In works of fiction household
pets usually have names like Fluffy, or Spot, or Rover, or Fido.
In real life, however, apart from Graham Kennedy's near
legendary golden Labrador, Rover, no one ever gave names like those to
their pets. In real life dogs and cats have names such as
Susie, or Sally, or Charley Barley, or Fred. Even
is a more likely name for a
household cat than Spotty or Fluffy.
This story is about an enormous
orange and black tabby tomcat named Timothy. Although usually
we shortened it to Timbo.
Before Timbo was born, we
baby-sat (or should that be cat-sat?) his mother, Lizbeth, when
she was pregnant, while her owners were interstate on
Poor Lizbeth was a timid little
thing, who never adjusted to being with strangers and never could
find out how to use the cat door to get outside. On the other
hand, after being given to us at six months of age as reward for
cat-sitting his mum, Timbo took all of two days to learn how to
turn his head to one side, give the vinyl flap a nudge with his
head, then ease out through the cat door. It then took him
another ten days to train his humans to perform this service for
him. Timbo would prop a few centimetres away from the door,
then yowl at the top of his lungs until one of his pet humans got
up and went across to nudge the flap open with the toe of a
Sometimes people got fed-up
with Timbo's laziness, however, then the shoe was just as likely
to go under his tail. In which case Timbo would disappear
headfirst through the cat flap, a lot faster than he had
Then Timbo would glare back in
through the cat door with his bright yellow-green eyes, giving
the offender a look that seemed to say, "How dare you do that to
the King of the Household?"
Although in truth Timbo
considered himself to be nothing less than king of the entire
neighbourhood. It is common enough for tomcats to declare their
yard to be out of bounds to other cats and noisily chase
trespassing moggies away. Often waking up the whole household
by chasing the interloper across the corrugated-iron roof of the
house in the small hours of the night. However, Timbo went one
better by going into other properties and chasing poor cats out
of their own yards.
Timbo soon established himself
as King of the Cats, a title unquestioned by all except one
pretender. A large black and white, semi-feral stray which my
sisters Irene and Christine christened Prince Charles. As I've
already stated Timbo was enormous in size, however, he was
dwarfed by Prince Charles who was absolutely "humungous" as
Christine loved to say.
Whenever Timbo heard the sound
of cat steps on the roof of the garage or the back patio, he
would go charging outside to declare "The War of the Roses".
Unless the trespasser turned out to be Prince Charles, then it
became the "War of the Pansies" as Timbo reversed direction and
virtually flew into the house to find himself a safe hiding place
in my bedroom or under the kitchen table.
Sometimes I'd find Timbo bailed
up in a corner of the garage or the outside workroom, with Prince
Charles standing over him. However, a sharp kick up the
backside would get the stray moving, then safely held in my arms,
Timbo could afford to be brave, hissing and snarling at the
Of course being the King of the
Cats meant that Timbo had to be some kind of lion or tiger. So
whereas most cats walk, or at least slink along, wiggling their
behinds from side-to-side, like Marilyn Monroe "wiggle-walking",
Timbo would stalk along like a tiger, using the flower beds of
neighbouring yards as his own private jungle. Unfortunately
this made him unpopular with some of our neighbours, who objected
to having their prized rhododendrons trampled by Timbo's ungainly
back feet. Which were so outsized that rather cruelly our mum
suggested that his father must have been a kangaroo. Or at the
very least an oversized wallaby.
The most unreasonable of all
our neighbours were the Snettertons, who had migrated
to Australia from England twenty years ago. And whom for most of that
time had been carefully nurturing a tall English hedge, which
extended right along their front yard (instead of a front fence)
and along our side of the yard.
The Snettertons' hedge was one
of the Royal Footscray Horticultural Society's most treasured
plants for more than twelve years.
Unfortunately when Timbo
stalked through the hedge, his oversized body would often snap
off lower branches. And his scratching round, using the hedge
as a toilet, unsettled its roots, so that soon it started to
wither and die. To the point where a mere two years after
Timbo's appearance at our house, the last of the hedge had been
dug up and carted away to the rubbish tip.
Quite unreasonably, after this
the Snettertons took to throwing things at Timbo whenever he
strayed into their front yard. Things such as brick batts and
empty four-litre paint tins.
* * *
Like all cats, as long as he
was fed properly Timbo would sleep at least fifteen hours a day.
However, unlike most cats, he hated to sleep on soft surfaces.
