Sunday, February 14, 2010

Let's get the cat post out of the way shall we? I'll start with the rabbit...

I can really only talk about my present cat in the context of my experience with past cats and other animals. I'll try to get it all done with here and then the cat post will be done.

We are cat people. It didn't start out that way. The breadwinner wasn't a cat person. Based on what I now know, pets, other than some very strange goldfish (hmmm must ask the ILS where they went?) did not prosper in his childhood home. None of his family has had much of an affinity for animals (or craft) although second BIL 's family now has a small dog. The fact that his mother is allergic to cats was probably the main reason. That and the fact that she was a working mum who had 3 boys more interested in surfing. The breadwinner was clueless about domestic pets and it should have been obvious to me when we were first "courting". He presented me with a pet rabbit. A tiny little black and white bunny we called Rex. Not the most practical of gifts but points for originality and "the thought that counts". To put it into perspective we were living in separate rented accommodation at the time. Both working full time. No bunny hutch or caged run. In Singapore. Our lives carefree but defined by Visas, single, working hard, party hard etc etc. It can only be described as irresponsible gift giving. He died of course, not for lack of care on our part but rather because of the poor sanitary conditions of the pet shop from which he came.The vet told me he was unlikely to survive. The vet was right. But he was adorable...and he'll be fondly remembered. RIP Rex.

And not much later our relationship became more serious and were were living in the same rented acomodation still in Singapore, we happened upon an elderly woman with a cage of rescued kittens. Holland Village was at most times awash with strays and the pitiful mewings of stray cats and kittens. So hold that thought and let me review my family's history of pet ownership.

My earliest memory of having a pet was that of a chubby puppy with stumpy legs. We lived in the Highlands of PNG at the time and having a dog was probably a sensible thing. Only ours was no guard dog, he was ridiculously cute and I'm not sure but maybe a snake ate him. He probably wasn't an indoor dog. I wonder now why we didn't have a real guard dog when we lived in Port Moresby because we surely needed one there. Anyway from there we moved to Melbourne and somehow we became the guardians of a screwed up little dog called Blackie that terrified us so much we avoided going into the backyard to play. If we did venture outside it was a fast dash to climb the apple tree. I can only surmise now that the dog was not well trained, my parents had no clue or it was completely bonkers. That dog contributed greatly to my general level of anxiety during the Melbourne Years. I do not know what became of it.

Moving on, I am in Grade 2 and somehow we now have a cat and we live in Central NSW ie. the country. It is a BIG (to my mind) ginger tom cat. He may have had the original name of Ginger. Can't recall Ginger being cuddly or friendly. This cat came with us when we went to the Gold Coast, our next home. I do recall we did try to dress it and push it around in a pram. Not sure what happened to that cat either. Then in my 7 year old wisdom I bring home a pet mouse from school, name it Marvin and for some bizarre reason instead of being beaten senseless, I am allowed to keep it. My parents even buy him a special little box. If you knew my family this falls into one of the "unexplained " things that was "allowed" in a world where our Ruler did not allow much.

So Marvin moves to Brisbane with us not long after. We are in a rented house for 6 months and my parents aren't keen to have the landlady upset by the existence of a little mouse. So my mouse learns to undo the lock on his special mouse house. Clever Marvin always comes back until one day he doesn't. Only some years later did my mum admit to taking him for a long walk down the backyard several times only to discover that she needed to take him for a really really long walk to confuse him.

So we move into a new home and my sister brings home a kitten from school. Now you may be wondering what kind of schools were these that let kids bring mice and kittens to school to be taken home by random children without parental consent. I am wondering the same thing. They were just regular State run primary schools in relatively new estates. If Bear did that tomorrow I would be livid with somebody. The Ruler let the cat stay to. Granted that cat was pretty and sociable, and had my 9 year old brother not tormented it quite so much, she might have remained sweet. But for the life of me I can no longer recall that little white/tabby cat's name because she eventually became known only as Pooface. The most contrary cat on the planet. That cat lived for 17 years, her last years with me during which she barely gave me the time of day. But during the early years of Pooface's life another cat came to our home.

