After my puff piece on my Bella, in the interest of fairness, I should tell you a little about our other cat, Indi.
A little over seven years ago, after a relaxing weekend away in Daylesford, my boy and I stopped by a little 1970s blonde brick home in Broadmeadows (or what we affectionately refer to as Broady). Its garden was overgrown, the lawn was long and weedy, and there were broken bikes, scrap metal and hotted-up cars (probably Commodores) out the front. Now, Broadmeadows is not known for its gentry or curbside appeal, but more for its gang-related drug trade and occasional drive-by shootings and stabbings. (Or so the news tells us.)
My boy and I hadn’t decided to take up any illicit activities, but were there to take home a nine-week-old tortoiseshell kitten that one of my colleagues had told me about. The runt of the litter, we’d fallen for her feisty charms when she was just one-week-old, when she’d protested at us picking her up by pawing at us and trying to release a huge, open-jawed yowl that had only yielded a very, very, very faint squeak. We called her Indiana, after Indiana Jones, the great adventurer (and his family dog).
In the car on the way home, Indi clawed up my chest and stared out of the windows at the cars we passed, much to the amusement of the other drivers. At our little unit in Hawthorn, it wasn’t long before she disappeared. We found her fast asleep in her basket – she clearly already felt right at home.
Indi, somewhat like a dog (but more aloof), comes when my boy whistles. When she was little, she’d chase and carry foil balls around, playing soccer with them up and down our hallway. Sometimes we still find them under the couch and behind the TV cabinet.
Indi also thinks she’s our equal (but is more aloof). She’ll eat ice cream from a cone, takes up half the bed, and once I even saw her stand on her hind legs and, holding a twig of cat thyme in her front paws, walk across our courtyard. She (not I) was totally high on the stuff.
Indi is charming and friendly. When she chooses to be. In Hawthorn, she quickly made friends with our neighbours and their huge, grey fluffy cat, Winston. Each morning, Indi would run across our courtyard, jump the fence and bang on their back door until they let her in to see Winston (until then, an indoor-only cat). She would eat his gourmet food, race up and down their hall, then ask for them to both go out. She kept him out all hours, play fighting in our courtyard, chasing mice in the vacant lot behind our unit, and wandering along the rooftops, following birds and possums. She also introduced Winston to cat thyme, and the two of them would lie in the sun, staring at each other for hours, high as kites. It was a little like being back at uni, watching the stoners.
Here in our new home, she befriended a very old tabby, KC, who lived two doors down. He’d call her with the most agonizing, painful and extremely loud yowl, and she’d meet him in our neighbours’ garden, where they’d loll about in the long grass, watching the pigeons and parrots in the gum trees.
What Indi lacks in weight and size, she makes up for in spirit and courage. In Hawthorn, she fiercely battled the ginger cat who lived near us, unperturbed by the fact he was about four times her size. When my boy ended their first tussle with a quick squirt of the hose, she ran inside with the ginger’s claw sticking out of her head. Here, she patrols our garden each morning she goes out, doing a lap of the fence line before settling down in the sun for a nap or chasing geckos and mice. At night, she patrols our home, going from window to window to make sure it's all in order. And when the cats from across the street have the gall to sneak across her deck under the cloak of night, she fights them through the glass to let them know who's boss.
However, this courage doesn’t extend to birds, of which she has a particularly unfeline-like fear. We can usually pinpoint her location in the garden based on avarian activity. Birds gang up on her, squawking loudly and chasing her across the garden and in through the back door. She looks at us with confused embarrassment, as she slinks through the kitchen and downstairs to her domain.
Nowhere near as openly affectionate or needy as Bella, Indi shows us she cares in her own way. Usually by sitting quietly beside my boy of an evening, back to him, letting him pat her. And while she’s clearly ‘his’ cat, if he’s away, she’ll sometimes show me the same courtesy.
An only child for several years, it took 10 months and Indi’s first head cold before she accepted Bella, who showed Indi such care and concern when she was sick that Indi couldn’t help but warm to her. Now they kiss and smooch and sniff each other with what seems to be genuine affection.
And as for Little Red? Well, Indi is curious and has sniffed her once or twice too, but we’re still waiting for the day she doesn’t flee when Little Red approaches her with a hearty “Hello”, arms flailing above her head in a wave.
Indi is not quite as feisty or adventurous as she once was (although her independence remains intact). In truth, she’s become a little quiet and nervy (I think it’s a tortoiseshell quirk, or perhaps it's just old age). She spends a lot of time indoors asleep these days, although she still demands to go out every day and will disappear for hours. She tires of the red dot game quickly, but sometimes I hear her secretly hitting one of Little Red’s balls around the dining room floor and I'm reminded of the tiny, wild ball of multicoloured fluff that we adopted seven years ago.
I don't know where the time goes. It doesn’t seem so long ago that we were driving to Broady to collect the runt of the litter, and laughing at her trying to jump up on the couch or from the couch to the coffee table when we got her home. The seven years since then have flown by, with so many changes (mostly good). And in that time, that runt has become ingrained within our family – naturally at the head of it.