You know sometimes, something, a memory from your childhood just pops into your head? That happened to me. The story of my very first pet. I think I was around 8 or 9. Up until then we had never been allowed to have a pet, (a) my father hated animals pretty much, and (b) my younger brother was an asthmatic and it was worried that any pets may make that worse. Anyway, I was outside playing in the cubby house that my Papa had built. He was a carpenter of sorts, making toys like rocking horses, hobby horses, baby cradles and the like.
My beloved cubby was a place were I could be my own little person.. I ran my household probably as badly as I do now come to think of it.. hahaha!
One day I was sitting there drawing, or colouring in (something that I did a LOT of) when I became aware of a tiny sound. It was very faint, but it caught my attention. I opened the window and peered out. Yep, there it was a tiny squeaking sound. In front of the cubby was an old gnarly lemon tree. It was REALLY old. I stood listening and realised that the sound was coming from up in the tree.. so me being me, I pushed my way into the branches, trying hard not to get myself snagged or worse, scratched by the thorns and there it was.
the tiniest black and white kitten you ever saw, wedged in the branches. My heart stopped beating for a moment then suddenly started back up pounding so hard I thought it was going to burst right out of my chest. I carefully reached up and grabbed it. It was so small it fit into my hand. Thinking back, she was all skin and bone, poor little thing. I took her and hid her in my cubby, deathly afraid my dad would find out and take her away (I didn’t know of course that the kitten was a she, but its easier to say she than the kitten).
Not ever having had a pet of any kind, I had no idea what to feed her, apart from the fact that I knew that cats liked saucers of milk. So I wrapped her up in my cardigan and put her in the corner of the cubby, and went into the house to try to get her something to eat. Well, I was 8, so of course I grabbed what I thought would be the best thing. I got a plastic cup of milk (for me of course!) and a plate with a couple of chocolate rough biscuits (for me, of course!).
And so for two days that poor little kitten was fed chocolate biscuits that I had softened in the milk. I’m surprised I didn’t kill her myself on that diet. But she was starving and I expect that my meager offerings were the best thing she had had in a long time.
Then on the third day, horror…. The man next door, Mr G. had found the litter of kittens that my dear kitten had obviously wandered away from. As I sat in my cubby, he did the most horrifying thing. One by one, he was grabbing them and snapping their necks. I cried and cried. I can still hear the tiny cracks. I don’t know how long I was there for, cuddling my kitten when my mother opened the door to the cubby. I had not heard her calling my name and she had come to get me. There I was, sprung. I was nursing my kitting, whom I had called Pinny. I figured that the white markings on her chest and tummy looked like an apron (also called a pinny by my grandmother) so that’s what I called her. The look on my mums face said everything. She was horrified. She knew what had just happened next door, which is why she was looking for me. She didn’t want me to know about it. Too late. I remember her saying “where did you get that cat” and “its probably got fleas” and “your father is not going to like this” and then she took me and Pinny inside and found some tinned tuna to feed her.
Dad came home and there we were, sitting in the lounge with Pinny firmly in my lap. I think my eyes probably looked like flint (similar to how they do now when I am determined). And so the argument came. He didn’t like animals, but we argued that he didn’t like dogs, specifically. He never actually had ever mentioned cats. She was only small. She wouldn’t eat much. She would live in the cubby. My brother had been patting her and had showed no signs of being allergic to her. She didn’t have fleas (well many fleas). In the end, we won!
As she grew she turned out to be a beautiful, pretty little cat. She had persian in her, so her fur was longish and so soft. And she was a very clean cat. And funnily enough she was extremely fond of my father.. who consistently growled at her and chased her away from him.
Pinny was the neighbourhood star. She used to sit up on the front brick fence every afternoon and wait for me to come home from school. And of course every other kid that walked by was enamoured with her. She would walk along side them the length of the fence, purring and meowing. She got so many pets in the afternoons. She was so friendly, she would jump down and go up to people on the other side of the road just for a tickle under the chin.
She was also very adventurous. Where our house was, was fairly isolated. It was right at the end of the main road, with a huge swamp at the end of the street. There was a storm water drain there, where we kids used to catch frogs and tadpoles. One day I heard the man across the street yelling. I ran out and there was my Pinny, casually trotting down the street. She was bringing a little present to us from the swamp. A four foot brown snake! She was dragging it by the tail, and it was not happy. It was thrasing around as she brought it down the street. I watched as our neighbour chopped it into about three pieces with a shovel. Pinny did not look impressed. She was always dragging things down the street, mice, rats, birds. But a snake? We still can’t understand how she didn’t get bitten.
Pinny was about six years old when she disappeared. We never found her. We never knew what happened. I was devastated of course. She was my baby. She used to curl up in my lap while I did my homework, she slept in my bed, right at the bottom under the blankets, snuggled up by my feet. Mum tried to tell me that she had probably been cat-napped. She was so friendly, she would have let anyone pick her up and pop her in their car and just drive off. But I still believe she was killed by a snake down in the swamp.
I’ve had several cats since her. We managed to get dad to agree to me having another one a few years later. Misty.. who lived to be 19 and we had to have her put down because she was so old she had no teeth left and could not groom herself or eat. And of course since I have been living my own life I’ve always had at least one cat. I have two at the moment. Snack and Misty (yes another Misty – what can I say.. I like the name!)
Anyway, I just felt the need to jot this down…