Blog 6: Travels With The Crazy Cat Lady- Portugal                                                          

                                                                      Junebug Jorgensen

Part 1: The Adventures of Bobo in the Lady of the Green

      Bo Didley or Bobo for short, was a very brave boy that hot summer in 2022.  He probably used up more than one of his nine lives, most likely two!

     His journey began one June day high above the coastline in Algarve, Southern Portugal.

     His human mother put the handsome orange and yellow striped three years old feline, twenty- one in cat years, along with Bella, his adopted tiger sister, into two cat carriers, and took them for the first time to Senhora do Verde (Lady of the Green), a village between Portimao and Monchique.

     On the ride there, his green eyes never wandered from the carrier window, mesmerized by the green agricultural land that zipped past the car window. Eventually, they pulled into a long driveway with several houses scattered on each side. Loud boisterous barking filled the afternoon air. Stopping at the entrance, a gang of dogs ran up to the fenced enclosure and almost ripped it down trying to get at the car. A lady in a green vest ran out the house and shouted at them, “Be Quiet!” chasing them back into the enclosure.

      “They won’t hurt you. Follow me,” said Ana, a middle-aged Portuguese woman.

     “Now don’t worry you two, I’ll be back before you know it,” said June, placing them on a cement floor in a large encloser with wooden walls that seemed to stretch forever with large streaked windows. Eyes, hidden by the dark shadows, watching every movement. Low growls echoed in every corner, and a pungent and sour odour filled the dusty air.

      Bella let out a deep growl and cowered in her carrier. Bobo lay calmly in his and with his soft, feminine-like face, surveying the enclosure through his window on the side, wondering why they were in this strange place, and what was on the menu for lunch.

     “Its OK Bella, they wont hurt you,” said June, rubbing the tigers ears with two fingers through the mesh door.

    “They’ll be alright, don’t worry,” reassured Ana, muffling a yawn,

  taking it all in with crinkled dark eyes and a lazy disposition.

     Deep murmurs and sharp meows could be heard throughout, mixed with scurrying and scratching.

     “How many cats do you have here?

    “Oh, about twenty-four, not really sure,” replied Ana, shooing a big grey cat off the carrier.

   “The rooms seem to go on and on, wow, what a huge encloser this is!”

   “I added two more large rooms this spring. Everyone is dropping off kittens, senior cats, injured ones, cats nobody wants, oh boy, I can hardly keep up,” said the tired looking woman with salt and pepper braided hair.

    “You do so much for these animals, it’s amazing how hard you work.”

    “I was up six o’clock this morning taking cats to the vet to be sterilized. Then I go and catch two injured cats in Portimao and take there also. My back is killing me. You want to let your cats out?”

     “Are you sure the other cats won’t hurt them?”

     “No, they fine, no problem.”

    “And they can’t get out?”

    “No, I put new wire up and fix all the holes where cats try to get out. It’s all OK now.”

    “Well, here goes then.”

     As soon as the carrier door was open, Bella darted out and disappeared into the next room, followed by a black and white cat in hot pursuit. Growls and hisses could be heard in the distant, then silence, followed by more growls.

     Bobo stuck his head out of the carrier, his eyes bulging and shiny, waiting for a pack of cats to pounce on him. None did. He eyed an old grey tomcat with a mangled ear sizing him up at a safe distance.  In slow motion he stepped out, surveying every crack and corner. Suddenly a soft meow broke the silence. A slender yellow cat walked up and winked at him, and he calmly followed her to the food bowl and together they shared some biscuits. It was only a flirtatious gesture as his manly tools disappeared long ago, along with his urges, but he still enjoyed the chase.

     “There they go. I hope they both adjust to being here for a few weeks. It’s always been just the three of us.  I’ll message you when I’m in Canada, probably the day after tomorrow.”

     “Have a good trip,” sighed Ana, watching the expat leave and closing the door, glad she could now clean the litter boxes in peace. She still had to pick up her granddaughter from school who was staying the weekend, and cook supper.

