The following is an interview with Nermal, Rochester’s housemate. Shortly before his death, Rochester wrote his final piece for Itchmo. In it, he told his faithful readers that Nermal would attempt to fill the void left by his passing. Nermal has been practicing his cat-to-human communication skills and should be ready to write his own articles soon.
Reporter: Hello, Nermal. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to us today.
Nermal: Did you bring any cat candy? I was told there would be cat candy.
Reporter: Can we do the interview first?
Nermal: Ok, but don’t forget.
Reporter: Nermal is an unusual name. How did you get that name?
Nermal: Auntie named me after a kitten in the Garfield cartoons. Nermal is the cutest kitten in the world.
Reporter: So you’re the cutest kitten in the world?
Nermal: I guess so. Except I’m not a kitten. Auntie never saw me when I was a kitten. Is it time for cat candy yet?
Reporter: Pretty soon. You say Auntie didn’t know you when you were a kitten. How old were you when you met Auntie?
Nermal: I’m not sure. The doctor said maybe two years, maybe as much as three years. He said I had full-grown teeth, and they were too dirty to be less than two years old. I like that pencil you’re holding. Can I play with it?
Reporter: I’m using it just now.
Nermal: Ok. You can give it to me when you’re done. Don’t forget, now. Pencil. Candy.
Reporter: How did you meet Auntie?
Nermal: First I met Rochester. Then I met Daddy. Then Auntie.
Reporter: How did you meet Rochester?
Nermal: Looking for food. That’s all I ever did before I met Rochester. I was looking for food and I wandered into his territory. I was scared when I saw him because he was so awfully big. I think he was the biggest cat who ever lived. I thought he would kill me maybe, or at least chase me away, but he didn’t.
Reporter: So you and Rochester became friends?
Nermal: Not exactly. Rochester felt sorry for me because I was so skinny and little. He brought me to his house and showed me to Daddy. He told Daddy to give me food.
Reporter: That was nice of him.
Nermal: Rochester wasn’t like the other cats I knew. He wasn’t afraid of people at all. He told them what to do and they did it! But he didn’t really like me. He just felt sorry for me is all.
Reporter: But he let you move in with him.
Nermal: That wasn’t really his idea. That was Daddy’s idea. It was Daddy that fed me every day, and after awhile I got brave enough to go into the house. At first I never stayed very long, because a house is a scary place. You haven’t forgotten about the cat candy, have you? And that pencil? I really want that pencil, you know. And the candy.
Reporter: I haven’t forgotten. What’s scary about houses?
Nermal: Well… for one thing there’s people in them.
Reporter: People are scary?
Nermal: Of course! Just look at the size of them! They make a lot of sudden movements too. And they’re noisy. There’s vacuum cleaners and washing machines and tv… houses are only quiet when the people are sleeping.
Reporter: You aren’t scared of people now, are you?
Nermal: I’m not scared of Dad. Or Auntie. But everyone else, yes.
Reporter: But you’re here with me now.
Nermal: I was told there would be candy.
Reporter: I see. When did you start living with Rochester?
Nermal: When it started to get cold outside. Houses are kind of creepy at first, but they’re always warm and dry and there’s food and water. Another thing about houses is that compared to outside, they’re pretty safe. There’s no coyotes or foxes or coons in them. After the sun goes down, outside isn’t safe for a little cat like me. Houses are better, if the people are nice.
Reporter: So up until you met Rochester, you were a feral cat.
Nermal: That’s what they say. I never knew I was a feral cat until I wasn’t one any more.
Reporter: Have you seen the articles about feral cats and about how a lot of towns are trying to stamp them out?
Nermal: Auntie has. She says they want to kill feral cats because they’re dirty and have diseases and make messes in gardens and kill birds.
Reporter: What do you think about that, Nermal?
