• June 8, 2021

Maltese cat man

If you are a stray cat, Malta is the place to be. They don’t catch you or kill you like they do in many other places. They will fix you so that you don’t have children and then they will let you go. It’s not the best life, but the weather is usually quite pleasant and you can find shelter somewhere when it rains. People sometimes come and give you a pet, if you allow it. Even getting a full meal is not too difficult. There are not many birds or mice, but there is the Maltese catman to feed you.

I met the Cat Man who sold cat food on Tower Road in Sliema on my last trip in May this year (2005). I was standing in that strange driveway that doesn’t seem to go anywhere within walking distance of the Strand. It was early in the morning and it was a bit chilly and he was wearing a gray suit jacket. Of medium height, with a slim build, and long hair that is just beginning to turn gray, he handed me a plastic package. “Feed the cats?” he asked in a soft voice. I couldn’t resist and gave him a pound, or the equivalent of $ 3, and told him to keep the change. He offered God’s blessings as I continued on my way.

I didn’t ask him his name. I casually mentioned the meeting to Charlie, the man who works the desk in the guest house where I was staying, and he said everyone knew him. He was not from Malta, but he probably came from England or the United States and had a flat near the University. He didn’t seem to have a job except the route he had from Valletta to Paceville feeding cats.

I could feel him turning into a character in a novel and I asked some shopkeepers about him. Charlie was right. Everyone seemed to know and like him. He was a lovable eccentric like the bird woman of Trafalgar Square. One man speculated that he was a wealthy heir to a family fortune in London and that he had come to Malta to stay away from people seeking his money. The general consensus was that he lived off the change provided by the people who bought him food.

Several days later, I was walking through the park at Tigne Point on my way to the Crown Point Hotel, where I had an interview. The Cat Man was crouched next to a park bench surrounded by what appeared to be fifty crying cats. He had a scrawny calico on one shoulder and a hissing black Tom on the other, with many others trying to get into his shopping bag or pushing themselves to rub against his legs. Mick Jagger couldn’t have had more loving fans. I was touched. Even more so because many appeared to be malnourished. What surprised me was that some of the skinny ones seemed more intent on being petted than eating. The shopping bag was finally emptied and the Cat Man stood up and took a seat on the park bench. I watched him pick up an empty container and wondered if he waited until everyone finished. For the first time he seemed to notice my presence and we exchanged waves and I started going on my date.

That was the last time I saw him. I sure hope to meet him again.

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