My First Cat

Dusky with My Mother, 1969

Dusky with My Mother, 1969

Here’s a photo that my father took in 1969, showing my mother sitting near the pond in our back garden, with my first cat.

Strictly speaking, the cat wasn’t mine, and wasn’t really anybody’s, because she was what would now be called a “feral” who simply showed up in our garden one day, along with several other ferals who were even wilder than she was. This particular cat liked being fed and petted to some extent, and didn’t mind coming into our house occasionally. She always went out at night, but I’m not sure whether that was because she wanted to do so, or because my parents simply had the attitude that “at night you put the cat out”.

I wanted our cat to have a name, of course, but nobody seemed willing to agree on anything. I had an old book that I’d inherited from a neighbor called Calling All Kittens, which featured large paintings of various cute kittens. The kitten in the book who most resembled our feral was named “Dusky”, so that was the name I gave her. However, nobody else in the family seemed willing to use that name, always referring to her by the unimaginative title of “Puss”!

How Not to Transport a Feral

We moved in 1970 to a house on the other side of Scarborough, and my mother attempted to move Dusky along with us. It didn’t go well.

Firstly, Dusky had never before ridden in a car, and didn’t like it at all. She jumped around in a panic for the entire journey.

When we arrived at the new house, my mother decided to keep her indoors for the day. However, when night came, she just did the same as always and “put the cat out”.

We never saw Dusky again.

Of course, now I know that that’s absolutely not the way to move your cat from one house to another! At that time, I was only ten years old, so, even if I’d known what to do, I doubt that my parents would have listened to my advice.

I’ve also learned since then that “putting the cat out at night” is neither necessary nor desirable. In California, it’s almost a death sentence, since cats can encounter common animals such as raccoons that can inflict major injury or death.

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