Edgeworth’s Gary Lawless recently found himself reflecting on a pet he once had.
Here’s his story: I am not much of a cat person and, after living in a rural environment for many years before returning to Newcastle, I am acutely aware of the damage a cat can do to our native wildlife. Because of this, cats have not really endeared themselves to me and there has not been a cat in our household for decades.
My wife, on the other hand, loves the little critters. She reminded me that we did have a few cats in our lives a while back.
I can’t remember them all, but I remember a little white female kitten I brought home from a hunting trip to my friend’s property in the Mount Royal Range [in the Hunter] many years ago. She was among a few semi-wild felines that lived under the old woolshed on the property. She was weaned and appeared to be about eight weeks old. She had a pure white coat, bright green eyes and was very active.
At my mate’s invitation, I decided to take her home and surprise my wife with a point-scoring gift. I should have stopped right there and put some more thought into the enterprise, because once home, and as she grew up, she turned into the “cat from hell”. My wife named the cat Sarah, but I had a whole lexicon of other, less flattering names for her.
We realised that she was a different sort of cat, and as she grew, nothing deterred her from terrorising the household. She never did entirely overcome her wild origins, and behaved more like a Rocky Mountain wildcat than a domestic companion.
By the time she was six months old, her favourite pastime was to hide behind a convenient piece of furniture, and pounce on the unsuspecting passer-by in a carefully planned ambush. These games usually resulted in multiple scratches for the shorts’ wearer, or a raked pants leg or stocking. Try as we might, we could not discourage her from these activities. Yelling at her did no good of course, and anyway, yelling at a cat is like yelling at a brick wall.
Her favourite subject for this torment was any visitor to the house. I could not determine if she was trying to protect family members from the intruders, or if she did it out of wild malice. I suspect the latter.
We also had two German shepherd dogs at the time. She made their life a living hell. She perfected her ambush strategy on these unfortunate canines. Much to their credit, they treated the classic pounce – from the heady heights of the top of the lounge – with a fair amount of disdain. In fact, the cat and the dogs spent much time playing together. However, the games usually ended when the male dog, which had finally had enough, picked up the cat by the head and unceremoniously dumped her in the laundry.
Sarah was also a classic example of a “cat burglar”. She was a thief of the first order. The victim was usually our immediate neighbour. I recall on one occasion that Sarah’s swag, which she brought back to the house after a couple of trips, consisted of a pack of cigarettes, an unused paint brush, a lighter to go with cigarettes and a man’s wallet. From the items dumped at our feet, I deduced that our neighbour must be working in his yard.
I eventually grew to like this cat, but our friends were always wary when visiting, and usually the first greeting we received from visitors was, “Where is that bloody cat?”
She also proved to be an excellent mother-in-law deterrent. For some reason, Sarah saved all her pent-up hunting instincts to practice the perfect pounce on that dear lady whenever she came to visit. We lost count of the number of complaints of ripped stockings and scratched skin that resulted from in-law visits.
Sadly, the “hell cat” eventually went the way of a lot of suburban felines, coming to grief on the main road outside our home. My wife was inconsolable when the neighbour, who had also grown to like Sarah despite the many offences against his property, informed us late one night of our cat’s demise.
I like to believe she practiced her final pounce on a subject that was just too tough for her and that, the morning after the accident, the offending motorist was scratching his head and wondering what caused the long bright scratches on his car’s pristine Duco.
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