Muff Weirwift Branchwater
A pair of big blue eyes and a perky look, is what we saw when Richard and I went to a house in Kitsilano to look for a Seal Point kitten. The litter had several adorable kittens, but I wanted a female and I think Muff was the only female in the litter. She was not the most outgoing but certainly she had the lowliest eyes. Richard felt she was the one, so we took her and went back to our second floor apartment in Kitsilano, where she immediately went under the bed and stayed there for quite a while. This was a bit worrisome as our last cat had been bold and fearless and we were concerned that this one would be one of those nervous never seen cats that one frequently hears about. But eventually she emerged and explored her new domain. From then on she was quite a bit more outgoing but under the bed was to remain her favorite refuge. Something we should have remembered when she got lost about a year later.
It was about this time that we started having lovely holidays at Yellow point. We had a share in some acreage and as Richard and I enjoyed getting away from the city, we decided to build a cabin. Muff soon turned into a really excellent hunter of mice. We seemed to attract the mice to our rather rustic cabin and Muff got rid of them. This was what she was good at. Back in Vancouver she was an indoor cat, as our area of Kitsilano was rather densely populated and also she could not get back into our apartment easily. It seemed to be the ideal arrangement. On weekends and summer vacations she was the terror of the rodent population and the rest of the time a sweet apartment dweller.
We had a back verandah in our apartment,which was close to the apartment block alongside of us. One day a very large tabby cat, obviously a Tom waltzed in the door from the verandah. I was alarmed that he would be nasty to Muff but wanted to give him a bit of comfort,for he seemed a real vagabond with that tatty well beaten up look of the Tom cat. He did not bother Muff at all after the usual getting to know you ceremonies cats go through. He then partook of a raw beaten up egg and had a good sleep and left the way he had come. Muff took it in her stride. For about a year we were visited by this cat, which we called Growltigger. The jump from one building to another was impressive. We thought at first Muff might try to emulate him but she did not.
Muff was named Muff because of her habit of snuggling around the neck. She had also extra names. Her full name was Muff Wheirwift Branchwater. We had read those amusing cat poems by T.S. Eliot and were much taken by the importance of the naming of cats. In fact the first poem in the book called "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." is the one called "The Naming of Cats.
It starts like this.
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter, It isn't just one of your holiday games: You may think at first I'm as mad a s a hatter when I tell you , a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
It is a delightful poem and if as a cat lover you have never read this little book , I do recommend it. I think the Musical "Cats". was inspired by these poems.
So Muff was named properly and with dignity. I don't think we adhered to this with the other companions as Muff is the only one with three names. For s short time Muff had another name. One summer in the cabin, our son Misha, who barely was able to talk, called her 'Gark Swamich' -probably meaning 'Dark Sandwich' as Muff had such a dark face.
Muff was lost for an entire two weeks once. I now realize we were lucky to get her back. Most cats that disappear rarely return. It went like this.
Richard and I gave a party. It was just about the end of June and we were looking forward to going to Yellow point where our property was, within a few days. I worked out at U.B.C. and I had three weeks holiday to look forward to. We had not yet built the cabin but we were thinking of it. That night Muff, to escape the noise went out of a window and onto the roof. From there she found another open window leading into the little apartment above us. We did not know this at the time, but she was in that apartment when the tenant came home and he let her out of his door. She went down the stairs and then got out onto the street. It wasn't until the last guest had gone that we discovered that she was gone. We searched the apartment high and low. And after a sleepless night we checked with our neighbor above us, and he told us he had let a cat out of the door "Oh why didn't you tell us." we cried. She doesn't go out and now who knows what has happened to her. We immediately started searching the area. Put up notices, but no one seemed to have seen her. After a few days the time of the holiday came and went. We reluctantly left to go to Nanaimo, leaving a very nice young girl who lived two doors down to look out for her. Our hearts were heavy, grief was never far away. Muff at this time was very young. Just about a year old. We felt she had been stolen or really scared away from the area by other cats. We had only been gone a few days when we heard with joy, that Lundy had Muff in her safe keeping. Joyfully we leapt into our little car and dashed to the ferry and raced back to Vancouver. When I saw Muff sitting on Lundy's lap my first comment was that she looked so clean. Muff still was very cream coloured with no dusky shading on her back that comes with maturity. It seemed she was at least one shade lighter and also very, very thin.
It seems that Muffs safe return was due to Lundy continuing to ask around the area and keep an ear out. One day she was talking to the lady who lived right next to our place. This lady said she was most mystified by the strange sounds coming out from under her house. She and Lundy went and looked and Lundy could see a pair of glowing eyes way back under the house. She immediately knew this was our little Muff and somehow persuaded her to come out. She triumphantly went to her house and phoned us. It seems probable she had been there all the time. We can't believe she lasted so long without food, but I guess there were insects and who knows she may have done her first mouse hunting at this time.
