I have had cats most of my life. The first example of Felis catus to enter my life was Frith, a black and white moggy who joined the family in 1959. She was named after Frith Street, in Soho where she attached herself, as a kitten, to my father's tie and he was left with little choice but to take her from the restaurant she was born in (with the owner's blessing) and bring her home.
Frith was small and mute. The best she could mange was a raspy squeak. She could spit, however. She reserved this for dogs. The hiss and spit was delivered from the safety of the human's arms and over their shoulder. She was also short-sighted, like the rest of the family (except my father). There were some things she failed to see and some dogs she failed to recognise as dogs. These included an English Sheepdog, which to her looked like a mop on legs. Instead of running away or spitting at him, she remained lying on the footpath in his path, and merely sniffed him as if to ask, "What are you?"
She firmly believed that she could hide behind a blade of grass and was rather taken aback when we easily found her and picked her up. She used to follow us to school each morning, at least part of the way, but her sense of direction left a bit to be desired. When we returned she would be waiting for us in a window-box - of a house three doors away. She always seemed so surprised when we walked past, as if we were the ones who had made a mistake, not her.
She was pretty rubbish at climbing trees, too, usually getting halfway
up a trunk and sticking there. However, she had a gentle nature and was
amazingly tolerant, allowing my brother to use her as a pillow or me to put her
in a doll's dress and then wheel her around in a pram. She was pretty smart,
knew her name and knew the call "Meaty-meaty-meaty" meaning dinner is
served. She also had morning and afternoon tea when Mother was at home,
consisting of a single sliver of meat. That would be enough for her, too, as
she knew the difference between the "teas" and the proper meals..
Sadly we had to leave her behind with family friends when we moved to
No cats then until 1971 as we moved about a bit. By then we had our own home, a unit at Bondi. Mother decided we needed a cat, so did some research and fixed on a Siamese, but not a female as their call can be heard over 6 miles of open country, her books said. Thus Satra, a Seal-Point, came into the family. His full name was Malukaneh Satra and he was bred by Ms P. Heaton New. His father or grandfather had been a NSW champion and he damn well knew it. When we went over to Five Dock to look at the three kittens she had for sale, there was no real choice. The first two were cute but a bit muddy as to colouring or points. However, when the as yet unnamed Satra, aged 3 months, strolled into the room, he was so self-possessed and so stunning with a clear coat and dark points. Even though he cost the grand sum of $60, there was no question he was the one for us. Once we'd settled on him, Ms Heaton New handed us a book of cat names to choose one. "Satra" was agreed on as it meant "weapon" and Mother was thinking of the stories about Siamese being used as guards or in battle. She then asked us if we wanted to show him, as he was showable. We thought about it but when she explained he would need to be kept clean and not get into mischief and mess, be groomed, etc. we decided not to as we wanted a pet we could play with.
Satra was a beautiful cat but he was a complete little furry tyrant. His loud harsh voice, demanding ways, weird (to us who were used to moggies) whippy body were such that when we were watching an episode of UFO which featured a Siamese cat which was really an alien computer, we decided it was a true story. The photo shows Satra in November 1975.
He was very good at the "poor, starving pussy" routine, turning big blue eyes on the gullible at the dinner table. The sucker-in-chief was my stepfather who supposedly didn't like cats. My stepfather, watching him dart agilely about, chasing a ball, would want to put him in a football team ("look at him dribble that ball"). He thought all that energy ought to be harnessed.
He trained us to play "bone". He would bring a cutlet bone,
which had been maturing nicely under the fridge for months and was now brittle
and dusty, and drop it on our laps. We were supposed to throw it and he would
bring it back, to be thrown again. This could go on for hours. He was also
prone to "activity periods" at some ghastly hour which would drag me
from my bed to confiscate his "toys' just for some peace. His best effort
was sitting outside my room howling all night when I was supposed to get up
early to go back to
If my brother was out late, my mother would go to bed but not the cat. He sat up and waited and yelled his head off at him when he finally did get in. However, if he told Satra he was going to be late, he would just go to sleep on his bed and not worry.
