It started insignificantly, as such things tend to do, with a single, small cat, in this case a tabby with white paws. Ianto found her one morning, huddling against the door to the tourist office, soaking wet from the storm that was raging over Cardiff, and being a kind-hearted animal lover, he let the soggy moggy inside to dry out.
Of course, once she was in the tourist office, rubbed mostly dry with an old towel, and settled on a chair out of the draft, it would have been churlish to force her to venture outside again, so he found a spare litter tray and some kitty litter, something they always kept on hand because you never knew the requirements of alien animals, then provided clean water and a dish of food. Poor kitty wolfed it down, obviously hungry, and just as obviously grateful for the shelter. Assuming she must be someone’s lost pet, Ianto scoured the lost and found ads, to no avail; nobody had reported her missing, so after work, he popped Socks, as he’d called her, into a pet carrier for a trip to the vet.
Once there, she was examined, checked for fleas, wormed, and scanned to see if she was chipped, which she wasn’t. She had, however, been spayed, so she must have belonged to someone at some point. Ianto had her chipped, asked the vet to trim her claws, then with a shrug, took her back to the tourist office. Maybe he’d locate her owner at some point, but in the meantime it would be nice to have some company when he was working up there.
The next morning, he fitted a pet door in the wall beside the door, activated by a second microchip, this one designed and programmed by Tosh, and implanted by Owen. It meant she could come and go as she pleased, day or night, but vermin such as rats would remain outside. Socks seemed to find it an equitable arrangement, especially as she now had meals twice a day, and a warm place to sleep.
That should have been the end of it, one man and his cat, enjoying each other’s company on a quite casual basis, but as autumn turned to winter and the temperatures continued to drop, things gradually changed.
Ianto noticed a couple of cats hanging around Mermaid Quay, and started putting food and water out for them. Then, concerned about them when snow started to fall much earlier than it usually did in winter, he rigged up a shelter for them. But it proved a bit flimsy thanks to the strong winds that often battered the quay, so he bought some wood and with Jack’s willing assistance, built something rather more substantial. It was raised up off the ground on legs, had ramps leading up to cat flaps to allow entrance and exit from the living area, which he lined with straw and an old blanket, and a covered area below for their food dishes. He and Jack stood back proudly to admire their handiwork.
“Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? At least a couple of Cardiff’s stray cats will be able to stay warm and dry in the cold weather. I should probably take them to the vet for a check-up though, make sure they’re healthy.”
“You are a soft touch, Ianto Jones,” Jack teased.
Ianto huffed. “Like you’re not. I didn’t hear you protesting about building the shelter.”
Jack shrugged. “Cats are people too.”
After two weeks, seven cats were in residence outside, and two inside the tourist office because Jack had decided that if Ianto was having a cat, he wanted one too. The friendliest of the outside cats, a black and white female, was duly taken to the vet, wormed, deflead, spayed, and returned to join Socks. Jack named her Smudge and fairly doted on her. They weren’t allowed down into the Hub, for safety reasons, but they were well cared for, and visited regularly. Sometimes Jack even took paperwork upstairs so he could sit in the back office and work with a lapful of cat. More often than not, Ianto would join him. It was quite cosy in the tourist office with the heating on, and cats purring contentedly, and the other members of the team found plenty of excuses to come upstairs when they weren’t busy. Who could resist the pleasure of feline company?
As Christmas drew nearer, and the weather grew worse, more cats found their way to Mermaid Quay, including a pregnant female, who was quickly captured, taken to the vet, checked over, and bought into the Tourist Office. Ianto and Jack made an enclosure in one corner so that the kittens, when they were born, would be safely contained while the mother cat could some and go as she pleased. The entire team watched over Mama Cat, arguing first over what to call her, and then, after sitting entranced for several hours watching the miracle of birth, over what to name her five kittens.
By the time they were a week old, they were all spoken for and would be going to new homes as soon as they were old enough to be separated from their mother, who also had a new home waiting for her. Rhiannon, having heard about her from Ianto, had decided to take the pretty tabby and white cat in. She’d wanted a cat for some time, but had been waiting until David and Mica were older. Patches would be good company now the kids were both at school.
