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 Tim.
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.
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
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
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 feet.
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 the pocket.
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 fence.
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, and furry.
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 toilet.
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 couch.
“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 Timbo.
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 him.
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 Barkly
Street -- more than a half an hour’s walk.
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 heat.
To make matters worse, Barkly 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 at
“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 carried.
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 way.
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.
© Copyright 2010
© Copyright 2016 Philip Roberts. All rights reserved.