These were taken in January 1985 when Satra was just under 14 years old. He was not a happy camper that day. He'd gone out on the balcony to be brushed but there were workmen drilling in the unit and he was most displeased as can be seen by his body language. Satra was something of a Star Trek fan as he sat and watched "Balance of Terror" very closely. He did like to join in. He used to do push-ups along with Mother or roll a ball when she rolled a wheel. He was terrifyingly intelligent. He worked out how to unfasten my stepfather's briefcase. On the other hand, he regarded umbrellas and bags of potatoes as very suspect - he would approach them with his head out, neck extended, then swiftly reach out and bat them before withdrawing his paw as quickly as possible. If we had company he would come out to be admired, walking slowly around the room, once even draping his tail in all the empty coffee cups. One of my mother's friends was so bamboozled by him, she called him "Prince of Light" and for a long time would not come to the unit because she thought she wasn't worthy of such an aristocratic creature and was intimidated by him. Oh, they're good, Siamese cats.
As he grew older, he became even more tyrannical. If Mother brought up the washing but didn't put it away immediately, he would come into the kitchen and tell her off. If she had a shower at night instead of in the morning, he would tell her off. If the old dressing gown he slept on was not put out on the sofa by 9pm, he complained. Right up until he died, he would hurtle about like the world's only 18 year old kitten. He was put to sleep at 18 and a half due to kidney failure. He did not go gentle into that long goodnight but fought every inch of the way.
In 1979 I bought my own unit and by 1984 I felt I wanted a cat of my own. A Siamese, naturally. I found a breeder in Lyneham and picked out a Seal-point male kitten. Tonosama was very different from Satra who was independent and self-sufficient.
Tonosama as a 5 month kitten on the left and on the right a little older and wearing his harness. Below, Tonosama in a cupboard.
He was a very affectionate cat who didn't do well being left alone in a unit. He pined and started chewing things like towels, blankets, a neighbour's sock and so on. He was not interested in playing on his own. He only liked to play if I was on the other end of the string. He didn't mind playing with ping-pong balls and frequently they ended up under the fridge. So he would come grizzling to me. I'd say, "You lost your ball, haven't you?" He seemed to nod and would lead me to the fridge so I'd get it out again. I used to put him on a leash and take him to a nearby park so he got some fresh air and exercise. He didn't mind the little kids coming up to him and patting him. However, he would get tired on the way back and I would have to carry him from about half way. He also didn't mind teenage boys.
Eventually around March of 1985 I decided to rehome him, after consulting with the breeder, as he was not at all happy in the unit. He went to a home with three teenagers and other pets so he would have plenty of company so I hope he was happy.
Ironically, I bought and moved into a house in January 1986 which had a garden which he would have loved. In February of that year I went to the Royal Canberra Show for the first time and at the cat show, I found a six month Seal-point Siamese male kitten for sale (this was when breeders were allowed to sell at the show. They were stopped some years later because local breeders complained interstate breeders were swamping the market). This was Tweema Silas. Poor Silas didn't have the best start as it turned out he had the cat flu and though he got over that fairly quickly, he suffered respiratory infections each winter for the next few years. I always remember one thing his breeder said, "He is very nice, for a Siamese". And so he was.
Silas was a good "mother" to the other cats I brought into the house. He trained up the kittens not to jump on the table and washed them and looked after them. He liked the company of other cats and they would always sleep in a heap (not so grand in summer when they slept in a heap on me). However, he was still a Siamese and could be quite snobby. I took him to visit a friend who had some mogs. He looked down his nose at them and would not associate with them. "Call yourselves cats?" He also hung on to my arm to try to stop me patting a neighbour's Burmese who had come into the yard.
He was another who was quite fond of television - he used to "help" the Raiders play rugby by chasing the ball and patting it on the screen. He also used to get very involved in the car chases in The A-Team. He had my neighbour's elderly mother, Josie, well trained as he'd stroll over there when she had a dinner party and sit at the window to be let in. This would happen when Josie would announce, "Silas is here!" Silas never cared about the other animals in residence wherever he would wander. He would just boof them out of his way whether dogs, cats, chooks, geese... He made a first rate Neighbourhood Watch person as he would go into all the houses in the street and inspect things like extensions, alterations, new furniture, etc. He was not afraid to take on cars (another neighbour's son was horrified he had hit him but Silas just walked away) or intruding dogs (he'd see them off as he was a well-muscled cat, easily able to clear a six foot fence in a single leap and often found running along the roof ridge).
