DSC_7929_stars.jpg Gwendoline is our cat. She lives with us in our flat in Haydngasse 7 in Graz. She is a real city cat – although she would also do pretty well in the countryside. She has proved that – climbing rooftops, catching mice, fighting rival cats. But she seems to prefer the city where she resides in the backyard, stretching out in the sunshine on the small piece of lawn, climbing up the apple trees. When she is hungry she leisurely ascends the stairs to the third floor, meowing in front of the door in order to be let inside. Then she makes straight for the kitchen to check her footplate, eats a bit (if there is dry food) or bolting her food (if there is salmon or chicken on the plate she particularly loves chicken), goes to the toilet and then either goes to have her after-lunch nap in one of the beds or on her fur chair before she demands to be let out again in order to go back to her backyard.
It is amazing to see how she has developed over the past 15 months. Her story is quite moving so I want to succinctly sketch it out here.
P7242055.JPG In the summer of 2005 I was still living with my brother Stefan in Gabersdorf 12. We had a lot of mice in the house, which caused a lot of damage and we couldn’t get rid of. So we decided to introduce a cat to the household in order to take care of the mice so that we didn’t have to catch them in those cruel traps or even worse poison them. Time passed and there was still no cat that we knew we could bring home. While on a holiday in Croatia, Sylvia and I talked a lot about the prospect of getting a cat. These deliberations were fuelled by a host of sweet little kittens that lived next to our flat. I even considered, half seriously, taking one of those kittens and bring it to Gabersdorf. On the evening of our return I had dropped Sylvia in Graz and gone back to Gabersdorf I got a call from Sylvia at about 10 p.m. “Chris, I have found a cat. Can she come to Gabersdorf and live there?” I was flabbergasted. Had one of the Croatian kittens hidden in Sylvia’s suitcase? But there was not much time to ask questions. Poor Gwendoline sat frightened to death in a IKEA box. Sylvia called Ulla to borrow her car and off they went towards Gabersdorf, where I finally got a full account of Gwendoline’s capture.
P7272058.JPG On her return from Croatia, Sylvia opened a window, which opens to a backyard in the centre of Graz, to let in some air. Unpacking her suitcase her attention was drawn to some outrageous, wretched, heart-renting wailing. She looked out of the window and identified the lamentations as a kittens seemingly crying for her mother. With her neighbour, she went to look for it in the neighbouring backyard, where they discoverd scared Gwendoline crouched into a corner. Gwendoline fought for her life when they tried to catch her, spitting and scratching violently. It was not easy to get hold of her she was fighting bravely. Finally they managed to isolate her in a corner, catch her without getting hurt and put her into the IKEA box.
That evening Gwendoline slept in our room in Gabersdorf in her box. First she wouldn’t move and didn’t make a sound. After a while, when all was dark and quiet in the room, we suddenly heard her stir and, to our relief, start to eat from the bowl of milk which we had provided.
PA304839.JPG The days that followed were difficult. Gwendoline was so scared; you couldn’t touch her without her freaking out. She tried to hide from everything. She felt miserable and seemed as if she wanted to disappear from the world at all. Judging from her horror, she must have had unbearable encounters with humans. Working in the same room where Gwendoline resided, she very slowly started to come out of her dark moods and corners, inspect the room, eat and, after some time, even play with her toys. I invested a lot of time in our relationship, re-igniting trust and a sense of security in her and after two weeks I was, finally, allowed to touch her and the she would even jump on my lap.
DSC_7932.jpg Now, Gwendoline, enjoying the attention of two humans, seems like a ‘normal’ cat again although, at times, she seems to consider herself more a lady than a cat. As a matter of fact she appears an elegant and sophisticated cat. Obviously there is an enduring and – for a cat – wise soul behind those big, brown eyes. However the traumata of her childhood still seem to lurk in the higher regions of her soul revealed to us, every now and then, in absent looks with eyes that seem to be staring at us in bewilderment. But such moments are becoming scarcer as time goes by and it is a great joy for Sylvia and me to be sharing our home with her. Thanks, Sylvia, for finding Gwendoline! I love you.