I miss my cats. I used to hate cats and then I found a stray by the road in 1986 and took him home, then he charmed another into the house in 1987 and now they are attached to me, hip and thigh. I don't think of myself as a cat person; I am a dog person first and always. As my kids would say, "Yeah, Mom."
Here in Jerusalem cats are everywhere and they're all strays. Wild cats, feral and mean. They live in hedges and garbage cans and back alleys. When we moved into this building, I saw lots hanging around the garden - at least eight cats and three or four kittens. One day I discovered the dirty secret of my neighbour across the hall, Judy. I caught her Feeding the Cats. She was shaking a big bag of dry cat food into small bowls lining the side of the building where no one goes - it's where they store the gas canisters for the stoves and dryers in the flats. Judy even has bottles of water hidden under there and pours out bowls for the cats.
"Everyone hates me doing this," she admits. "But a friend helps me. We took all the cats to get spayed and the black cat had a terrible infection in her eye so the vet had to remove it. Now we call her Winky." Feeding time every day is 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Judy doesn't like to feed just any old cat - only the ones she had fixed and has cared for. There are five in all. She shoos away interlopers and kittens but all they do is wait in the weeds and amble back when the Big Five are done to finish off the bowls. Judy is generous so there is plenty for all.
The cats have figured out I am another soft touch. I have discovered they like weiners, cheese, chicken livers, milk. Anything I toss down from the window is a thrill and they hunt madly for stuff that lands in the shrubs. Someone should tell my cats at home who won't touch anything except rare steak and Trout Feast.
I bought $40 worth of cat treats at the pet store (grocery stores, see below, don't sell animal food) so they emerge from under the bushes and trees to see what I have every time I come downstairs. Like Judy I try not to let the neighbours catch me when I bring down some food.
The kittens are now the most aggressive. This morning when I dumped a bag of trash in the building's garbage bin I nearly brained three of them but they scrambled out with no hard feelings., knowing I had some salmon treats in my pocket. A few days ago when we went to some friends for afternoon tea I told them about the cats. "Everyone feeds cats," they said. "But they never admit it."