Don't worry, it won't happen is common wisdom, along with the happy truth that bullies will get their comeuppance — one day.

After providing a home to five stray cats, numbers dwindled to the young boy who'd relished life in a household of four females who he'd mostly bullied with glee.

Fluffy tabby Lilac had been frail and he'd recognised this. He was also relatively kind to dear Tara, the next geriatric to be buried on the hill.

Read more: Rae Roadley explores eastern Kaipara's coastal loop via Waipu and Mangawhai


However, he pestered Dot and showed barely a jot of grace to little Tui, the last of the clowder or glaring — the term for a group of cats — to pass.

Cheetah stole Tui's food and chased her, yet sometimes I'd find them lolling in the sun inches from each other. The secret depths of their cat connection were beyond comprehension.

Then Cheetah was alone. He appeared bored and lonely with no creature to interact with.
Eight years old, he still loved to play, having been the craziest kitten of them all by a long stretch.

Perhaps he needed a pal. The farmer and I idly debated this, despite planning to have fewer pets.

A decision hadn't been made when I visited the SPCA with the farmer's mother who wanted another cat after the death of her beloved Harry. She needed to nurture and black and white Rosie was the lucky feline.

But none appealed to me, even the kittens. Apparently it's better to add a kitten to a household with other cats as they will be kinder to young ones. Maybe we were meant to have just one. Anyway, what if Cheetah was a mean bully to a newcomer?

Then, while in Waipu with a cousin who had to visit the Vet Centre, I poked a finger into a cage and a tiny black purring kitten began to play with it. My heart was stolen. Decision made. The farmer named him Pele after the famous footballer (despite that he immediately lost four ping pong balls) and we followed the vet's instructions.

Day One: Put Pele in the cat cage and let Cheetah into the living room (Pele's HQ). Cue for much hissing and hatred.

Day Two: Put Cheetah in the cat cage and give Pele run of the room. This wasn't so elegant; 7kg of angry tabby can object with emphasis. Nevertheless, I won and, after more hissing, he calmed but when released fled at speed. Outdoors was his new safe place.

We monitored their next meetings and, faster than I'd imagined, Pele was zooming around the house and in and out the cat door. He's a lively sliver of a thing with, we think, Siamese ancestors. He'd been well socialised, as any of us would be if we spent a week at the Waipu Vet Centre, and now greets guests and plays with visiting children.

Eventually, though, Cheetah attacked. But unlike the females who freaked and fled with Cheetah in joyous pursuit, Pele fought back.

Often we find the pair clasped in an awkward embrace until they break apart and race away with either Pele or Cheetah giving chase; the victor seems to change. Then they stop and do nothing for a while.

I feel a bit sorry for Cheetah and sometimes sense his weary irritation. If he sits on my knee, Pele thinks he's fair game. If he waves his tail, Pele thinks it's fair game. Cheetah has met his match and more.

It must be mystifying for him, but fun, all the same, to track Pele around the garden. So far the outcome has been better than imagined — and the exact opposite of every invented scenario. There has to be a lesson in that.