So we were joyfully reunited with Muff, and Lundy got the reward that we had promised, and we went back to Nanaimo to continue our holiday together. She did disappear one more time when staying on at my sisters in Nanaimo but we got her back the same day. All my cat companions have caused us worry in their younger years, but that particular time was very bad and I remember the feeling of joy when we heard she had been found. It was sort of like Christmas morning or some such thing.
Muff had a rather naughty habit of shredding fur garments. Once we were aware of this we were careful to put guests furs well out of her way. We are talking about a time when people wore fur coats that they had usually acquired at the Thrift shop. This was quite a popular way of getting fun things to wear and one did not feel guilty wearing old furs. I was horrified to find Muff joyfully shredding the fur collar of a guests coat one day. I carefully brushed it and hid the bald patch and did not have to admit to Muff doing the dirty deed.
Cats being the playful creatures they are, find all kinds of things to get into. In those days I was into making my clothes. Muff just loved to tunnel under the tissue pattern pieces lying on the floor. I also did a bit of crochet and this was great fun as she would attack the ball of wool and get it quite tangled up.
We eventually had Misha our first child and this precipitated a move to an entire house down the street. This house was owned by Lundy's father who had moved to Toronto. Lundy wanted to stay in Vancouver and finish high school, so we rented the house and had Lundy with us. She like me was a cat lover and of course we still felt grateful for her help in returning Muff to us. We still kept Muff in as the neighborhood was the same. We put Muff out on the lawn on a leash but that was fraught with problems. She got all wound up around the Camellia tree and nearly got strangled. We continued to go to the Cabin at Yellow point and she got to have good times there. We took on a friends German Shepherd dog for an entire summer once and I have memories of these two animals anxiously sitting on the seat of the truck waiting for the ferry to Nanaimo. Goldstein and Muff got on quite well. Muff would give him the odd whack across the nose if he misbehaved. She was quite good with the nose whack and showed no timidity when displeased. She had a habit of sitting on a guests lap and eventually, when the person got annoying with too much fidgeting and petting she would give them a swipe. I learned to anticipate this, and would alarm people by swooping down on them a grabbing Muff off their laps just in time. They , being totally unaware of what was about to transpire were a bit surprised, but grateful after I had explained that I had saved them from a nasty scratch. In a way , it was good that she was assertive as she had to adapt to living with two children and later other cats. Children are very persistent in their attempts to play with cats and the cat will get over cuddled and run away. Muff would just give a well placed swipe on the hand and soon they learned to treat her with more respect. When Dana was a little baby , Muff in her quest for warmth and comfort would sleep in the cot with the baby. One day I heard shrieks and cries of an alarming nature and ran into the bedroom where Dana was sleeping. I saw with horror that Dana had blood on his face and in an eye. After close inspection I detected a scratch just under his left lower eyelid. Probably Dana clutched her fur and did not let go, and she placed this scratch in such a place to cause no harm but of course it hurt and scared Dana and he let go. I think Muff was about 6 years old when we started the family and she had been used to being the only one for a while. But she adjusted to the changes. These being things like extra noise. A roaring child caused her great distress and she would join in with the Siamese wailing until all settled down. I must say the memory of those rather hectic days cause me to enjoy the peaceful life we now lead. But that is life in the family. Noise, chaos and mayhem. When Dana was still a toddler we acquired Junior and the boys found him much more amenable to being played with and Muff got to have a more peaceful life.
We moved to a house in Burnaby eventually and then she was allowed to be a regular indoor and outdoor cat. We put in a cat door and she enjoyed that neighborhood very much. Both she and Junior established the territory in quick order. There was a patrolling Tom cat around this place but he did not seem to cause any problems.
Then Shadow joined the family and she took to him quite well. She did not give him the intensive grooming that she gave Junior. Probably because Junior was quite a youngster when we got him, but Shadow was an adolescent and not used to being coddled. The household was quite balanced with Muff the Matriarch keeping all in order. She became a very quiet old lady and of all my cats the most cuddly. She loved to sit on my lap and would do so all day if she could get away with it. She would lick you very well, hoping that this would keep you in one place and her on you. Muff lived to the ripe old age of 16 which is pretty good. Muff was my second cat and my memories are all intertwined with my early years in Canada and my young family. One of my favorite memories is of me wheeling the stroller down the road to the beach at Yellow point, with Muff trotting beside me in the lovely full hot sun of a perfect summer day.