Copyright 1997, Sarah Hartwell

The striking grey Persian appeared somewhat bemused by all the fuss outside his pen. Two couples were involved in a heated argument over ownership. This was actually quite odd because Solomon had been brought to us by a third party, who also claimed to be his owner, because she was emigrating and who had produced ample evidence of ownership. It looked like a classic case of a cat with multiple homes.

"Well we've been feeding him for almost 2 years now," stated Mr and Mrs Jones heatedly.

"No wonder he was putting on weight!" snorted Mr and Mrs Smith, "He was perfectly well fed at his real home - our home. And he's been with us for at least five years."

Considering that Solomon was only four years old this was a shot in the foot as far as I was concerned. However, if there was a chance of Solomon finding a good home with one of his 'co-owners', there was some merit in finding out whether either of the couples had any genuine claim to the cat.

"But he was hungry!" shouted Mr Jones.

"He was scrounging," rebuffed Mr Smith.

"That woman had no right to bring Percy in to the shelter," whinged Mrs Smith, "She kidnapped him, My brother's a solicitor ...... where did the bitch move to?"

"Australia," I murmured.

"Percy?" shrilled Mrs Jones, "You mean Portia, and you'll need a solicitor if you try to kidnap her again."

Mrs Jones was either naive about Solomon's gender or that was another shot in the foot. Percy-Portia-Solomon was indisputably a neutered male. So far both parties had scored own-goals.

"Uh-hmm," I interrupted, "When Doctor Squire brought the cat in, she also brought in several photos of him, and all of his cat-care items," I pointed out, (in fact Solomon's cat-care items were sufficient to fill one of our storage sheds) "Which does tend to suggest ...".

"Well anyone can take photos of any cat which visits them," Mrs Smith interrupted shrewishly, "How better to try to prove a cat is yours when it isn't.. I've got photos of Percy in his own home." She produced a tattered photo of an indistinct grey hairy object lounging on a Paisley-patterned sofa.

"That photo could be of any cat, you can't even see that it's a cat at all!" crowed Mrs Jones counter-producing a photo of an equally indistinct grey furry object, this time lying on a floral couch. I tried to decide which setting best suited Solomon's colouring.

I was far more impressed at the studio photo already provided by Doctor Squire to accompany Solomon's veterinary and vaccination record for when he went to stay at the cattery. Even more impressive was the small identification tattoo inside his elegant ear; in lieu of a collar so as not to tangle up his ruff. But then, alas-Smith-and-Jones would argue that anybody could get a cat tattooed.

While the two wives argued over who was the better photographer, their husbands were arguing over who had provided the better standard of living for Percy-Portia-Solomon though both had agreed that 'that other woman' had no right to take someone else's cat to the shelter.

"But he hates salmon," claimed Mr Smith.

"Huh!" snorted his opponent, "If you were the real owner of this cat you'd know that SHE loves the stuff. I'll prove it." and he produced a small piece of smoked salmon from a sandwich bag in his pocket. Having already eaten, Solomon disdained to do more than sniff the offering.

"See! I told you he doesn't like salmon!" Mr Smith said triumphantly.

The argument was growing tedious and tearful and it threatened to grow violent as well. Having judged the character of the claimants to my own satisfaction and decided that neither would be suitable adopters (in fact adopting out the cat to either party would probably lead to the argument ending up in court and I had no wish to be cross-examined as a witness in the case of the woman who fraudulently 'returned' Percy-Portia to the wrong household), I decided it was time to bring it to a swift conclusion.

"He ..." I began

"You mean 'she'" interrupted Mr Jones

"That's not a 'she', that's a 'he'" Mr Smith countered, "You can't be much of a cat owner if you can't tell what sex he is - look!" and he pointed to where Solomon had obligingly turned his back on all four of them and the square of salmon, and was displaying his assets, or rather his lack of them, "How do you think you tell what sex a cat is - look behind its ears or something?"

Mr and Mrs Jones went red with embarrassment.

"He has required rather extensive, not to mention expensive, vet treatment as a result of being hit by a car," I stated, "And he will need a great deal of follow-up treatment over the next few months - the pin in his leg for instance - and the results of his Feline Leukaemia tests were inconclusive so he'll need a repeat test in several weeks time. Of course, if he does prove positive he will need to be kept indoors for the rest of his life so he doesn't infect other cats; the prognosis isn't too bad, cats with Feline Leukaemia can live for two or three years given proper care, but many don't make it beyond a year ..."

"He's your cat!" chorused both couples.

"On closer inspection," said Mr Smith peering into the pen, "He looks similar to our cat, but his eyes are the wrong colour."

"Percy's eyes are certainly greener, this one is more of a yellow-green," his wife agreed, though how she could properly judge a cat's eye colour while staring at its backside was a mystery to me.

"It certainly looks a lot like Portia, but now that I come to think of it, Portia has a few white hairs under her chin," said Mrs Jones, "Doesn't she Desmond?"

"And Portia would never turn her nose up at salmon," her husband added.

"What's this about car accidents and Leukaemia?" asked Beryl after both couples had left muttering that the cat they'd been arguing over was not in fact Percy-Portia, but a different cat entirely, albeit one which very closely resembled Percy-Portia, "I thought he'd been brought in by the owner because she was emigrating."

"The wisdom of Solomon, dear Beryl," I explained, "Those people may have been visited by this cat from time to time, but all they really wanted was the status of owning a pedigree cat - and all for free. After all, no real owner, or co-owner for that matter, would have balked at veterinary costs or illness. I think the Persian Rescue Group should handle the rehoming of this cat - preferably to somewhere as far away from alas-Smith-and-Jones as geographically possible"

Solomon just flicked one pretty tattooed ear and proceeded to demolish the piece of salmon with gusto.

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