Timbo's favourite beds were all hard, sharp, or otherwise
uncomfortable places. One of his favourite beds was the red
brick pebbles which lined our front yard. Another was stray
pieces of wood -- preferably with plenty of rusty nails pointing
up into him. Yet another favourite was my sister's school
folder, which she would leave open on her bed for hours while
doing her homework. Timbo would leap up onto Christine's bed,
stalk across toward the folder, then lie fully along the middle
of the folder, having somehow decided that the sharp, metal teeth
of the ring binder were much more comfortable than the woollen
blankets could ever be.
Another of Timbo's favourite
beds was any wooden, plastic, or cardboard container that he
could find. However, although he would settle for a large,
roomy box if nothing else was available, his favourites were
small cardboard boxes and two-litre plastic ice-cream containers.
He would somehow force his way down into a seemingly much too
small container, then would curl round into a ball to sleep for
hours. However, sometimes he would wake up again to find
himself stuck and would have to yowl for one of his human
servants to come to rescue him from his bed.
"It almost got you that time,
Timbo," Christine would tease, "that wild, pussycat eating
ice-cream container." But, of course, her sarcasm did not stop
him from squeezing down into the same container next time he
wanted a sleep. Timbo was nothing if not persistent.
Another of Timbo's favourite
places, in winter, was my bedroom. For some reason my room is
the hottest in the house, so in winter it is more liveable even
than the lounge room.
As a freelance writer I work at
home. Sometimes writing all night, then sleeping all day. So
Timbo would come in and use up my heater while I sat at my desk
writing. Then in the morning when Irene got up to go to work,
he would race out to get his breakfast before Prince Charles ate
it, do his toilet, then race back inside half an hour later to
curl up next to me when I went to bed. Naturally he would
decide that whichever side I lay down on had to be the best and
that I had palmed the worst side off onto him. So he would
climb up onto my feet, digging his bony feet into my flank, as he
used the side of my body like a bridge to walk up to yowl into my
face until I agreed to swap sides with him. Then, after licking
and slurping, and keeping me awake for twenty minutes or more,
he'd lie down hard up against me. In stories cats usually are
contented to lie at the foot of the bed, well away from their
owner. But not Timbo. He had to have some part of his body
touching some part of mine.
Although only small compared to
a human, Timbo's internal combustion was like a blast furnace.
He gave off such a tremendous amount of body heat that it would
soon become uncomfortably hot, even in mid winter.
Then, of course, Timbo's tea
time came an hour before mine. So, if I should dare to still be
asleep, he would walk up to almost sit on my face and yowl until
I woke and got up to let him out. Then I would have to wait
while he ate, to let him back in for a final hour before I was
called for tea, and would have to put up with him licking and
slurping for another twenty minutes before I could return to
If, on the other hand, I dared
not to wait while he ate his tea, Timbo would stand outside my
bedroom door and yow-ow-owl at the top of his lungs until finally
I conceded defeat and got up to let him back in.
Of course that was in
In summer my bedroom is
insufferably hot, to the point where even on high the electric
fan does nothing more than swirl the hot air around in eddies.
So, having been Timbo's favourite person all winter, I found that
I had suddenly come down with a bout of summertime-plague.
Which meant that I would hardly even see Timbo for ten or twelve
weeks running, unless we had an unseasonable spell of cold
weather in mid summer.
Other places Timbo loved to
sleep included the bottom of mum's wardrobe. She would lock the
door after putting her clothes away, then hours later would hear
yowling coming from the wardrobe and would have to race up to let
Another favourite place was my
dressing cabinet. As a freelance writer I earn enough money to
pay for the bare necessities in life, such as rent, food, and
Opportunity Shop clothing, but, of course, not enough to afford
any luxuries. Such as furniture. My dresser had been bought
second-hand from the UnitedChurchOpportunity Shop for $10 and did well enough for a number
of years. But finally the shelving started to collapse. Until
in the end there was the top drawer containing my jumpers, the
bottom drawer piled high with handkerchiefs, socks, T-shirts and
underwear, and the middle two drawers had had to be taken out.
Of course Timbo loved to sleep in the bottom drawer, and
sometimes would go unnoticed all night, managing to blend in with
my T-shirts and underpants, only being discovered when I reached
in the next morning to get my underwear.
Another pet place was the spare
bed in mum's room. Mum grudgingly put up with Timbo
monopolising the bed, however, not so our Aunty Violet when she
slept there during her occasional visits. Aunty Violet would
quickly toss Timbo onto the floor, and he would stand in the
middle of the room, glaring at her as if to say, "Well whose bed
is it, anyway?"
Timbo's absolute favourite
place, however, was Irene's bedroom. What made it extra special
was that early on Irene had laid down the law that, "No cats are
allowed in my room!" Naturally, as King of the Household, Timbo
wasn't having any of that nonsense. So he would often spend all
day sound asleep on her bed, then have to race out in the evening
when he heard the side gate rattle as Irene returned home from
Sometimes though even that was
not enough for Timbo, so he would defiantly march into Irene's
room when she was home, risking the wrath of her evil temper.