When he first turned up he was a wild looking thing....he had barely any fur on his body, smelt awful, had scars all over him and the cheeks on his face were swollen. That he boldly entered our home to eat from the dish of Princess Pooface was a shock to us all. Particularly Pooface. We gave him points for that. She didn't hide her displeasure but didn't raise a paw or claw. He was incredibly affectionate to us and had to be sitting on your foot if you were standing or in your lap if he could get there. But having a stinky dirty full grown male cat in the house that we kids called Fleabag did not thrill my parents despite the novelty of an affectionate cat. So he was taken to the vet and....neutered. You see, he wasn't picky in sharing his love and the Ruler of our world was as much taken by this as we were. The cat was Switzerland. So Fleabag healed, grew fat, his cheeks returned to normal size and he was rechristened Boo. My Grandmother called him the ugliest cat she had ever seen (she's not a pet person either !) but he was a cat with a HUGE personality. He followed us down the street like a dog. He talked. He would REPLY to you. He would sit on the butter if you weren't careful. He was our Garfield. He slept on me most nights. He was heavy and loud. You could hear him purr in the next room. Pooface learned to live with Boo. She always kept an aloof distance. When both cats were heavily sleeping we would arrange them close together just to see her reaction when she woke up.

The Ruler of our world got it into his head that we should have birds. Budgerigars. A small native Australian parrot that comes in a variety of colours and which we call Budgies. So on my 11th birthday I received a beautiful lilac coloured bird bred by a friend who had a large aviary. That bird never really learned to talk but he was allowed to chase the cats down the hallway, nibble at the newspaper and my earrings and eat toast. He was returned tis cage after an hour or two of indoor freedom each day. One day my mother forgot he was on her shoulder when she went out to water the garden. Although he was recaptured with a lettuce treat that first time, he tasted freedom again but at that time we moved to a larger house not far away. The new home owners reported sighting him often but they could not get close enough to catch him. In the new house the Ruler had a large "green room" built that was an outdoor living space where we had a dining area with a BBQ and loads of plants, ferns mostly. The shade cloth kept the outdoor area cool and free from mosquitoes. It was angled from the roof to the ground so that it enclosed the surrounding garden bed but allowed the rain in to water the plants. It was also a giant aviary.
And then in a short time we had 10 budgies living in that garden room. I will not ever keep a bird again. To try as a young teenager to save an egg bound bird is just heartbreaking. Over time they all succumbed to some sad end.. not all of which had to do with Pooface or Boo, but a couple sure went that way. It was hard to keep the cats out of that garden room, it opened directly into the house.

Finally came the long overdue divorce of my parents. There was an occasion burned into my darker memories of Boo launching himself at the Ruler of our world. A cat that was loyal and protective. A cat that eventually chose sides. Smart cat.

The cats came with us naturally. We didn't know exactly how old Boo was but he lived with us in total for about 8 or 9 years until one day he did not eat his dinner. And then he went outside and didn't come back. We knew he had gone. However Pooface rocked on and on and on...and my mother remarried and I ended up with that cat. My sister's cat. That cat would sit in the middle of our little street playing chicken. She would go out and deliberately sit in puddles. It got to the point where I told my housemates that if the cat insisted on sitting in the driveway they were not to feel bad if they hit her with the car (accidentally of course). She was becoming a problem with what seemed like a death wish. My housemates dutifully cared for that cat whilst I went overseas for a year and when I returned she was still there. An old but healthy, anti-social cat with a death wish. Then one day she didn't come home for dinner. RIP Pooface. 17 years old.

So by the time I met my future husband i had learned that cats have huge potential for affection and companionship, loyalty and also for complete indifference. I also learned that cats can live a long time. And to me a home needs a cat. I can't say much about dogs, I just never had one that meant anything to me.

This is turning out to be a far longer story of my pets than I first thought. And I'm still 2 cats and 6 countries away from Tinkerbell. I'll have to complete this Short History of my Pets in another post.

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