each other and the pleasure of each other’s company.
    I feel so sad for cats whose people die and they go from a loving home to a cage in a shelter and maybe sit there for months, one poor little cat has been at Kays Hill for a year, some never have the chance of another home.
    What happened to the semi feral Michael do you know?

    • Marc says:

      Yes that is very sad. Who is this little cat stuck at Kay’s Hill?

      • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

        I can’t remember her name now Marc, Leanne was talking about her the other day, wishing someone would adopt her, she’s black and white.
        I’ve got cats names and photos and posters going round in my brain lol we are preparing for the CP stall on Monday. Kays Hill are going to be there too which is good as we couldn’t do it for both our rescues.
        We haven’t even started on sorting the tombola yet but have some lovely prizes, just hoping the weather fairs up.

        • marc says:

          If Marion is there could you ask about the kittens – I want to still go through with donating to get them all sorted and the mother cat too- no more threats of euthanasia..

          I’d love to take the little black and white cat if nobody else does but the question would be how.

          • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

            Hi Marc I don’t know if any progress has been made with that woman and those cats, but I’ve emailed Marion to point her to this page, we won’t see her until after tomorrow, hoping she needs a Securicor van to collect the funds we raise lol but we need some fine weather to help us bring people out!

            I think it would be difficult to arrange and traumatic for a cat too to come to Switzerland, she will be quite happy at Kays Hill meanwhile and surely someone will take her home one day soon.
            You are such a kind soul x

          • Marion says:

            still no progress on these despite us being out there numerous times we haven’t even seen a kitten, trouble is the woman leaves lots of food down all the time for them so they not coming at set times, we have asked her to only feed certain times to try and get them but its hard work with the people involved 🙁

            • Marc says:

              That’s so frustrating. It sounds like they are incredibly lazy and unmotivated – and they caused the problem to begin with. This is truly the worst of the worst. Too lazy to neuter, too lazy to clean up the mess afterwards even after asking somebody else to help them.

              They should be bloody well euthanised.

              I’ve got your facebook now Marion so please do keep in touch about this frustrating situation and tell me when you need the money of course. I’ll write you on facebook so you know who I am since I’m not ‘Marc’ on Facebook 🙂

    • Michael says:

      Ruth, I don’t know what happened to the semi-feral black cat. I couldn’t take him. Just, taking Charlie was a problem for my existing cat Binnie. And living in a flat in London, it would have been too much. Too dangerous. I think he was taken to a shelter. Once again it is sad.

      I thought about him. Still do.

      • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

        No you can’t take them all Michael, no matter how much you would like to.
        Babz and I always come away from Kays Hill cattery sad that we can’t bring some of the cats home with us but we have to be sensible, it wouldn’t be fair on our boyz or on any cats we brought here, with Walter hating other cats.

      • Marc says:

        But being England that would hopefull not mean immediate death sentence. So in this case, and due to the monster of a neighbour who would have poisoned the cat anyway, the shelter probably is actually a ‘shelter’ in this case.

        • Michael says:

          Good point. Shelters are not death sentences in England so there was a decent chance of finding a new home. I just couldn’t take him. There were lots of unknowns taking Charlie because of Binnie and she was old.

    • Michael says:

      What a strange story…

      Yes, I suppose so. It is quite a cold story. It is meant to be like that. If I lived in a house with a garden in a safe area I would have taken on both cats but where I live it is not really safe for any cats. That is the main problem. To have had three cats in a small flat in London would have been too much. I hope people understand that.

      • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

        I understand Michael, as well as our Walter’s bullying strange cats, we are in the same situation really being unable to take any more cats and the irony is that this place where we live is so ideal for cats.
        But would it stay like this if we had a lot of cats, not just Walt and Jo who don’t bother our neighbours?
        We have to be sensible and remember we live in a rented house and circumstances can change and the more cats we had the more difficult it would be to find somewhere else to take them.

  7. Barbara says:

    Thanks for telling us Charlie’s story Michael, I’ve often wondered what happened to his leg and the answer is we don’t know and never will so that makes him a mysterious cat because he can’t tell us either. He seems a character, I’m glad the voice told you to take him home because now you’re such close companions and you still have a connection to your mum. Did the other cat go to a shelter?

    • Marc says:

      Yes – what happened to the other cat?

