People do the strangest things,
or so the saying goes. Cats aren't a whole lot different, as I
hope to demonstrate to you. This story is about our cat, Timbo.
He came from a litter of half-a-dozen, all of whom were given
names out of story books: Tom Thumb, Cinderella, Black Beauty,
Snow White, Prince Charming, and of course our little moggy, Tiny
At first the name seemed
fitting for the tiny, striped bundle of fur. But then at nine
months of age he was spayed and like many spayed tomcats grew to
enormous proportions. Tiny Tim no longer seemed appropriate, so
we expanded it out to Timothy, which was later shortened again to
Timbo's enormous size didn't
stop him from acting like a kitten, whenever the mood took him,
however. He engaged in all the more common kitty-antics, such
as tugging at dressing gown cords as people went past, leaping
onto balls of wool as they rolled along the floor when people
were knitting, and rubbing round people's legs, tripping them up,
causing them to curse him loudly as they almost fell flat on
their faces. But his all-time favourite game was taking a swipe
at people's hair with a paw, as they went past.
Inside the house, he would leap
up onto the back of the couch to swipe at the back of his
victim's head as he sat down, or else would claw his way up the
curtains to await his passing victims. This latter was an
effortless feat for Timbo with his oversized claws, but, of
course, it was murder on the poor curtains.
Outside the game was very
different. The man who had owned the house before us was a
carpenter, and in his spare time had made a great number of often
bizarre alterations to the house. These included building a
louvred arcade out the back, which joined up with a dirt-floored
workroom on one side of the yard, the garage on the other, and
was connected to the house, so that the tiny back yard was
completely enclosed. This arcade, the garage, and the workroom,
were what we called the inner-outer, as opposed to the
outer-outer (right outside).
Mum had to walk through the
inner-outer to hang the washing out on the clothesline, and Timbo
would hide on the workroom roof, hang over the guttering and take
a none-too-gentle swipe at the top of mum's head as she went
past. After a while mum became wary and started to duck her
head as she went out the doorway, forcing Timbo to lean further
and further out over the guttering. Until finally one day he
leant out too far and came crashing down to earth. Fortunately
he was unhurt, so we all had a good laugh at his expense.
Particularly mum, since Timbo confined his head-swiping
activities to the indoors from then on.
That was also the day we learnt
once and for all that the idea that cats always land gracefully
on their feet is simply a myth. Poor Timbo had landed with a
thump, on his side -- anything but gracefully.
Other games Timbo liked to play
included snooker and table tennis. At almost the size of a
small terrier, but greatly more dextrous, Timbo had no trouble
leaping up onto the kitchen table (where we played table tennis),
or the billiard table from a standing start.
When playing snooker, he would
curl his body around one of the pockets of the table and
monopolise it completely, forcing us to settle for the other five
pockets. Which didn't go down too well with some of our guests,
who took their snooker very seriously and did not like having
only five pockets to aim at. Particularly since Timbo was no
fool and always picked one of the four corner pockets, which are
much easier to pot balls into than the two middle pockets.
Which meant that we had only three 'easy' pockets and two hard
ones to aim for.
If, after selecting his pocket,
it turned out to already have snooker balls in it, Timbo would
happily poke around, dipping his front paws deep down into the
netting of the pocket to rattle the snooker balls around
furiously. Sometimes he managed to actually lift a ball right
out of the pocket. Then he had a great time lying on his side,
tap-tap-tapping the ball with all four feet, until finally
he managed to pot the ball back into the pocket.
If, on the other hand, the
pocket was empty, he would lie on the table facing toward us,
waiting for us to be kind enough to hit a ball or two over to
him. If, however, we were too selfish to oblige, Timbo would
wait until a ball came in his general direction, then leap out
and commandeer it and herd the ball toward his chosen pocket.
Then he would pat-pat-pat the ball into the pocket with
his usually fairly good aim. But, if a ball stubbornly refused
to be potted, eventually he would lose his temper and start to
kick out wildly, kangaroo-style with his oversized back
On more than one occasion he
kicked too hard and sent a ball flying right off the billiard
table. But since we played out in the otherwise unused garage
there was no danger of it breaking anything expensive, and the
snooker balls themselves are virtually indestructible. So, as
long as we were quick to duck there was no harm done.
