Last night, while I was casually cooking dinner, something rather unbelievable happened. A cat I'd fostered earlier this year appeared, miaowing, at my open kitchen window - having taken three weeks to travel all the way across London, from his new home in Brixton to my flat in Kilburn. An eight mile or so solo journey navigating south to north through one of the world's busiest and most densely populated cities - which meant somehow, he'd also crossed the Thames.
To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement. Gas rings were immediately switched off, and I gave this big fluffy tabby I'd named Loki a massive cuddle through the window. I then dashed out of the kitchen, out the back door and into the garden to see that yes, this really was the same boy who'd suddenly come into my life in May, but who'd been happily adopted by my friend Hannah at the start of July. He was thin, but otherwise seemed well enough and I soon gave him more cuddles and a big bowl of tuna, his favourite.
A weary Loki having arrived last night in my garden after his epic trip (sorry, it was dark!)
Just last Sunday, a very upset Hannah had informed me that sadly, Loki had gone walkabout and hadn't been seen for almost three weeks, despite them desperately contacting Battersea, the RSPCA and all the local cat sanctuaries. We were all heartbroken - until now.
So how on earth had he got back to me?!
Some background for you - I have two cats already, 14-year-old brother and sister Darcy and Eartha, who I've had since kittens. But towards the end of May, a rather raggedy fluff bomb of a tabby somehow broke in through the magnetic catflap and announced his presence with loud mrowls in my flat. For days, I kept putting him back out, only for him to break back in again. If I blocked up the catflap, he'd sit on the roof of my shed all night, howling to be let in through my bedroom window. Eventually, I gave up and started feeding him outside, satisfied he was a stray in desperate need of some TLC (I'd never feed a cat belonging to someone else).
But he just kept breaking in and making himself at home, much to my cats' chagrin.
Loki kept breaking into my flat and I would find him lounging around like this
The two cats I have already, Eartha, left, and Darcy, right
I spent hours ringing round animal rescue charities to see if he'd been reported missing and to see if it was possible for him to be rescued/rehomed as I really didn't want a third.
Every one I rang, including the RSPCA, said there were no cats reported missing of his description and they couldn't rehome him as they didn't have room (austerity has left animal sanctuaries overflowing)/he wasn't injured/there was nothing terribly physically wrong with him. So I was stuck with The Interloper for the time being.
Despite relations between my two and The Interloper being better than I thought they would be (Darcy has always been a scrapper and Eartha beyond nervous) it was clear they weren't happy with a new feline in the flat and there was the odd altercation, one of which led to me getting a quite spectacular bite. Coupled with the fact that Darcy has a serious illness called triaditis which is made worse with stress meant there was no possibility of keeping this puss permanently.
However, throughout June, he increasingly became part of the furniture and a nicer and nicer cat as if he realised I was there to care for him. He was grudgingly tolerated by Darcy, though less so by his more skittish sister, who spent more and more time sitting out of reach on the usually out-of-bounds breakfast bar. Finally, when I had some time off at the end of June, I whisked The Interloper to my vet.
Vet Tom confirmed he was no more than two years old, unchipped, still a little underweight despite weeks of being fed the best-quality grub (which meant he must have been REALLY thin at first), hadn't been neutered and was riddled with worms and fleas. Tom reckoned someone had moved house and just left him behind, poor thing.
I left him there to have the snip and get all his other issues sorted - and he was good as gold.
Loki after his trip to the vets
Once I got him back home again (I spent a fortune on Feliway to try and stop feline fights while I kept them all in) now he was deflead, wormed and neutered with an otherwise clean bill of health, I had a chance of getting him rehomed. I'd also decided to call him Loki - which sounded a bit like Interloper, and with his Norwegian Forest Cat features, he reminded me of the Norse god of mischief (I hadn't seen Thor or The Avengers so was unaware of the Tom Hiddleston link but that fits too).
My new sales pitch worked, and my friend Hannah decided he would be the perfect new addition to their family.
So on 5 July, after one last cuddle with Loki (so I thought) in bed, Hannah came to collect him to take him to his forever home in Brixton, along with husband David and their two lovely kids.
Loki happily settled in his new home in Brixton
All seemed well. I was sent regular photos and updates like: "Loki is settling in brilliantly. This morning we had him and the two kids on our bed for a group cuddle. He's eating and drinking well and has been to the vets for jabs and chip. At night he curls on the sofa between David and I and the kids adore him. Monty (other cat) and he rubbed noses last night and seem to be making friends. x" which made my heart swell.
But a friend staying over at their's one weekend appeared to unsettle Loki, Hannah explained last weekend. The disgruntled cat had sprayed all over the apparently unwelcome visitor's clothes, then ran off and hadn't been seen since.
Until last night. So what route had this cat taken across the metropolis? How did he know which direction to take? To get back EXACTLY to my flat's back garden and avoid the hundreds of hazards along the way? Why had he come back to mine? Did Loki steer by the stars? Is it some weird kind of catnav? Are scientists onto something with their theory that cats have some kind of magnetic inner compass?
I guess I'll never know the whole story. In the meantime, I am just in awe of this incredible animal, who will be getting a lot more tuna from me tonight - until he goes back to his adopted family, and hopefully, this time, his journey won't be a round trip.