Jan 11, 2010

Cats’ tales

Chris Cork

Wiggy and Sparky were the first I can remember with certainty — the first was a moody beast belonging to my grandparents, the second an altogether friendlier item owned by my parents and with whom I spent my early years. Cats have been a part of my family life for as long as I can remember. Frodo, Mr Poxy, Stump (one eye and no tail) Fido, Rover…the names bring back a host of memories. Most of them came to sticky ends and few died of old age, and thus it is with the cat that has just lost his last fight — with a fast-moving vehicle. Spotty the cat has been part of the family for almost five years, and has popped up occasionally in these columns — and this is probably the first time that a cat has actually got itself an obituary!

There have been a number of memorable moggies over the last 15 years in Pakistan, the first of them being Bobby. He was originally a Hunza cat and belonged to my wife when we married. He lived with us in Chalt and quickly made a name for himself as a stealer of the butcher’s meat. Bobby as fast as a bullet, and he would have a kilo of yak off the butcher’s block before you could blink an eye. He eventually had to be banished to a village several miles away before he found himself on the block. He was followed by BP…an abbreviation of some very rude Urdu. BP was female and prolific, both as a hunter and as a producer of kittens. She disappeared and two of her offspring, Jake and Elwood (fans of the cult film ‘The Blues Brothers’ will recognise the names) came with us to Jaffarabad. Elwood died of food poisoning but Jake lived for years. He was enormous. His mother had mated with a local wild cat and produced the feline equivalent of a heavyweight boxer. Despite his size — and I still look at pictures of him sitting on my lap and wonder at it — he was a gentle cat, at least in the house. Outside he was a terror and would take on just about anything. He was left behind when we left Pakistan in 1999 but was looked after by our neighbours. He met his end when he tried to tackle a truck on the Karakoram Highway. Villagers were so fond of him they actually gave him a burial, and when I visited Nagar last year I was shown his grave.

And so to Spotty. He was a very holy cat having come from the Dominican convent in the city, and the nuns perhaps hoped he would bring a little godliness into my heathen life. He didn’t. Spotty was a slightly smaller version of Jake: bags of character and a distinct attitude when it came to matters feral. In his early years, when he was acquiring his street wisdom, he would drag himself home with an assortment of punctures and cuts and scrapes, and would be very grumpy if I detained him for a couple of days for basic first-aid. He was delighted when we got a pair of rabbits 18 months ago and waited till their children were lunch-sized before he ate them. He had a truce with the male rabbit which was about the same size as himself, and they occasionally sat and eyed one another warily. He disappeared 10 days ago and was found dead last Friday. There was not much left to bury so he was left where he was — ashes to ashes. Time to make a call to the convent, again.

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