      It must have been heartbreaking to see Charlie and the other cat there alone having lost their human companion. I am not suprised he was nervous. That is a very sad picture you know. If I disappeared I can’t imagine the looks on my cat’s faces when unknown or relatively unknown humans started coming in and dealing with things. I think they would all be sitting on my bed where I usually sleep feeling extremely anxious. I can’t bear the thought.

      It’s also shocking about the meighbour who poisoned one of the cats. I would have set fire to his house. Simple as that.

      It’s also extremely sad that the purebred cats seemed to have no character and were ‘boring’ in some way, only to be looked at. That’s a very heartbreaking indeed. I hope they were not suffering because of this distinction. I’d feel very sorry for one of these kinds of cats. Your poor mum losing so many cats – in particular having an evil neighbour. I would have had to move. I would also be incapable of not exacting revenge in such a circumstance. The only reason I wouldn’t poison him is because I wouldn’t want to go to jail. But if my cat’s life is fair game then so is his – I see that pretty clearly in my mind.

      Charlie must have been very scared on the ride – no more old human, new place – that must be very very hard indeed. As humans we don’t need somebody to give us food and keep us safe but as cats it’s different. it must be like it would be for children who lose their parents. They don’t know what is going to happen to them. Its probably easier for children though. Harder for cats – cats can’t speak to humans and vice versa – a very difficult experience. Glad you have Charlie. The shelter would have been brutal. I didn’t realize it was so recent Michael.

      • Michael says:

        It must have been heartbreaking to see Charlie and the other cat there alone having lost their human companion.

        That moment flicked a switch in my brain. I had to take him home. You know what I mean.

        It is a sad story because as you say, Marc, he was left alone. My mother was around a lot and all of a sudden, gone. It was like you say; no one in the house or strange people coming in. Not good for a cat.

        My mum was so anxious because of the loss of her cats. It was desperation. It was that bad. I agree in that I would have knocked on doors and found out who had poisoned my cat. There would have been hell to pay for that. But she just folded.

        Charlie likes routine like most cats and he gets very nervous when out of his routine. When he goes to the vet he defecates in the consulting room, bless him. I feel for him. He was terrified of the ride back to South London.

        The whole story is quite sad really. It is about people. My mother was a good, very good, cat caretaker but she wasn’t down to earth enough to be an excellent cat caretaker.

        I don’t think I am out of order in saying that. At her funeral my brother said (through a presenter/host) that she spent her life flying above all the usual problems that we all have. It is sad.

      • Michael says:

        I think the poisoning and death of this sweet Burmese cat was a major moment in my mother’s life. She wouldn’t have admitted it but I am sure it hurt her.

        • Marc says:

          Nonetheless its heartbreaking that her cat got poisoned. Are you sure that’s what happened? Did you call the RSPCA? Did you exact any kind of consequence to this neighbour? This is a tragedy – beyond words – if I may say so. I was just lying to have a little nap and cuddle with the cats and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The man didn’t like cat poop in his flower bed?

          I would have called the RSPCA as a minimum. Are you sure it was on purpose? Could it have been an accidental poisoning?

          Do you know which neighbour – have any suspicions?

          • Michael says:

            It could have been an accident. Being a bit cynical and as another cat had gone missing I think it was deliberate and by some neighbours behind and to the right of her house. I am guessing though. It is very easy to poison cats, sadly. Also at the time there was talk of cats being stolen. That may have accounted for the loss of the other cat.

            I think it was just about that: a man who did not like cat poop in his flower bed.

            As I recall, my mother did nothing about it other than eventually building the enclosure. I still have a picture in my mind of my mum sitting over her cat on her bed.

            I should have called the RSPCA but at that time I was less switched on regarding cats. This was quite a long time ago. I stated 20 years ago but it might have been 30. I forget.

            The big problem was that she became irrationally anxious, which messed up her life. She had to take mood enhancing drugs.

    • Michael says:

      We will never know what happened to the other cat. It is a long story. Behind these “cat stories” there is always a person.

      • Marc says:

        The other cat must have found another person to feed it? Perhaps it was a time share cat? But it sounds like it wouldn’t last in a place with a person who poisons. This person needs to be arrested – people will continue to have cats which will get poisoned otherwise.

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