Fifteen years ago, or thereabouts, I worked at an engineering factory on the outskirts of town. The factory maintained a pair of factory cats; both neutered but neither dignified with a name. Between them, the cats controlled the rats and mice which caused problems in the factory and which ate the grease lubricating the heavy machinery.
In those days, the factory was at the edge of town, close to a river and fields whence the rats came. The cats shared the area with foxes and for the most part it was an amicable arrangement. The foxes preyed on rabbits; the cats preyed on rats and their paths rarely crossed although sometimes one of the foxes was to be found foraging behind the factory canteen.
Each morning, the factory cats laid out their night's kills on the boiler room step where they were accustomed to receiving milk and leftovers. They were not often given cat food in case they became lazy, although the factory staff made sure that the cats received scraps to supplement their diet. The cats sat on the step looking very pleased with themselves and waited for breakfast to be served before they slunk off to the boiler room for the day.
One particular morning, the biggest and most belligerent factory cat was not at his post and the tally of rats was somewhat less than normal. At first, the workers joked about the normally pugnacious cat becoming too well-fed to hunt, although they soon began to worry that he had somehow become caught in machinery. The factory would probably have come to a standstill had someone not spotted the rather bedraggled cat lying on some sacking by the loading bay.
On closer inspection, the cat was found to have lost part of one ear, the last two thirds of its tail were hanging by a thread and one of its forepaws was split in two. What appeared to be sacking turned out to be a dead, and somewhat mauled, fox. Evidently the pugnacious cat had finally taken exception to finding the fox on its territory and had decided to sort out the vulpine intruder for once and for all. All evidence pointed to the cat having fought the fox by the canteen bins and, despite its own injuries, it had attempted to drag the fox's body towards the usual feeding post to be counted among the night's tally.
No-one doubted that the factory cat had started the fray as few foxes would risk being blinded by the claws of an angry cat. It appeared that the cat had jumped onto the fox and clung to its back and head. The fox's side was badly scored by the cat's raking claws and it had probably tried hard to escape from the determined feline.
The cat needed its forepaw and face stitched and most of its tail had to be amputated. It was not a cat to be mollycoddled, however, and quickly returned to active duty having finally acquired for itself a name - Stumpy, because of its truncated tail.
Stumpy died after several more years of devotion to duty, but never repeated this feat, and the factory went the way of much of the British engineering industry some years after that.
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