At her worst Irene has a vocabulary that would make a trucker
blush, however, Timbo was fortunate in not being able to
Not one to be put off by
offensive language, Timbo started to become very crafty. In
winter he would ease in through Irene's barely open door and lie
on the bottom shelf of her bookcase, just inside the doorway,
hidden behind her small radiator. This meant he could lie in
her room for hours, warmed by the heater and completely concealed
from view. Although there was an outside chance that she would
spot him if Irene got up to make herself a cup of tea.
On another occasion Timbo lay
hidden from view in the shadows thrown by Irene's wardrobe for
hours, having found himself a snug little cubby-hole. Irene
might never have discovered him, except that the television
became too banal that night, even for her easy to please tastes.
So she switched off the set, went across to play an LP record,
and jumped back shrieking after reaching down for an
"Oh my God! There's something
hairy in amongst my records!" she shrieked, after we had all gone
into her room to investigate.
While Irene was still shaking
from fright, out sauntered Timbo, who gave her a contemptuous
look, as if to say, "How can a fellow get any sleep around here,
with all of this racket going on?" then casually strolled out
into the corridor.
Of course after sleeping a
cat's favourite pastime is eating.
Timbo was only a few months old
when he discovered that cat food came out of cans. So
naturally, for the rest of his life, he assumed that all cans
contained cat food. He would rub around our legs yowling for
his share whenever we opened cans of beetroot, coffee, or tinned
peaches. And he would almost bowl over our young nieces and
nephews in summer if they dared to open cans of Pepsi or Coca
Then, of course, he would give
them a dirty look if anyone actually put any Coke or Pepsi into
his milk bowl.
And there were other things
Timbo did not like to eat. To cut his food bill, mum took to
buying giant, economy sized boxes of dried cat food. The only
problem was that they took a long time to empty and quickly went
stale after the box was opened. And naturally the King of the
Cats would never eat stale kitty bits. So mum bought some cheap
clear plastic containers to empty the cardboard boxes out into.
This way the cat food kept fresh until it was eaten.
Unbeknown to my brother David,
mum kept other foodstuffs in similar canisters. One night he
was getting himself a midnight snack and Timbo was making a nuisance of
himself, rubbing round David's legs, demanding his share.
Sensing that Timbo would not really like peanut butter
sandwiches, Dave started looking round for some kitty bits, not
knowing that we had run out of them. Finally he located a
canister in an overhead cupboard and tipped a generous helping
into Timbo's food bowl and was amazed when Timbo took one sniff,
turned up his nose in disgust, then went back to yowling to be
It was only then that Dave took
a close look at the canister and saw that it was not kitty bits
that he had tipped onto Timbo's plate, but a large supply of
Another thing Timbo definitely
did not like was lemons.
Being the one most prone to
colds in our family, I spend a great deal of winter squeezing
lemons to make myself lemon drinks. And naturally Timbo would
rub around my legs, demanding his share. One day I was too sick
and miserable to put up with his antics. So, after squeezing a
lemon, I held the empty rind down to Timbo's face and pushed his
head into it, forcing him to taste it.
From then on Timbo gave me a
wide berth whenever he saw me squeezing lemons.
Of course all cats possess an
uncanny ability to know when people are cutting up raw meat.
Timbo could be outside with all the doors and windows shut, yet
in minutes of mum starting to cut up good steak, he would be at
the door yowling to be let in for his fair share. The only
problem was that Timbo could eat faster than mum could cut, so he
always seemed to get much more than a fair share.
Sometimes mum would put up with
his yowling for as long as she could before letting him in.
Only to find that he took one sniff at the meat, then turned tail
and headed back outside.
"That's good rump steak, you
wretch!" mum would say. "Good enough for us to eat!" Timbo
would stop in the doorway and give her a withering look, as if to
say, "Just because it's good enough for you humans, doesn't mean
that it's good enough for a cat!"
Like all cats, Timbo never
liked any cat food very long. Mum would give him a new type of
cat food and he'd gulp it down eagerly one day, unable to get
enough of it. Then the next day he'd take one sniff, then head
outside in disgust. When Timbo was eight years old, there was a
new pet food released, called "My Dog", with which they gave a
money-back guarantee that your dog would eat it. My sister
Christine was quick to point out, "They're smart to stick to dog
food. Because if they ever brought out a product called "My
Cat" and guaranteed your cat would eat it, they'd go bankrupt in
under a month!" (Addendum: Twenty years later no-one has yet
dared release a cat food called My Cat!)
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