Introducing Molly Harper, aka Molly Mau, Mauser, Mauser Mau, Blackie, Micropanther, Pard, Pantheress and Tall Moll. She was born in London in the autumn of 1991 (we didn't know the exact date so we always celebrated an 'official birthday' on Halloween) and went home with her first adoptive family when she was still a tiny kitten. It was in her formative years that she made quite a reputation for herself as an expert fishercat. Fish would disappear from neighbouring garden ponds and then reappear as if by magic on the duvet in the bedroom. Apparently goldfish leave quite a nasty stain! After five years of living south of the Thames, her family made plans to move to the United States and that's when she entered our lives. On the evening of 21 January 1997 we picked up Molly and her step-sister Dinah from a farmhouse near Ely and transported the two howling beasts back to our new home in Cambridgeshire. They spent the next two weeks prowling around the house and the two weeks after that exploring the rear garden (under close supervision, of course). Molly and her sister made our home theirs for the rest of their long lives.
Actually, we weren't originally supposed to come home with two cats. David really fancied having a tabby so Dinah was spoken for well in advance. But when we were making the final arrangements to pick her up after Christmas, we asked about the fate of the little black cat. Sadly, Molly still didn't have a new home to go to so we immediately said we would take her too. We figured their lives were being disrupted enough without being split up as well. We affectionately referred to our little pard as our 'emergency back-up cat' but she was never second-best in our hearts.
She was a quiet little thing at first, never demanding attention or fuss, nor making much noise but for some reason, she suddenly decided she needed more. Every Christmas she and her sister stayed at home whilst we were away, lovingly cared for by their best friends next door, but when we returned from one such holiday, Molly demanded much more attention from us, no doubt spoiled rotten by all the fuss she'd received in our absence! In her later years, she was quite fearless and inquisitive, and insisted on meeting any visitors to the house.
Fun and games should be a part of every cat's life and Molly always enjoyed a brisk game of 'ping pong ball' in the living room. Roll the ball towards her and she would bat it back. She had an uncanny ability to swat it under the sofa. Paper bags were fascinating too, particularly when there were strange scratching sounds emanating from them. She never dived headfirst into them, preferring to walk around behind them to investigate the source of the noise. Leather shoelaces, cardboard wrapping paper rolls and catnip sacks also provided hours of entertainment.
Her territory was the front garden and beyond. She loved to explore and open doors, whether belonging to the neighbour's house or the local handyman's white van, were a particular temptation. We had to keep a close eye on her if she was out front and a delivery van turned up on the street! She wandered far and wide, and would try to follow us as we walked to the shops so we either had to put her inside or make a run for it.
She liked to stay out late at night - it must be a black cat thing - and we took to clinking the food dishes together to try to entice her back inside. Of course, a treat had to be forthcoming for the trick to work a second time. This worked pretty well until she lost her hearing in the last few years of her life. She often sat or slept in the conifer bed out front. It was a perfect place to watch but not be seen. You could hear her coming through the vegetation before you actually saw her. Rustle, rustle, pard!
One bitterly cold winter evening she demanded egress and then we had to scour the neighbourhood looking for her when she didn't come back inside. As it turned out, she had come back inside. Apparently she had slipped past us unnoticed as we opened to door to call her in. Whilst we were outside looking for her, half frozen to death and increasingly hysterical, our stealth puss was snuggled under her favourite blue fuzzy (an old dressing gown) on the bed, warm and happy.
After she lost her hearing, we preferred her to explore the rear garden, away from the road. For a London-born cat, she wasn't terribly street-smart. There were plenty of shrubs to hide in and she liked to sleep between the stalks of sweetcorn growing in the vegetable patch. We called her our 'corn pard'. At Easter-time in 2005, we purchased a large terracotta pot in the shape of a cat. Molly stopped in her tracks the first time she saw it on the patio but soon overcame her wariness and crawled all over it. She liked it even better once the catnip was planted in it. The cat pot was to prove a huge hit with all of the Bar Hill Gang.
Even when we put her out the back, she didn't stay confined for long. The double ranch-style fence was simple to climb and afforded her easy access to the sunny roof of the neighbour's garden shed. The ladder-like fence also provided her with an innovative method for getting back down to ground level without jumping.
One windy day, a black door mat appeared on our patio. We put a rock on it to keep it from blowing off and enquired at the houses upwind of us but no one claimed the mat. This is just as well since in the meantime, Molly claimed it for her own. We put it on the patio, next to the back step and she would often curl up there on a sunny day, soaking up a few photons.