Meanwhile, the number of outside cats continued to grow. It seemed as if word was getting around and every stray cat in Cardiff was converging on the Hub. The outside accommodations soon gained a substantial extension, and every week saw Ianto trekking to the vet with several cats to be fixed. It was a good job Torchwood paid so well, because he wouldn’t have been able to manage the vet bills otherwise. Owen drew the line at neutering cats, stating firmly that it was a job for people with more experience, although he was happy to treat minor wounds and remove stitches.
Two more outside cats became inside cats; one because she’d had to be practically shorn due to her long coat being so matted, and the other because one of his hind legs was broken and was now adorned with a bright blue cast. Within two days, Gwen had taken him home, saying the Tourist Office was no place for an injured cat. Two days later, the almost bald longhair went home with Tosh to become a pampered housecat. Everyone needed company in the evenings.
Christmas came and went, and if anything, it got even colder and snowier. The outside cats’ water dishes kept freezing, so more cats were brought inside. Now there were nine indoors, not including Patches and her kittens, and more than thirty regulars outside. Surprisingly, most of them were becoming quite friendly, although there were still some who wouldn’t let themselves be touched. They’d stop by for food, then disappear again, too wild to even enter the shelter.
The RSPCA paid the Tourist Office a visit after getting reports of large numbers of cats congregating around it, but couldn’t fault the provisions made for them, especially in light of what Ianto had spent out getting as many as possible neutered and wormed. With their help, the most feral cats were trapped, treated, fixed, and several went off to live on a farm belonging to friends of the inspector, where they’d have the run of the barns and hay loft in return for keeping the rodent population down.
“We’re supposed to be a secret organisation, and we’re turning into a cat sanctuary,” Jack commented one morning as he helped Ianto distribute dried food to the outdoor mob, who were swarming around their ankles, meowing.
“Are you complaining?”
“No, just thought I’d mention it.”
Looking at the furry tide ebbing and flowing around his feet, and making a quick headcount, Ianto sighed. Forty-two outside cats, minimum. “There are rather a lot. Maybe we can find homes for some of them. I know a few people who might be interested, and Anne at Pet World might know someone too.”
Ianto was now buying cat food and kitty litter in bulk, big sacks being delivered to the tourist office every week from the pet shop, at a discount thanks to his long-standing friendship with the owner. The delivery driver soon adopted two cats, and brought in photos the next week of them playing with his kids. Ianto pinned the photos on a board he’d put up behind the desk. Two more successful adoptions.
He kept meticulous records for each cat, including information on their new owners, and only people he knew and trusted got to adopt. His elderly next door neighbour, whose equally elderly cat had passed away a couple of months ago, took in two of the older cats, delighted to have feline company again. Then the couple across the street had one for their son, who’d been in a serious accident and would be in plaster for some weeks.
Everything continued on relatively smoothly, with occasional adoptions and new additions, until one day in mid-January, a large orange tomcat, one of the Tourist Office residents, managed to sneak past Ianto and make his way into the Hub proper without anyone noticing. Ianto wasn’t even aware he was missing until he didn’t show up at feeding time, but he wasn’t too worried, assuming he’d return when he was hungry.
The next morning, when he fed the cats, Tiger was still absent. Beginning to feel a bit concerned, and wondering if he should go out looking for the cat later, Ianto went downstairs to feed the residents, and it wasn’t until he went up to Myfanwy’s aerie that he found the missing cat. He was curled up in the straw against the Pteranodon’s side and she was delicately grooming him with her massive beak. The cat’s purr was so loud it sounded like a motorcycle revving up. Watching the pair, Ianto shook his head, chuckling softly. Clearly they’d all been a bunch of idiots thinking that Myfanwy might see cats as handy snacks. It was obvious she adored her new pet, and the cat seemed happy too, butting his head against her side and trying to groom the huge dinosaur in return.
After that, nobody worried much about cats coming down into the Hub, although they still weren’t allowed into the archives; there were far too many delicate items and potential hazards down there. The rest of the Hub, however, soon had cats wandering around day and night. That pleased Jack because they handily dealt with any spiders they found; cats were definitely a good thing.
Purring approval, Socks settled down in Ianto’s lap as he sat on the sofa in the Hub, going over a pile of paperwork. She’d been right about this place; it was perfect, lots of space, shelter from the cold weather, and no shortage of food. Some of her fellow cats had even found humans of their own to live with through coming here, just as she had. Life was good.