Elvis the Tabby Stray and his Cat Chalet

Sometime in early autumn 2014 I was in the back garden raking leaves and suddenly noticed a rough, quite large, and fierce looking tabby cat staring at me. He just sat by the back red brick wall of the house like a furry Buddha and stared and stared. He had such amazing green eyes and thick coat. I’d never seen this tabby pass by before (I make it my business to get to know the neighbourhood cats who pass through my garden whilst on their patrols and say hello) and he looked like he’d been sleeping rough for sure. Then, he opened his mouth and started to meow. And it was a sing-song loud meow let me tell you! He looked at me as if to say “well? I’m here, I heard you’re a cat person, I’ve seen the cats in your windows, you gonna feed me or what?” I obeyingly entered the kitchen and got a little white saucer and emptied out a pouch of wet chicken gravy cat food onto it. When I returned outside, tabby stray was hiding at the side of the house. He wouldn’t let me come closer than three feet to him. I placed the plate on the ground and stepped back. He gobbled down the food in three seconds flat. Then he stared at the empty plate and back at me. Suffice to say, I ended up feeding him four servings that autumn afternoon.
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After that first visit, tabby stray disappeared, but within 48 hours he returned. On this occasion, I was inside the house. Its difficult to adequately describe the sound I heard echoing throughout the back garden and echoing down the street that day. I heard the loudest, most deep bassist, rocky mmmmeeeeeeooooooowwwwwwwooooooaaarrrrrrrr!! Repetitive caterwauling continued. It echoed around the house perimeter. All my four cats woke up from their snoozy afternoon naps and bolted for the bedroom where they hid like little cowards under the bed. Well, except for Tristan who quickly came back downstairs and demanded to know who dared wake him up from his nap. So, Tristan and I slowly went to the backdoor. There was tabby stray with his big, greenish, sad eyes staring back at me. Tristan hissed, turned and ran back upstairs. I sighed, looked at tabby stray and made up a plate of food. Then five more plates of food. I looked at him and knew he was an Elvis. This cat loved loud singing and loved his food. Elvis.
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Needless to say, Elvis settled into our back garden. He would only enter the kitchen near the door to warm up and eat his food. He guarded and patrolled our property as it was now the base of operations for his territory. He soon established a little routine with me. A very loud, vocal routine that the whole neighbourhood was soon privy to. Elvis would start his day at 3am singing his heart out. He sounded so lonely at times. His long, drawn out meowing was the loudest I’ve ever heard. I started getting up at 3am just to open the door and say “Ssssshhhhhh!! Elvis!! Quiet down!!” Nope, that never worked unless the shooshing was accompanied by food. Elvis serenaded me on a regular schedule 24/7. There was the three am concert that, if I didn’t get up to feed him, would go on until 5am at which time he’d take a break and then do an encore at 6am when I usually got up to feed my four “in house” cats. Then he’d go on patrol until about lunch time and return to his garden kingdom out back and nap until 6pm when he’d promptly be outside the kitchen door waiting for his supper. Then more patrolling, then sleeping in our garden until 3am when the rock concert would kick off again.
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Elvis the singing tabby stray soon became famous in our street. But unlike his famous namesake, he did not possess an adoring public. I soon began to worry. The comfortable Autumn nights were fast becoming long, bitter, cold winter nights. While I love cats, quickly adored Elvis, and didn’t mind getting up sometimes at three am to feed him, I can’t say the neighbours were happy about these night long outdoor rock concerts Elvis often performed.
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Weeks of caring for Elvis tabby stray soon turned into months and we were in deepest winter. He still refused to come into the house except to devour his meals and warm his feet briefly near the radiator in the kitchen. We would leave the door to the shed open, hoping he would sleep in there at night but to no avail. He slept out in the elements on our green garden seat arbour. My husband realised a shelter was needed for Elvis asap. Luckily, he had already worked out some designs for outdoor cat shelters. He had some material left over from an exhibition in the warehouse where he worked and set to building a basic prototype of one of his designs. It had to be insulating, weather resistant, durable, and comfy. Something about a Scandinavian chalet gave him inspiration: Utilise a overhang that would offer extra dry coverage from the notorious English winter wind, rain, and sleet. So, within a few days Elvis had a shelter.
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We placed a pillow and red fleece blanket inside his little “cat chalet” and he happily slept inside it snug as a bug through the night. Even the rock singing at 3am quieted down. He could finally sleep. Every morning from that point on, our schedule started at 6am. I’d open the kitchen door and quietly sing song call “Elvis, Eelll-vis?!” and out would pop his head from the shelter, tired eyes blinking at me. Yawn, stretch, out the shelter and into the kitchen to eat his breakfast of at least three plates of food. Patrol, nap on the garden seat, patrol, eat a large dinner, patrol, sleep.
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But, unfortunately, Elvis jealously guarded his territory and started getting into fights. And some nights, loud meowing deteriorated into chainsaw thrash metal caterwauling. And even with the shelter, I worried about how the cold could affect his health. It was not an acceptable long term living situation for poor Elvis. I loved him more than any stray I’d met, but it was clear that Elvis was feral. He had no desire to live inside a human’s house. So, I phoned the Cats Protection Chiltern branch and they came to visit. After seeing Elvis briefly and hearing his story, it was soon arranged for him to go into Cat Protection’s care.
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I’m not embarrassed to say I cried the day Elvis left. I made sure his shelter and red fleece blanket went with him. And the first few days with his foster carer, he stayed inside his “chalet” for comfort & reassurance. Cats Protection made sure he was vaccinated, checked, and spayed. A few weeks passed and after Elvis had been observed and had time to recuperate from his spaying operation, it was decided that he was not suited for traditional rehousing. But there is a happy ending…a few months ago I found out that Elvis had been relocated to a farm in Buckinghamshire. The last thing I heard? Elvis is apparently the “King” there and very happily living with many other cats. He has plenty of nice hunting and patrolling time there too. And I bet you that he serenades all his lady cat pals every night! Tabby stray who once lived in a cat chalet has lived up to his name. Elvis. The King.
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And here is our “Cat Chalet” shelter, first official prototype model, we dedicate to Elvis and all the ferals, strays, and abandoned cats out there tonight:
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