Monday, October 16, 2006

Three cats' tales

These are tales of the names of the three cats that I have grown up with.

My family got our first cat when I was three, my mother decided to get a cat partly because I was scared of them and my mother thought that it would make me get over it. She is also a cat person and I think life had settled down to a point where having a cat seemed like a natural thing to do. We went to the home of person from the Cats' Protection League and got a beautiful, sleek almost entirely black cat. On the way home in the cat box she said "Ow" and I said "Ow" back. My parents asked my sister(5) and I what we wanted to call the cat. I said "Ow". My sister said "Sarah", Sarah was her favourite name in the whole world just then. A little later my sister's favourite name was "Clare". The cat's name became Ow Sarah Clare. Over time my sister tried hard to give our cat the best possible name. Ow Sarah Clare Puffbang Lawnmower Shining-eyes Black-fur Ow was, as a result, called "Puss". I remember her best for her love of eating spiders, dust baths and being stroked, and her dislike of being picked up.

When I was eight we decided to get a kitten (as our family cat was no more). Someone we knew vaguely had a queen with four kittens. One black and white, one tabby, one tortie and one ginger. My parents held an STV election for which kitten we got. The ginger kitten had come second in everyone's ballots and won. It was decided that this cat would have one name. Our English cousins, who we all admired, had a cat called Ginger. Our kitten became Gingy. I seem to remember this being decided partly to avoid confusion with Ginger. The fact that Ginger and Gingy lived on different sides of the world and would never meet not withstanding.

Gingy was a staunch, feisty cat. I have many stories of his exploits: skateboarding, ignoring buses and chasing the neighbours' dog for starters. He was the cat of my teens. The cat whose fur I wept into when I thought no one understood me. The cat who stared so balefully at one of my boyfriends when we were canoodling on the couch that he asked if I could put him outside. I'm sure Gingy would have asked me to do the same to the boyfriend if he'd had the words.

My best beloved, D, and I are both cat people. When I no longer had rats (I'll tell you about them another day) we started talking about having a cat. Finally one day I rang D from work. He was getting really stressed out over his master's thesis. I decided if I couldn't be there as a stress counsellor during the day we needed feline help. So I got him to pick me up from work that afternoon, over protests he was too busy and too stressed, and we went out to the SPCA.

I had criteria - no long-hairs, no Siamese, no white cats and no kittens. D had criteria - a friendly lap cat. I also wanted a cat who would be quite different from Gingy. We looked at big cats and small cats, old cats and young cats, cats with loving families moving overseas and abandoned semi-strays. We spent a long time in the cat room and none of them seemed quite right. Eventually we sat down in the middle of the cat room and talked about whether we could in good conscience leave all these homeless but not quite right cats and come back another day. That's when the cat made his move. He jumped up on D's lap and settled down possessively. He was whiter, furrier and more like Gingy than I'd planned but he was clearly a friendly lap cat and he'd picked us.

On the long drive home, over the extremely loud wailing from the cat box we discussed a name. There had been a possibility of adopting a cat called Hamish that had fallen through and I said how I liked people names. D said if I didn't decided quickly enough we'd have to call him Ploppy. I mused how a dog I knew had his owners' son's middle name (they liked the name and didn't think they'd got to use it enough). I suggested Andrew (D's middle name). D like the Andy cat/Andy Capp parallel. We named him Mr Andrew P. Catt and call him Andy.

Now I should say here that I know the cartoon character Andy Capp is a misogynist, alcoholic wife-beater and perhaps our choice was in poor taste. In my defense the Andy Capp strip used to be in the Evening Post and so I became inured to it in my youth and also that Andy Capp's behaviour is much more acceptable in a cat than a person.

Andy likes to be top cat in the neighbourhood. He is big, pushy and fierce. When he is top cat, he is also confident, relaxed and smug. When his position is under threat he is nervy, edgy and needs reassurance. Once he disappeared for three days after a terrible storm. When I dropped flyers into the neighbours' mailboxes to ask them to check if he'd been locked in anywhere everyone knew him. He showed up half an hour later, very hungry.


Susan said...

You requested corrections: We got the black cat after I started school. A fictionalised account of her arrival is in my first news book. We didn't get her from the Cat's Protection League, we got her from a house on the "short cut" above Pembroke Road after the Pink Garages and before the oxbow. The contact may have been The Cats' Protection League, I don't know about that, but I do walking home from school and thinking about passing the house we got our cat from for years.

RUTH said...

Thanks for the corrections. I have updated our ages. I think that it was a Cats' Protection League connection so I have left that.

JK said...

canoodling is a great word.

I am a cat person. I have written about the kitty love of my some. I actually made him quite an extensive site. I'll email you.

How are you feeling?

Fionnaigh said...

My favourite cat name was BBC for British Blue Cat, but we called him Bee Bee for short.

So if, as I keep hearing lately, one is meant to pick a porn star name based on first pet + first street lived in, that would make my porn star name Bee Bee Windsor. Hmmmm.

RUTH said...

Somehow I don't see Ow Sarah Clare Puffbang Lawnmower Shining-eyes Black-fur Ow Chudleigh as a goer (in either sense). Clearly being a porn star is not my calling.