Here is Silas at about two in the garden. At the 1988 Royal Canberra Show, I bought a Blue Oriental female kitten, Oboro as company for Silas. They got on very well even though she was totally un-house-trained. She was a bit dim though very beautiful with a lovely shiny coat that looked like sealskin. She never did get the hang of sliding doors and would wail to have them opened for her. The rabbits I had later worked them out in no time.
Sadly in October 1988, just before the Labour Day Long Weekend, Oboro disappeared. I put posters up, checked with the RSPCA and all the vets in the area but no trace of her was ever found. Some years later, I was told that cat skinners had been active in the area at that time and her lovely coat would have made her a prime target.
Silas was distressed. He left her food for her and only ate his own, hoping she'd come back. When she didn't, he cried and would knead me or the carpet and follow me around.
Oboro stalking Silas
So I decided to find him another friend. There were no Siamese kittens to be had though many breeders were expecting litters. However, of all these only one actually had a litter. I chose two, one Seal-point Siamese male from one litter and a Black Oriental male from another. Just in case something happened to one. The Seal-point I named Barnabas and the Oriental Kongo (as in master ninja Kongo of Koga). Barnabas was born in September and Kongo in October 1989. Silas loved them, too, and trained them up. Barnabas was totally in awe of Silas and tried to copy him, even to the point of lowering his rather high-pitched voice to match Silas's deeper yowl.
As he grew older, Barnabas developed what I called "middle cat syndrome". He began harassing the others and being a pain. This got worse until things were so disharmonious I rehomed him in 1994, when he was 5, to a home where he was the only cat.
Kongo, who had been bottom of the heap began to assert himself until Silas literally threw his weight around and pinned the smaller Kongo down. They got along well after that. At one point some male must have kicked Kongo because around 1992 he was very wary of them and would not come near those who came for my 40th birthday, but glared malevolently at them from a distance. He got over it eventually but was always a neurotic bundle of black fur. He was claustrophobic - if you shut the door of any room he was in, he would shriek the house down and try and claw his way out. He was like a miniature black panther and the sight of his white teeth tearing into a raw chicken wing was disconcerting to say the least. He was a bit of an "attack-cat", ready and able to take on stray cats twice his size - he was usually found with claws full of their fur as they beat a hasty retreat.
Left is Kongo. Below top, Kongo and Barnabas as kittens. Below bottom Kongo and Silas.
Silas, Barnabas and Kongo in front of a fire and at dinner time.
Silas and Kongo try out Calpurnia's (Mini Rex doe) cage for size. Silas was not overly fond of rabbits. They tended to stalk him. He got jealous when I had some out in a lawn pen so I put him in among them. He was like a lady in a cartoon confronted by a mouse and got on tippy-toes to get away from them. They ignored him and just hooted around him.
Silas was put to sleep in 2001 as he had a bladder tumour. He was 14 and a half. His last few years were a bit rough as a neighbour's cat bit him on the leg. Kongo sat with him while he had "bed rest'. He recovered well and quite quickly. But then the other neighbour's cat bit him in almost the same place and shattered his bone. The vet showed me the X-ray which had caused comment in the practice. He managed to recover from that. Then it was found he was developing kidney problems so he went on Hill's K/D diet. This was very effective and his readings went back to normal.
I wanted another cat but did not want any more Siamese. They had become too extreme in style. I wanted something which still looked like a cat. I was in the habit of visiting cat shows and that was where I first saw Abyssinians and Somalis. So I decided that they filled the bill nicely and came in what in the rabbit fancy is called "Agouti Pattern", (Castor, Opal, Cinnamon, Fawn and Chinchilla or in Aby-cat-speak, Tawny, Blue, Cinnamon, Fawn and Black Silver), one of my favourite sets of colours (the other being the otters). I looked up breeders on a number of websites and found Diane Royal of Aureate Abyssinians (and Alpacas), who lives less than an hour from me. Thus Aureate Hatshepsut (Blue Abyssinian) and Aureate Royal Hathor (Blue Somali) came to live with me. They are sisters, born in February 2001.