     They’ll adjust to being here, she thought, watching the two new members of the pack slowly feel their way around the compound. They have to. I wanted to put them both in my office to get them used to a different environment and all the other cats here, but we decided this was better for them. Ana looked around at the numerous rooms she had built over the years for the many cats she had rescued or taken care of. Born not far from here in the little village, her grandparents used to own the land and houses her and the cats live in. They harvested vegetables year round and sold them at the market in Portimao on Saturday’s. Their oranges, apple and lemon trees brought in a nice income too from their little fruit stand on the road to Monchique. And sheep and cattle kept meat on the table and milk and cheese in the cellar.

     Stretching her mouth into a huge yawn that brought tears to her eyes, Ana went about her chores, keeping an eye on the two new arrivals. Belle was now cowering in a corner, surrounded by three large cats who tried to sniff her. They were only curious and territorial towards her, but Bella, being a rescue cat, had learned to fend for herself before she found a human home, and old habits were hard to die. She hissed loudly and swatted the nearest male cat, who immediately retaliated.

     ‘Bare, leave her alone!’ shouted Ana, waving her arm at the big, gray cat.

     She looked around for Bobo, who was crouched on a pillow watching with curiosity the whole scenario unfold. He searched with sad eyes for his human mom, realizing that she had left, hoping she would come back soon. He knew his birth mother only for a short time before he was taken from her as a very ill little kitten. You see, he had the kitten virus, which was common for a young, feral cat. His green eyes had closed shut with infection and his nose was plugged up so badly, and his lungs so infected, that he could hardly breathe. His new mom nursed him back to health, and they developed a special bond and unwavering love. Now a healthy young boy, he was about to experience for the first time being separated from her.

     “I’ll see you in three weeks,” said June, giving each an extra pat on the head, “Will miss you,” she said softly and closed the door.

      Over the next few days, the two newcomers came to terms with their new surroundings, as cats do. They had little choice but to accept their fate.

     Every morning they waited patiently with the others for the sound of the wooden door to open, and the lady with the soft, tired eyes to bring them their breakfast. They learned to wait their turn and not upset the  residents who had been there long before them. It was an uneasy arrangement amongst the feline group, one that was sure to bring trouble.

     One morning, ten days later, all hell broke loose. It began the same as any other day in the large enclosure, except on this particular morning, a feeling of heightened restlessness was felt amongst its furry residents. Ana opened the main door, and making sure there wasn’t a cat hiding behind, quickly closed it shut. But this particular morning, the door jammed against a feeding bowl, and was left slightly a jar. She went about her chores, filling the bowls with biscuits and water and cleaning the litter boxes. Suddenly, a huge cat fight broke out between Bella and Luna, a large female cat. With fur and bowls flying, the scene was one of pure mayhem. “Stop it, you two!” she shouted, lunging towards Luna and grabbing her by the collar. At the same time a male cat named Ralf made a b-line towards Bobo and a scuffle broke out between Luna, Rolf and Bobo. When the fur and dust had settled, Ana saw three furry figures slip through the partially open door. Bobo was one of them.

     “Bobo come back,” she yelled futilely, watching his orange and yellow tail disappear into the tall grass behind the enclosure.

     Slamming the door shut, she darted outside in the bright sunlight and frantically scanned the countryside that stretched as far as the eye could see. Houses dotted the green and brown fields, and horses and cattle could be seen grazing.

     “Bobo!” she shouted, knowing the other two would eventually come home. Knowing the temperatures could reach over 30, and with the low water levels in the ponds, plus the scarcity of houses in the area, she knew an animal could easily die from starvation or dehydration out here. Especially one that was a stranger to the area.

     She brought Bella into her office, grabbed some cat food, water and her car keys, and headed outside, anticipating a long afternoon.

     Ana walked the fields looking for the ginger-striped cat, but with no luck. She asked the neighbors, checked the vets and nearest animal canil or pound, and generally got the word out. Towards nightfall, as the sun set over the Serra De Monchique mountains, and cast a red and yellow shadow on Foia, the highest peak in the Algarve, she secretly hoped he would come back on his own.

      ‘Should I tell her?

     Maybe I can find him before she returns.

     I’ll see what tomorrow brings.’


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