Sometimes Timbo got bored
playing by himself, so he would stroll across to join in with our
game. One of his favourite tricks was to wait until we had
carefully lined up a difficult shot, then run across and tap away
the ball that we were aiming at. Another was to wait until
after we cued, then if the ball stopped a few centimetres short
of the pocket, he'd give it a little tap, sending the ball into
When playing table tennis,
Timbo would leap up and sit on the edge of the table, near one
end of the net, and would swivel his head from side to side, like
any other spectator, watching the small, white ball going back
and forth over the net. Whenever the ball came near him, he
would reach out one paw like a table tennis bat. With the
reflexes of a cat, he never missed the ball and nine times out of
ten managed to hit it back over the net.
Unfortunately Timbo was a
cheat. Not only would he lie right up against the net (which is
strictly illegal), making it bend whichever way he liked to help
the ball go over, but he would tap it straight down one side,
just over the net, so that the ball hit the table then fell
straight onto the floor, giving his opponent no chance whatsoever
of returning the ball. This meant that Timbo never lost a game
of table tennis, but it also made him extremely unpopular with
whoever he was playing against.
Another of Timbo's favourite
pastimes was playing with the dog next door. One of his
favourite methods was to lie on the concrete driveway at the base
of the picket fence that separated the two yards, and dangle his
long tail through the pickets into the next yard. Timbo would
lie on his side in the driveway for hours, seemingly sound
asleep, as he patiently waited for the dog to notice his tail.
Then, when it raced across barking excitedly, at the very last
second Timbo would flick his tail casually back into our yard and
the poor dog would dive headfirst straight into the wooden
After it recovered its senses,
the dog would bark furiously for five minutes or more before
wandering off, so that Timbo could flick his tail back into its
yard. Then again the dog would race across, barking wildly,
only to crash full pelt into the fence again, as once more Timbo
pulled back his tail in the nick of time.
Timbo could keep up this game
all day long, if only the poor dog's head held up. Often we
would be in the kitchen or the lounge room when the furious
barking started up and mum would say, "It sounds like Timbo is
teasing that poor bloody dog again."
* * *
"Curiosity killed the cat!" or
so they say. Although it didn't kill him, there is no doubt
that Timbo possessed more than an average amount of curiosity.
In fact, in his own small way, Timbo started up his own private
Neighbourhood Watch, long before it ever officially came to
Footscray. One way he did this was to claw his way up onto the
back of the couch, go around behind the voile curtains, which
were meant to be white, but were usually coated with orange and
black fur and dirt of all sorts that he dragged in from outside.
Then he would lie on the headrest of the couch for hours, gazing
out through the lounge room window at people and cars passing by
in the street outside.
On more than one occasion
someone would turn up in the evening to take out one of my
sisters, or to visit, and seeing a face gazing out through the
window would think that it was one of us looking out at him.
Until bending down he would see that the face was small, striped,
Once Timbo's night-time cat
chases across the corrugated-iron roof became too much for us, we
started restricting him to the inner-outer at night. This kept
him out of the house and out of trouble, while allowing him to
stretch his legs, sleep in comfort in the garage, and, of course,
he could use the dirt floor in the workroom as a
This presented problems at
first, however, since my sister Irene did casual work at home,
putting circulars into envelopes for a family named Drysdale.
The Drysdales would collect or drop-off work at any hour of the
night or day, so we never knew when they were going to call and
had to leave the side gate unlocked for them. However, Timbo
always knew when they were going to call. He possessed some
kind of sixth-sense that gave him about ten minutes warning
before their arrival.
So, if Timbo was in the house
when his ESP began to tingle, he would yowl to be let outside and
naturally we thought that he needed to go to the toilet.
Instead he would sneak across to hide near the side gate, then
would almost bowl over the Drysdales as he raced past them to get
to the great outdoors.
After a few years, however,
Irene found a full-time job, so Timbo lost his chance to sneak
past the Drysdales. However, he still liked to spend his
evenings in the inner-outer, since our next-door neighbours were
real party animals, and had a barbecue going almost every night
over spring and summer. Timbo would sit on the top rung of a
metal ladder out in the workroom, peering into the next yard for
hours on end, through a small crack in the workroom wall. This
was Timbo's favourite Neighbourhood Watch activity in warm
weather, although in winter he still preferred the back of the
"If only cats could speak!" mum
would muse, and we all wondered what tales Timbo could tell, if
only he could talk. Maybe it was just as well that he couldn't,
or else curiosity really might have killed the cat, after the
neighbours found out who had told on them!
