I never warmed to cats. I had a bad experience with them when I was boy. My mad grandfather discovered a litter in our back shed and decided to euthanize them using chloroform.
I don’t think he got the chemical balance right. It was a nightmare. I was deeply scarred. I pursued a no-pet policy with my children despite their heartfelt pleas.
We did, however have parrots and pigeons that came to visit in the morning, and they brought The Cat.
It might have once belonged to some neighbours who moved in a hurry, but it was living on the street now. It slept on top of the warm motor of our car, drank from the garden hose, slept in some straw under the lime tree.
Mice and rats moved out to safer homes.
This cat is impressive, it might have been homeless, but it has cat class and it has cat style.
It’s an urban hipster, but when it stalks around our backyard, its eyes tell you its hunting on the plains of the Serengeti.
And it’s handsome and clever, and it found its way into our house pretty quickly, despite my repeated demands: “Do not let that cat in the house.” And it ate high class cat food: “Do not feed that cat”, and it banged on the door in the morning, and it attacked my shoes whether I was in them or not, and it came and listened to my son play guitar, and it curled up next to the fire in the evening.
Once I had no cat food and I gave it a can of tuna. After that it turned its nose up at anything but human tuna.
It only liked to drink running water, not still water in a dish. You have to let water run from the tap in the bath.
When the family turns up to the house, he appears from nowhere and barges his way to the front of the line so he can go through the door first.
This cat is an aristocrat, a prince. We are all glad he lets us live in his house.
And of course, he is more than just a cat, he is an entertainer, a friend, and perhaps most of all, he is a teacher.
He has taught me that pets have a place in this world and that we might need them more than they need us.
I don’t pick the cat up or pat it. It just comes and sits next to me. He’s sitting next to me now, while I’m writing this.
He’s looking at me and he’s thinking, “You belong on the street, man.”
Simon Bourke is a Fairfax Media journalist and cat convert