Nermal: I think that a lot of people are dirty and have diseases and kill birds, but no sane person talks about killing them because of it. It’s not like feral cats want to be dirty and catch diseases. It’s not like feral cats even want to be feral cats. They don’t even know that they’re feral cats. They’re just cats. A lot of feral cats would like to be pet cats. If they weren’t so scared they’d try to find a nice human to live with.
Reporter: A lot of feral cats aren’t interested in being pets.
Nermal: It’s not easy to stop being afraid… you have to be desperate. Desperation makes you brave. So you have to be that way, and then you need to find a kind human who will let you live in their house. I don’t think there’s as many kind humans as there are cats that want to find one.
Reporter: You seem upset about this.
Nermal: I just don’t think it’s very fair. Auntie says it’s people’s fault that there are so many feral cats anyway. People throw cats away and then complain when they don’t die fast enough to keep from becoming feral cats. Somebody threw my grandma or my great grandpa away… I don’t really know how many generations back. Anyway, one of my ancestors was thrown away. And we die plenty fast enough. A five-year-old feral is a pretty old cat, you know. I’m way older than that now. Rochester was way way way way older than that when he died. And anybody who thinks it’s fun to be starving all the time, and to be freezing when it’s cold and to get wet whenever it rains should just try it for a while. And a cat colony is no picnic either. If you’re a tomcat, you have to fight to keep your place in the colony. If you’re a female, you have kittens all the time. Sometimes people help, but mostly not.
Reporter: Do you approve of trap-neuter-release programs?
Nermal: I think it’s better than the killing. I had the operation myself, you know. I was terrified when I had it done, but it helped me. I’m too little to defend territory and fight for females. Now I don’t have to worry about that. If ferals don’t have to fight each other all the time and raise kittens all the time, their lives are easier. No kittens means that the colony will go away by itself in time. It’s not as good as a real home for every cat that wants one, but it’s better than killing. Are we almost done?
Reporter: Just a couple more questions. Was it difficult to learn how to be a pet?
Nermal: At first it was. The hardest thing about being a pet is getting used to being touched all the time. People like to touch fur. And they like to pick things up. Petting wasn’t so bad… it’s almost like being licked by a very big dry tongue. But being picked up is frightening at first.
Reporter: Anything else?
Nermal: Well, there are some rules. People like to make rules. I’m not supposed to sharpen my claws on the furniture. I have to relieve myself in these boxes of special sand. I can’t go outside after dark. And they make me go to the doctor’s sometimes. I hate that.
Reporter: Rochester’s been gone for a while now. Do you miss him?
Nermal: I do. He didn’t like me very much, but because he was a cat we had a lot of the same interests. Take mice. I’m very interested in mice, and so was Rochester. The people aren’t at all interested in mice. Catnip is another thing that I had in common with Rochester. And play-fighting. Even though Rochester wasn’t all that friendly, he’d still play-fight with me once in a while.
Reporter: Would you like it if another cat came to live with you?
Nermal: I’m not sure. It’s a little bit lonely without Rochester. Auntie says that someday a cat will come along who really needs to live with us and then I’ll have a new housemate. She says that our family never chooses the pet… it’s the pet that chooses the family. That’s how they’ve always done it, so I just have to wait and see who comes along.
Reporter: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell us about yourself?
Nermal: Like what?
Reporter: Do you have any hobbies?
Nermal: Other than mice, you mean?
Reporter: Well, yes. Other than mice.
Nermal: I herd chickens.
Reporter: Really? That’s a very interesting hobby for a cat. How did you get started herding chickens?
Nermal: There isn’t much else you can do with them, is there?
Reporter: I suppose not. Any other hobbies?
Nermal: I love toys. Like that pencil of yours. That’s a good toy. When are you going to give me that pencil?
Reporter: Very soon. What kind of stories will you write for Itchmo?
Nermal: Cat stories. Maybe a chicken story. Do you think people would like a chicken story?
Reporter: I’m sure they would. Thank you, Nermal.
Nermal: Is that it?
Reporter: Yes, that’s all.
Nermal: Good. Now can I have that cat candy? And hand over that pencil please.