My earliest memories of life are living with my Mother Cat and the rest of my litter in a nest in an old factory off what I now know was the Old Kent Road. Mother Cat said I was just over two weeks old when my two siblings and I first ventured out of the nest. She warned us not to stray too far as there were some nasty things still in that factory. Food was plentiful, the place was full of mice and the occasional rat. Pigeons often landed on the factory roof and Mother was an excellent hunter. In those early days, a big fat pigeon would satisfy the whole family for a day. Mother Cat also caught smaller birds that frequented the park over the road from the factory but a sparrow or starling didn’t go far among 3 hungry kittens.
In those days I wasn’t called Larry, that was a name given to me when I arrived at number ten. Mother just used to call us one, two and three after the order in which we were born. I was the eldest so was number one, my sister was number two and brother number three. For the first few months Mother used to go out hunting every day for her food and feed us milk. Slowly she started to introduce us to the solid food she brought back. I think we were 3 or 4 months old when she started to teach us hunting together. At first, she would catch a mouse and drop it, still alive, in front of us so that we could learn to catch and kill it. By the time I was six months old I was pretty good at catching the mice, much better than my younger siblings.
Mother decided that now was the time to move on to something bigger and more difficult, so she took me over the road to the park to catch birds. But before crossing the road she warned me about being very careful of the things she called cars. She said they moved very quickly and if one hit you it would probably kill you. She taught me to stop at the kerb and look and listen for cars before crossing. In the park, she showed me that where the humans sat and ate their lunch was a good place to hunt birds because they were attracted to the crumbs left by the humans.
It was then that I first released that I could understand the human’s language. My mother told me I was being stupid, cats and humans just didn’t understand each other’s languages. However, after I translated several human conversations for her and they did exactly as I translated, she believed me. On that first day in the park, I saw my first squirrel, Mother told me not to waste my energy chasing it. They were too fast and agile in the trees and if you did catch one it was probably because they were either very old or sick and in either case were not worth eating.
The next thing I saw was a dog. Mother explained that dogs and cats are natural enemies but that most dogs are stupid, which is why they allow themselves to be walked on a lead. Nearly all cats are far too intelligent to allow themselves to be humiliated like that. However, she told me that sometimes you would come across a dog without its human and it might chase you. She told me two things about dogs. Firstly they can’t climb so if you shot up a tree or on top of a high wall you were safe and you only had to stay there until the dog got fed up and went home for their dinner. The second thing was that most dogs are actually cowards and that if by some chance you got cornered a good right paw to their nose with the claws fully extended would make them back off. But I had another advantage I could understand dogs, I could understand birds, I could understand squirrels, in fact I seemed to understand what all other animals were saying and sometimes even thinking.
That first day of instruction I caught a pigeon. It was pecking at crumbs on the ground around the bench where the humans sat eating. I crept up behind it, but at the last minute, it saw me and attempted to fly off. I was too quick for it and leapt in the air and batted it to the ground with an outstretched right paw with my claws out. It hit the ground stunned and I was on it like a flash and finished it off with a bite to the neck just as Mother Cat had shown me. It was a very proud No 1 son who hauled that pigeon back to the nest that night.
It was around this time that my brother disappeared. One morning he was in the nest. Mother and I went out hunting leaving him and my sister curled up asleep. When we got back No 2 was on her own and scared. She said that when she woke up he was gone. We never did discover what had happened to him. We played all sorts of scenarios in our minds. Had he been in an accident? Had he simply decided he was old enough to leave the nest and look after himself? I prefer to think that he had been adopted by an old lady human and was living somewhere in luxury with all the food he could eat, a huge garden to roam in, lots of cuddles and strokes and a big fire to curl up by when the nights were cold or there was snow on the ground.
From that day MC always took both myself and No 2 out hunting. I don’t think that she wanted No 2 to be lost like my brother. No 2 became a decent hunter, but was never quite as good as me, even if I say so myself. I was soon able to catch pigeons on the roof better than MC and she joked about retiring and having her children support her. She was a wise old cat and taught me and my sister all we knew. We woke up one morning to find she had died in her sleep. I have no idea what she died of as she had never had a day illness. I suspect it was just old age. She once told me we were her third litter so I must have some half brothers and sisters out there somewhere. I still miss my Mother Cat, she raised me and my sister brilliantly.