Although Molly and Dinah spent nearly their entire lives together, they weren't really into togetherness. However, Molly had one game that she really liked to play and that was called 'follow my sister'. She would follow Dinah around the garden, getting closer and closer, until she would pounce her sister from behind. There would briefly be a rolling, yowling cat ball and then the two would split apart, Dinah looking annoyed and Molly looking smug. And then it would happen all over again. Once in awhile Dinah would turn the tables and follow Molly around but it was usually the black cat in stalking mode.
Molly got a bit of her own medicine though when Max, a very large black cat with a very soft miaow, moved into the neighbourhood. He was fascinated with the matronly Mau and liked to follow her around when she was in the front garden. She didn't care for his attentions and probably wouldn't have been amused by us referring to him as her 'boyfriend'. The arrival of Max in the neighbourhood also caused a bit of black cat confusion. One day Max's boy and a young friend were playing with their radio-controlled cars in the cul-de-sac out front. Molly thought that this was fascinating and went to investigate. "Is this your cat?" the friend asked. Max's boy answered in the negative (he knew his own cat) but the question would be posed again and again by others over the years.
Window ledges seemed to be Mauser's natural habitat. The living room window was perfect for catching the early morning sun and she was often sitting there in the evening, patiently waiting for our return home. Was it good timing or did she recognise the sound of the car? Either way, a big fat miaow greeted us after an absence. She also liked to jump into the bathroom window although because it was obscured, she couldn't see anything clearly through it. The back bedroom window was the perfect spot for afternoon sunbathing and for watching the birds that nested in the eaves of the roof.
Molly also went through a phase of sitting on the stereo speakers. They were just the right size for a pard to perch on. To this day there are faint paw prints showing in the woodwork, a reminder that cats sometimes have muddy paws.
Her favourite indoor sleeping spots changed over the years. The cat basket in front of the living room radiator? The blue fuzzy on the bed? On the window ledge? Under the computer desk (and directly above the boiler)? In front of the bathroom radiator? On the sofa? Inside the wardrobe? Under the bed? Molly and her sister took turns deciding which place was the best place to sleep, sometimes sharing, usually not.
As she aged, she craved more attention and would crowd onto the sofa when her people were sitting there, stomping all over them, shoving her head in the crook of an elbow or an armpit, emitting chirpy nose purrs the whole time. She always insisted on standing with her front legs higher than her back legs, hence the nickname 'Tall Moll'.
She also earned the sobriquet 'licker kitten' after her habit of licking people, particularly her momcat. She also occasionally gave her sister a lick or two on the head which Dinah seemed to enjoy.
Molly was a big fan of the soap and cosmetics firm Lush. At least, she was a big fan of their newspapers. They were heavily perfumed from sitting in the shop and Molly loved to roll on them whenever her momcat brought home a new one.
A notorious table scrapper, Molly was game to try anything, including such exotic delights as broccoli and peas. She and her sister perpetrated the 'Chicken Incident' when Dinah provided a quick diversion whilst Molly snagged a piece of chicken off her momcat's plate. (In momcat's defense, she was a bit of a zombie due to medical treatment at the time.) She had a remarkably extensible neck and could reach a long ways if there was something worthwhile on a plate.
Black cats turn silvery in their old age. At least Molly Mau did. She always had a few solitary white hairs here and there, including several in a 'locket' on her chest, but as she got older she became distinctly frosty on her left shoulder. She also accumulated lots of little white hairs on her forelegs, chest and face. It made her look very distinguished. Her tail was quite slender and not nearly as expressive as her sister's curving tail. We always referred to it as Molly's 'stiff little tail'.
Molly's health declined in her later years. She lost her hearing and her newly silent world baffled her for awhile but she eventually adjusted to it. She began limping and having difficulty jumping up on the sofa and bed. The diagnosis was arthritis and she had a drop or two of Metacam daily for the last two years of her life. It gave her back much of her pain-free agility and had the added benefit of being quite tasty too! Shortly after that, a blood test revealed an overactive thyroid, a common problem for senior cats. Daily pills kept that well under control although it took some experimentation before we figured out the best pill delivery system! (Answer: Hide the pill in cheese or chicken or a bit of whatever you're having for dinner. She had already had most of her teeth removed so there was little danger of her crunching down on the tablet.) Recurrent ideopathic cystitis afflicted her from time to time but she always battled back after a course of antibiotics.
The end came suddenly and unexpectedly on 10 September 2011, when, after a normal start to the morning, she suddenly couldn't stand or walk. An emergency trip to our excellent vet followed (the Robin Hughes-Parry practice, later Village Vet, in Longstanton) but nothing could be done and she was put to sleep an hour after falling ill. We were with her at the end and the last thing she saw was us.
Her ashes are buried with those of her sister in the garden where they spent so many happy hours.