Cats of Cádiz

Courtesy of Pete/Flickr (CC BY 2.0).


Cats own the breakwater rocks of Cádiz. This has been decreed – or has grown up as a consequence of cats deciding it and congregating there: Cats own the breakwater rocks of Cádiz. Cats gather, and share with the herring gulls the rocks. Women come and feed them, on a rota. No one appears to own the cats, but the cats own the rocks and the women come and feed the cats, on a rota. Do the cats own the women also, as well as the rocks? They share the rocks with gulls but the women come only for them: when women in their cat-club bodywarmers shin over the wall the gulls maintain a distance. Cats purr while the women shovel litter, replenish water. Cats own the breakwater women of Cádiz.

Who decreed it? That cats own the women, the bodywarmered women. They are fine big cats, not by any means your standard Mediterranean scrap of skin, at five weeks old having to learn its trade at restaurant tables. These are mini lionesses – tawny-fawny, fine-skinned and beautiful. They stride about, leggily silken, while the women scoop, into their dishes, food; they compass rocky gaps with ease. They will even leap out onto the solitary spurs, the promontories of Caspar Friedrich, sea creaming the base, to converse with the herring gulls regarding their communal futures. They are big, bold; they are in exceedingly fine fettle. They are very beautiful. Is this why women feed them? Women for the sublime, on the cat-staked promontories of Cádiz.

But it’s too methodical, too shaped to be natural – an upsurge of human kindness settled as routine, other people signed on to help with it, equipped with bodywarmers. There are signs and the signs read, Esta es una Colonia Registrada. Ah. ¿Sí? There is, then, a regimen, and therefore a regime – so it has to be on somebody’s orders. Who is sending out women, women in bodywarmers, to defer to the cats of Cádiz? The cats nuzzle while the women sift litter, replenish water. They compass rocky gaps with ease. They are big, and bold; they are in exceedingly fine fettle. Not so the gulls, the raucous gulls, who – nick our bocadillos, is it? – shift for themselves. The cat, a politic creature, knows how to trade with people.

The cat is politic; the cat knows how to barter. The gull, convinced it could match us for guile and strength, had lost our cooperation from the start: Where’s the market sense in this? A benevolent lord sent them – the women. The cats have something on him. They issued from the sea in a flotilla and they have something and the lord must hear it and negotiate. Them, he likes: they understand business and are beautiful. The gull is another question. The women don’t much matter as the women – bodywarmers, ladies! – will do as they’re told. And if the gull – and who can abide it? Everything its way or else no way at all – comes swallowing its pride, it must speak, mustn’t it, to our silken confidantes there, the now administrators of the region.

Miriam Gamble is a Northern Irish poet and essayist. Her third book, What Planet, won the 2020 Pigott Poetry Prize.
Explore Related Content