For a bit over a year, life for No 2 and me was perfect. We were warm, safe and dry and always had plenty for food. Then one day I heard humans talking in the factory. They were discussing demolishing our factory and building a block of flats. Listening to the conversation I understood that the men were trying to work out if there was a profit in buying the old factory, knocking it down and then building flats. I hoped there wasn’t. I told No 2 what was happening and we decided that nothing was going to happen soon so we decided to carry on living in the nest, but at the same time look for a new home.
One day, No 2 and I returned from a hunt and I sensed something was not quite right. I mentioned it to No 2 but she didn’t have my sixth sense. We headed to our nest and suddenly a blanket was thrown over us. Despite putting up a fight we landed up in pet carriers. To this day I have a hatred of pet carriers. I have found they nearly always mean something nasty is about to happen like a trip to the vet. The workmen who caught us took us to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home where No 2 and I were put in adjacent cages. We were considered wild and given all sorts of vaccinations. For the first time in our lives, sis and I were fed at regular times and the food was put in a bowl with a bowl of fresh water, now clean water in a bowl is infinitely better than dirty water from a puddle and being fed Felix chicken was wonderful, but I absolutely hated having to use and live with a litter tray. Despite the staff being nice, Battersea was like being in prison.
Being next to No 2 I was able to chat to her and by listening to the humans I was able to tell her what was happening. We were up for adoption and every day people came and looked at us through the grid of the cages. I explained to sis that if she wanted to get out she needed to strut around the cage when humans came to look at her and to be nice to them and rub up against the front of the cage. She was a pretty little cat and I told her that she had a great chance of landing up in a lovely home with lots of food and petting and even children to play with. A week or so later she was chosen by a family with a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl. I heard the little girl say she wanted to call sis Rosie. As they took her away we meowed our goodbyes. I have never seen my lovely sister since that day. If you have a boy and a girl and got a two-year-old girl cat from Battersea about 12 years ago and called her Rosie tell her that her big brother still loves her and misses her.
It was nearly another month before I was adopted and during that period I was extremely lonely without my sister. Then I heard one of the staff and a potential adopter chatting. The adopter said he was looking for a good mouser and the staffer brought him straight over to my cage and told him that I was a “street cat” and had lived by catching my own food. The potential adopter laughed and said that if his boss decided I was the one then I would live in luxury but in exchange, I would have to keep their rodent problem down. I decided that sounded good and came to the front of the cage so that the visitor could tickle me through the bars. He took my photo and said he had to get his boss’s approval but he thought I was just what they were looking for.
That night I could hardly sleep I was so excited at the prospect of getting out of that stinking cage. I had my breakfast and curled up for a snooze, there was little else to do in that damn cage. Suddenly I was woken up by a staffer unlocking the door to my cage and urging me into a pet carrier. Well, I didn’t know what was going on, no one had told me. Was I being adopted, moved on, or taken to the vet? I just didn’t know and was reluctant to get in the carrier. In the end, one of the staff put on a big pair of thick leather gloves and shoved me in the carrier.
I was stuck in the back of a car and driven off. I can tell you I was not a happy No.1 son. We headed off and went over a bridge, I didn’t know that part of London but my sense of direction told me that it was to the north of my old home. The car eventually stopped, some big metal gates opened and we drove in. A man got me out of the back of the car with me in the pet carrier and lugged me up the street. Lots of photographers were standing on the other side of the road taking flash pictures of me. I must say I wondered what I had done to deserve this treatment, but I couldn’t think of anything. I was taken in through a big black front door without a number on it and just inside were a load of people all looking at me and saying, “Hello.” It was then that I got my new name. Someone had organised a draw and the winner got the right to name me. I suppose I was lucky that the winner chose to call me “Larry” as half the people there were Germans I could have been called “Fritz” or “Adolf”.
I was taken to a flat at the top of the house and there was a beautiful big cat basket with a warm fluffy blanket, it reminded me of the nest. Next to the basket was a bowl full of Felix and another bowl of water. Just round the corner in an alcove was a clean litter tray. Then they let me out of the carrier. At first I just stood there looking around, taking in my surroundings. A voice said, “Come on Larry, aren’t you hungry?”. Actually, I wasn’t very hungry but I thought I better show willing, so I strolled over to the bowl of Felix, gave it a sniff and discovering it was fresh I ate a bit, had a drink of water and headed for the cat basket. I curled up on the fluffy blanket and watched everyone through a half-open eye.
