“Get a pet, lose your heart”…perhaps that might replace the “a pet is not just for Christmas” slogan. We happily accept the exchange where we look after our pets’ needs and in return are given un-judgmental acceptance and affection. Cats are of course a different matter –if you’ve ever loved a cat you’ll know that there’s a fair bit of truth in the statement that cats have staff. Cat lovers wouldn’t have it any other way.
It wasn’t always an amiable relationship on his part, as Springer thought he belonged in the house and should take priority over mere small humans. It wasn’t uncommon to find him stubbornly sitting in the midst of the toys plainly making his residential status clear.
As the other grandchildren have come along he’s often looked askance at them and retreated to a safe position away from them. On one or two occasions he’s given them a nip of warning to their dismay but despite that they too have been enamoured of him and have learned to watch his tail for impatient swishing. When they turn up on an unexpected day, and he seemed to have a good sense of when it was grandchild-day, he was known to give a very disapproving look at their temerity for disturbing his peace. At the end of each visit he would follow us all out to the gate, then roll on the driveway looking smug with a distinct attitude of “na, na, na..I live here, you don’t!”
As you can see, a cat of definite opinions! He’s never been a cuddle cat, tolerating only small doses of cuddles, but he always loved to be near us wherever we were. He was oh, so predictable in his habits: when breakfast was due (as soon as someone woke up), when it was time for an afternoon snack (between 4 and 5); when it was time to reluctantly come in at night (about 10pm) and when to annoy Mr Cassmob to let him out (the earlier the better from his point of view). When he wanted to come back in he would yodel loudly to get my attention and then need to be dried off if he’d been caught in a storm.
In short, his staff were perfectly trained, and in return he mostly did what we wanted. He accepted that when we went on long holidays he would have an excursion to his fancy cat resort complete with an enclosed aerial walkway where he could sun himself, a hammock to snooze on and his mummy rug brought from home. On the way there and back he would talk loudly and put his paw through his travelling cage, to be reassured. He knew full well the difference between the route to the resort and that to the vet, which generated a much louder conversation.
Within our complex he seemed to be popular especially with those who love animals but can’t have one for various reasons. He would trot around, fluffy Persian-like tail held high, looking like lord of all he surveyed. This earned him our aka of Mr Trotsky. His daily name, Springer, came from his youthful mischievous habit of leaping out and kung-fu-ing you at hip height as you walked by.
Pavlov would have been impressed with him when he flew down the stairs at the smell of Thai food preparations, because after all, those activities and smells went with Thai Mussel fritters, and he liked nothing better. In fact on a recent occasion, when Thai was being prepared but not mussel fritters, we offered him freshly cooked prawns. From his response you’d have thought we offered him cat food, and the cheapest version at that! Our previous cats looooved prawns and for them we made a dish of prawns their last supper.
Ever neurotic, he was utterly terrified of strangers and was a better stranger-early-warning system than a watch dog. If you saw him fly up the stairs, belly to the ground, tail down, you could guarantee there was someone walking through the complex, and far too close to our unit. We ultimately concluded that he had perhaps come from a cat farm (something we hadn’t known about previously), as we could never quite get him past his fear of anyone other than family.
It was only last Christmas that his increasing maturity became evident and he resisted the temptation to climb the Xmas tree, and carefully (or madly!) remove the baubles as he’d done every other year. From time to time he’d indulge in fits of craziness flying up the stairs like a bat out of hell, doing wheelies with his legs spinning out from under him. Hilarious to watch.
Nearly two weeks ago Mr Springer disappeared from home and hasn’t been seen since. We’ve tried everything under the sun to find him but reluctantly we’re very slowly accepting we’re likely not to see him again.
We can’t (won’t?) accept that someone might have catnapped him for nefarious purposes because he was just too speedy to be caught. He doesn’t appear to have been hit by a car as no body has been found. We hope that if he has gone to cat heaven that it wasn’t too terrifying a trip for our little nervous Nellie, and think that being bitten by a snake or poisoned by cane toad, rather than attacked by the dingoes or wild dogs that are in the reserve across the road, are the likeliest possibilities.
They say it takes two weeks to create or break a habit, in which case we may soon stop looking for him everywhere and come to terms with his empty Ikea chair without his furry little face looking at us. We’ve found it surprisingly difficult to come to terms with his absence –there’s something much “cleaner” about eventually having to have a very ill cat put to sleep, than the everlasting wondering about what happened.
Through it all we’ve been so grateful for the kindness of friends, family and strangers who’ve responded to our distress. The take-home message from this experience is very much about the goodness and kindness of most people, and how much most people love their pets. We’ve also been so impressed by the people at the Top End Lost and Found who coordinate information on lost and found pets.