I call them my Pheasants, but of course they don't…
Or Gingers as I like to call them. In my time I have owned, or rather been on the staff of, many cats; but not so many as it might have been because they all, except one, lived to a good old age. It was the one exception which ensured my last three cats to be all Gingers. When I retired, one present amongst all my embarrassing number of gifts was a Siamese kitten we called Roo. She shared all the uprooting of our move from Plymouth to Sidmouth and we loved her dearly; but sadly, on her very first outing she was run over and killed by a tractor right outside our gate. She was never allowed that precious time to learn the dangers of the world. Her predecessor had been a Ginger cat from a farm at Plympton, so we made enquiries through the veterinary nurse network to see if they had another, and they did. So came about Ginger I and Ginger II. Later there was to be another Ginger cat and I would like to show how three cats, so similar in appearance, could differ so much in their characters.
Ginger was a big strong cat, a typical castrated Tom. He was by nature an outdoor cat and he had a domain which really could not be improved upon; 15 acres of field and ancient woodland, and the field was alive with rabbits, his favourite food. Even so, he liked to spend most afternoons indoors which he enjoyed although his real home and nightly bed was with the chickens who lived in stables some 50 yards from the house. In the day he would often catch a rabbit as big as himself which he would carry down to the chicken house for consumption. To achieve this he had to drag his catch over a 4ft high chain link fence. It was not really necessary to scale the fence, but he knew it was right opposite the kitchen window and he did it just to show off. As I have said, he was a big strong cat, but yet he remained cuddly and loveable. Every tea time my wife would carry him down to the chicken house for his nightly sleep with the chickens, cat under one arm, his food under the other. He took his chicken guarding duties seriously, and we would often find the corpse of a rodent which had the temerity to try to steal the chicken food.
He lived to the grand old age of eighteen and never seemed to ail, but one morning we found he had passed away peacefully in his bed beside his beloved chickens.
I have already told you how we came about to have Ginger II. I think he was the best of the lot. He loved to lay in wait in our Sidbury garden and ambush our Border Terrier as she strolled past intent on some ball game of her own devising. Whenever we sat on a garden seat he would make a beeline for your lap. When I revelled in retirement by having a post-lunch siesta, he would snuggle up to my chest and purr, and if I put my arm around him he would raise the rate and decibel of purr so that I had some difficulty in nodding off, although I did mostly manage. He was made for love, yet he had his mischievous streak. One time we went to London overnight and left him with plenty of food and all mod-cons, but when we returned we found he had completely unrolled the toilet roll so that it spanned the bathroom and even reached the hallway. When the end came, again at the grand old age of eighteen, he made a bed under our bed and refused to come out. A true gentleman of a cat.
So that was that. We decided that at our age it was not fair to have another dog or even a cat… but our daughter had other ideas. The day she arrived with another ginger kitten, one of a litter of feral cats she rescued from a local farm in Shropshire. But what a cat she became. Everything about her is different. You notice I say “her” and that was the first difference, because most ginger cats are male; and having come in from the wild she decided to embrace domesticity to the feline full. Although she will go out and enjoy her territory, she makes it clear that unless the weather is perfect, she would rather stay in with us. She is the most intelligent of the three and has developed many quirks of habit. She will only drink from a tap and lets us know when she is thirsty. At night she sleeps in the kitchen for she would otherwise give us no overnight peace. I have to announce “It’s time for Bed” and she appears for her nightly head scratch before making her way to the kitchen. She loves routine and her favourite foods are mayonnaise and mashed potato. She is full of life, but I would be less than honest if I said she was an angel. Some time in those early few weeks of life when she was like a sponge soaking up habits, good and bad, someone taught her a game which involved attacking hands or ankles. Nothing we have tried has cured her. As she can also open doors, it can get tedious.
Yet of all her habits, one is the most charming. It is my old fashioned way, after a meal, to get up and give my wife a kiss. Wherever she may be in the house this cat miraculously appears on the table and as I bend down I feel a wet kiss on my cheek as she joins in the general love-in. Her name is Tigger.