After a few minutes, everyone drifted away and left me alone. Great I thought, they have let me out of that cage, only to lock me into a big room. But I was wrong, the door was open. I decided to explore. The place was huge. There were rooms and corridors and staircases all over the place. It’s a good job I have a great sense of direction or I would never have found my way back to my food and cat basket. I explored high and low, nowhere seemed to be off-limits. I was allowed to go everywhere. I was always made welcome in a big office where lots of people worked on what, I later learned, were called computers. I liked that office, the people there were always nice to me and often gave me bits of meat out of their sandwiches. One or two of them were so nice to me I even let them stroke me. But my sixth sense told me who were genuine nice people and there were only a few of them.
I remembered that man saying they needed a mouser to keep the rodents down so I walked regular patrols around what I learned were no’s 9, 10 and 11 Downing Street and the offices of the Prime Minister. After a few days, I smelt mouse. I listened carefully and I could hear it in a filing cabinet. I sat by it and tried to open it but I was nowhere near strong enough to do that. One of the girls pulled the drawer open, the mouse jumped out, the girl screamed and I pounced on the mouse. I got cheers and extra treats from the staff.
It was midway through my second week when I found the little flap in the backdoor. Every time I got near it there was a click and it swung freely, if I walked away it clicked and locked. At first, I thought someone was watching me and locking and unlocking that little flap but then I worked it out, it was something to do with the collar they had given me with the name disc on it. In the end, I pushed my way through the flap and I found myself in a huge walled garden. It was lovely, it was like having the park from my first home all to myself but better, there was even a big pond with fish in it. I could sit and watch those fish for hours. In the first few months, I caught numerous mice both in the buildings and in the gardens. Then I got on top of the problem and we hardly ever saw a mouse in the house.
It was about the same time as I got on top of the mouse problem that I realised I could go through the front door and out into the street at the front of the house. If I walked up to the door the policeman opened it for me and let me out. There was very little traffic in Downing Street, I found that there was a window sill that caught the sun in the afternoon and I could snooze on it. Whenever I came out the photographers wanted to take my picture.
I had a very happy 10 years and several different Prime Ministers. Some I liked, some I didn’t and some I was indifferent about. Then there was a war and the Nazis were thrown out and the Army moved in for a while. Most of the civilians remained in the offices and a couple of generals ran things for a bit, before there was an election and the current PM, Mr Farage, moved in. By my calculations, I am now fourteen and have been official mouser and chair tester for many years.
One afternoon a very pretty blonde girl came to see Mr Farage. My sixth sense immediately told me she was nice and I’m pretty sure she liked me. Unlike most people, she talked to me. Now I appreciate that. As an old cat, I have found that now I sleep a lot and I don’t chase mice a lot. Mind, there is no need as there are so few to be seen these days. I have been stalking one particularly tiresome individual who I think lives under the summerhouse. But as he is in the garden it doesn’t really matter. I have heard the whispers that I am to be replaced by a young energetic mouser. Well, I don’t really care anymore. I would love to retire to a nice house with a reasonable size garden, this one is getting too big for me. I heard that blonde girl, I think her name is Jinnie, say to Mr F that if he is pressed into pensioning me off she would like me to come and live with her. I had decided a few weeks ago that going to live with Jinnie would suit me just fine, she is kind to me and I just know she would treat me well in my final years until I can be reunited with my Mother Cat and my siblings.
When Jinnie and her friends arrived in the Garden this morning I wondered if they had come to collect me. I knew they had just as soon as I saw them bringing out my things. I must say I even took a liking to Jinnie’s friend Camilla, I could tell immediately that she was a cat person. When Jinnie squatted down and told me she had come to collect me and I was going to live with her in her house in a place called Cambridge I was delighted and could have done a little dance. That was why I was only too happy to get in the pet carrier. I will miss a few people who have been especially nice to me like Mr F. He has only been here a year but he has been the best PM I have served under and he has a remarkable ability to know what is happening. I will also miss the girl in the office who gives me Dreamies, the policemen who man the front door and always have a kind word when I go out or come in and just one photographer, whose name I don’t know, but he gives me cat treats, talks to me and always asks nicely if he can take my picture, I often pose for him.
Well, I am off on a new adventure, a new life in Cambridge. I don’t expect it to be long as I hear the average cat lives to about 16. But I intend to make the most of the short time I have left with Jinnie and her friends.
In Chapter 23 – Jinnie’s second year in Cambridge.
© WorthingGooner 2021