Kongo, now 12, was not impressed and refused to come in the house now they were there. He died of acute kidney failure June 2002, aged 13.
The sisters as kittens. Hathor even at three months had the most magnificent plume which she would wave around like a banner. Like most Somali cats she was pretty outrageous with an ego the size of a planet but not the intellect to match. She was affectionately known as "the front row of the chorus". Whenever we had rabbit club meetings or anyone else came to the house, she was in their face, wanting pats and cuddles. Hatshepsut was more reserved. She was and still is "queen by name and queen by nature". Her behaviour suggests that in a past life she was a rabbit doe, a queen doe.
Encouraged by Diane, I
showed them for a number of years until they got sick of it. I also joined the Abyssinian Cat Club of Australasia
(eventually ending up as Treasurer and Web Manager and, at one point, Publicity
Officer as well). At one of the first meetings I attended I brought the girls
for a "show and tell". It was at
In 2002 I bought a
Aureate Hatshepsut (Blue Abyssinian), aged just under 2 years
Ricway Semiramis (Brown Spotted Bengal), aged just under one year
Semiramis showing off her tummy spots
Semiramis facing off Hathor
Hathor gets her own back
Hathor hunting birds - through the enclosure wire
Hathor being cute
Hathor looks smug
Hatshepsut looks around
However, in 2006 Hatshepsut, for some reason, decided to rip open Hathor's throat, requiring stitches. Thus I decided to rehome Hathor. I thought I had found the perfect home for her when a lady came who had lost her cat. She and Hathor hit it off immediately. For some years after, I used to cite this as one of those good things. Then I read an article in the Abyssinian Cat Club's journal about a lady who had taken on Hathor, now re-named Mogadishu and how she had drawn her out as she had been told she wasn't very people-oriented and didn't eat chicken (among other things). Hathor? Ms In-Your-Face-Give-Me-a-Pat-Or-Else who would sell her soul for chicken??!! What had that woman done to her, or if not her, the next lot of people for it seemed Hathor had had a couple of owners since then. Just goes to show you never can tell with some people. I have had similar experiences with people who have bought my Giant rabbits (one reason I seldom breed them). At least she has a very good home now, poor, loving, rather dim Hathor.
Earlier in 2004, I bought a
Blue Somali boy, Nareira Vico and a little later in that year, a Tawny Aby,
Aureate Aditya, to keep him company. I showed these for a while too until 2006
when Vico was badly handled by a steward at a
Vico is every bit as in
your face as Hathor but marginally brighter. He is a very pretty cat with a
massive ego. You have to pay him attention. He sits on you and makes bread,
scones and biscuits on you if you don't. He and Hathor are very empathic. When
I was massaging some essential oils into my cavies for a skin complaint and
they were shrieking for
Aditya was known as "greedy cat" because he was. He began as a tiny porcelain-boned kitty but grew into a tall, muscular cat who easily dislodged any competition for food. I had to feed him separately. He used to be bottom of the heap but staged a palace coup a few years ago and afterwards he and Hatshepsut fought often, but not always. Sometimes she licked him when she wasn't swearing at him. Sadly, he died of a lung tumour on 16th September 2017, aged just over 13.
Vico and Hatshepsut in their enclosure (Jan. 2012)
Aditya in his enclosure. He was as bad as an Abyssinian cavy to take a photo of, wouldn't stay still. Had to use some dry biscuits to anchor him even for a short while (Jan. 2012)
Cat shows are held regularly throughout the year in
Cats of Australia Very useful site which includes a directory of breeders' websites, arranged by breed.
Cat World Sister site to the above with a lot of useful articles on cats and cat breeds, including a glossary of feline-related terms. Also lists cat clubs.
Feline Health Research Fund Australian registered charity which supports feline health research "so that no cat suffers from preventable sickness and to ensure first rate treatments are developed to keep cats well." Donations over $2 are tax deductible.
The governing body of the fancy in the A.C.T. is Capital Cats Inc. (formerly the RNCAS Cat Club, which was part of the Royal National Capital Agricultural Society) It is affiliated with the Coordinating Cat Council of Australia (CCCA). It organises shows and displays in conjunction with the local cat clubs. Check its website and those below for show dates.
[Last updated October 2017]