November 18, 2008

Grand Passion

My parents no longer have a cat. This is not because they don't like cats, although for many years I was quite sure they did not like dogs. As a child, dogs were my main love, but my pleas for one fell on deaf ears, so I invented imaginary dogs. They varied according to mood but were mainly either a Sheltie, or a Papillon. I still smile when I see either of these breeds, but have never actually owned one.

On reflection, my parents have only had three cats in my lifetime, which amuses me as I consider owning at least four at a time as normal. But they have all been grand passions; all-consuming loves. Sweep, a beautiful black cat dominated my childhood. He was a moggy; loving and friendly and a perfect pet for children. Sadly, when we moved away from Hertfordshire to the more northern rural life of Cheshire, the beauty of the farms around us came at a high price. The inevitable rats from the nearby water resulted in poison laid by the neighbours and his early demise. The details are hazy. What I remember most is the grief; the numbed, wrenching grief of my mother. We remained unowned by a cat for some years while she recovered from the loss.

From rural Cheshire, we returned to live briefly in Hertfordshire. By then I was at boarding school in Hampshire, making the long journey back and forth each term, clutching the wicker traveling cage with my precious guinea pigs. At 13, my life changed forever when my brother and I flew across the world to live in New Zealand and join our parents who had both moved to Auckland some months earlier. The family unanimously agreed it was time for another cat. We decided on a Siamese and quickly found a Seal Point breeder in the paper over the New Year holidays. We duly selected the smallest, i.e the runt, but she was beautiful and we all fell in love with Tika.

Somewhere we will have paper copies of pictures of her... but not tonight.

She was too young to put in a cattery, even if we could have managed to part with her so soon, so she travelled with us on our holidays. She came round the Coromandel in a dormobile as we explored our new country. She visited Sandy Bay up north, and even managed to do the Cream Trip in the Bay of Islands. For some reason we thought this was safer than leaving her running round the motel! I do remember we gave her an ACP tranquiliser tablet, so all anybody saw of her in her cage on the boat was what we affectionately call "ace face" at the clinic.. It looks something like this photo, so thanks to here ..

We had Tika for five years. She coughed a lot, and in hindsight with my now more professional eyes, she probably had allergies causing asthma like symptoms. One summer, when I returned from my first year of vet school, she developed "snuffles". Only she never got well; despite antibiotics and care, the virus and infections landed her in intensive care with a hole in her lungs, (pneumothorax) . After some days in an oxygen tent, she died. Maybe she was euthed. I just know she came home to be buried, and my mother's grief started again. This time, I took action and decided that I would get a kitten for myself to take back to university. It was fine for them to grieve, but I wasn't going to buy into it.

After careful choice, I found a strong and healthy Seal Point female, Tasha. She was one of the old school type of Siamese - large and strong, not the rangy, lean, pointy ones you get today. With her came ATTITUDE, tons of it. A healthy temper, and a "don't mess with me" air. She took over the house. It worked; my mother still grieved, but managed to accept the kitten and allow her antics to cheer her up. By the time I came to leave for uni again after a few weeks there was a palpable air of concern at her being taken all the way to Palmerston North to a student flat of five. But Mum wasn't totally ready to take her on, so Tasha did come with me and proceeded to rule our flat for the first term. She was chaos on wheels. She demanded, she complained, she twisted us all round her paws. The other girl in the flat was another vet student, and understood her ways, but the guys were all ag or hort students and alternately loved and loathed her, depending on the contents of her dirt tray, how often she had leapt on them from the top of the door, or smooched them.

Eventually, we both returned to Auckland for the holidays, she now a beautiful exotic leggy 7 month old cat. Of course, she never made it back to Palmerston North! I got to see her occasionally when I visited, but in later years, when I guess Tasha was 10, my parents returned to live in England. The six month quarantine nearly finished her, but my mother sat locked in her run area for hours syringe feeding her. They got five more years with her before she developed a growth in her mouth. Despite radiotherapy treatment Tasha slowly declined and was finally put to sleep at 16. She is immortalised in a beautiful canvas painted picture on their wall, back here in Christchurch.

For fifteen years, they have remained catless. The excuses are multitude; responsibility, travel, cost....but I suspect it is to avoid the pain of losing another one.


  1. I am over here to thank you for visiting my blog and am delighted to say I will be back. I am potty about animals, we have a Westie who thinks he is boss of the house, and have my daughters cat to stay when she goes on holidays. Then Milou is not allowed upstairs under my desk and the cat has two rooms to herself at night, shut away from the pooch. [they were both too mature when they first met and fur flew. mainly the dog's]

    I love your beautiful pictures and the story of your own cat.

  2. They quarantine cats for 6 months???? Where are they quarantined? How stressful that must be for both owner and cat. We treat pets like people sometimes and forget they don't live as long as people, so we have to go through that loss so often. Sad. :( Since I live in two cities, I haven't had pets for years. I miss having one. Maybe once I go back to living in one city.

  3. Thank you Moannie - Westies are great. We lived next to one for many years, and i was sad to hear she had died recently. Sorry they have not managed to make better friends :(

  4. Hi NGIP

    The barbaric six month quarantine is no longer! Thankfully. They have special pet passports now and lots of blood tests and vaccines for rabies instead :)
    It was a long time for a cat - let alone the expense.


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