* * *
Life was not all fun and games
for Timbo, however, he also had his fair share of pain. Usually
after a hellish cat-fight, when he tried to chase some poor moggy
out of our yard, or even out of its own yard, since Timbo decided
early on in life that the entire neighbourhood belonged to him.
However, the worst pain he ever suffered, was when he came down
with a bad case of dental plaque. As I can testify from
personal experience, dental plaque makes your teeth hurt like
hell. It also makes it virtually impossible to eat -- another
one of Timbo's all-time favourite activities.
He had been off his food for
three days when we took him to the veterinarian. Unfortunately
it was late Friday and the vet did not open on the weekend, so
poor Timbo had to suffer from aching teeth all weekend, waiting
for the vet to remove the plaque the next Monday.
That Sunday friends of ours,
Jayne and Leah, came visiting and brought with them their new
pet, Moppet, a five-month old Labrador pup. Thinking Timbo was outside and finding
Moppet a bit of a pest, running all round our feet, we put the
puppy out in the corridor and shut the lounge room door. A
minute or so later there was the sound of hellish shrieking
coming from the hallway.
"That bloody dog!" I said,
getting up quickly, thinking that Moppet was teasing poor
I opened the door, stepped into
the corridor and was almost skittled as the dog came racing down
the hallway with our cat in hot pursuit. Probably Moppet had
seen Timbo lying in a corner, or curled up on the telephone stool
(one of his favourite places) and had gone across to make friends
with the big, furry lump. But whatever the truth was, Timbo was
feeling too sick and miserable to want to make friends with
anyone and had obviously decided that if he could not stop his
own agony, at least he would feel better if he could pass some of
the pain off onto someone else.
Fortunately for Moppet I
reached down fast enough to scoop the puppy up just in the nick
of time, otherwise Timbo probably would have killed
Finally Monday came, however,
so I could take Timbo down to the vet. Unfortunately we have no
car, so I had to carry Timbo all the way down
-- more than a half an hour's
Because the day was overcast, I
made the mistake of wearing a thick, woollen jumper. So
carrying Timbo, with his internal combustion going like a blast
furnace, I soon found my arms and chest itchy from prickly
To make matters
Street is a main
road with heavy transport zooming past continually, and Timbo had
always been afraid of traffic. For a while he just did his best
to bury his head in my arms. But after a while he started to
yow-ow-owl at the top of his lungs, making people turn and stare
"Mummy! Mummy!" called a
little girl in a fruit shop that we went past. "What's that
nasty man doing to that poor pussycat?"
Finally we arrived at the
veterinary surgery, and when the reception girl asked, "What can
we do for your cat, sir?" I felt like saying, "You can ring his
bloody neck!" Instead I explained that he had an appointment to
get his teeth fixed.
A few hours later I returned to
the surgery to collect Timbo, dreading the expected repeat
performance on the way home. However, when I got to the
reception desk, there was Timbo grinning like an idiot, with a
smirk that put Alice's Cheshire Cat to shame. He was so zonked
out on local-anaesthetic, that he had a broad "cheesy" grin all
the way home and not only didn't object to the street noises, but
didn't seem to even be aware that he was being
I was half expecting the same
little girl to say, "Mummy! Mummy! Look at that grinning
pussycat!" But, of course, she was long gone when we went past
the fruit shop.
As you know by now, Timbo could
be a bit of a devil at times. But then he had his origins in
mischief. One day a friend of ours, Charlene, had been in her
back yard hanging washing out on the line, when to her surprise a
mother cat strolled into the yard, followed by an almost
perfectly straight line of six or seven tiny kittens, using the
yard as a short cut to the next property. The furry procession
passed within a few centimetres of Charlene, who leant down and
scooped up the cutest kitten, allowing the mother cat and her
remaining offspring to continue along on their merry
That purloined pussycat grew up
to be Timbo's mother, Lizbeth, so possibly his mischievous nature
stemmed from the way his mum had been acquired.
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