Cat holiday like no other

Cat holiday like no other.

Cat holiday time is always an interesting experience whether you take your cat with you or decide to board him or her in a reputable cattery. If you choose the latter, who do you want loving and caring for your cat? Let me tell you my story about a cat holiday and also about me.

May 6th, 1964 and my older sister Robyn discovered a small litter of kittens under the bed in the sleep-out on the front verandah of our Mount Morgan Queenslander. I was 3 years old at the time, but remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday.   “Darkie” was the mother, so named prior to the invention of political correctness. She adopted us when we moved into our house, probably the previous owner’s cat and abandoned upon their departure.

Darkie had given birth to a litter of just 2 kittens. The first was a little girl we named Cecilia, jet black and beautiful just like her caring and loving mother. The second kitten was a boy black and white in colour and we named him Paddy after his father.   Paddy Ogden, (the neighour’s cat and father to our Paddy) was a huge black and white Tom cat and apparently both a lover and a fighter. He was not a pretty cat with more scabs than fur. My Dad used to say that Paddy Ogden had a head like a boarding house pudding. Nothing flash but there was plenty of it. Good old Dad. He still tells those Dad jokes. For those caring to wonder, I think he invented them.

Darkie was a wonderful and caring mother to both of her beautiful kittens.  My younger brother David learned a new word too while watching her feed her babies. “Breastasusses” he would say. That was his plural of “Breasts” obviously.

Anyway those kittens grew into 2 beautiful loving cats full of play. Unfortunately we lost Cecilia after a short time, we think to a snake bite. There were a lot of snakes in those parts, and they were a common sight under and around our house. My younger brother and I would catch them by dropping rocks on them and run to get Mum who would dispatch them with the garden hoe. And our Paddy caught and killed his fair share too. Paddy was a great companion for us as kids. One day Mum heard Paddy give out a cry and asked my younger brother David what had happened. David replied, “Paddy bit me so I bit him back”.

At Chrismas 1970, we moved to Brisbane and our Paddy came with us. When taking a cat holiday transport can be a little cramped. Mum, Dad, us 3 kids and Paddy in the HR Holden. What a trip. Well Paddy settled in nicely to his new home in Brisbane. He would have a saucer of tea with Mum early every morning, then share my fish-finger and eggs breakfast with me. One day a German Shepherd made the mistake of wandering into our yard. He exited at great speed with Paddy hot on his heels. Paddy ran a tight ship and like all cats had a good idea of the property boundaries. He lived in harmony with the neighbour’s cats for many years with each cat respecting the other’s territory.

We would take Paddy our cat on our camping holidays. He very much enjoyed his cat holiday as we always fished and kept him in seafood all the time we were away. He came with us to Hervey Bay, Yamba and Coombabah Lakes but our favourite destination was Miara, a Council run caravan park north of Bundaberg near the mouth of the Kolan River. We camped there many times and Paddy would always come along. We took him out in the boat one day but he did not like that at all. When we returned, he leapt from the boat and ran up the beach and straight to our caravan. That was his home away from home.

We were on one of our regular holidays to Miara. The school holidays were in August back then and I remember the time well. The year was 1977, and the news that Elvis had died had just shocked the world. All of us oldies remember where we were at that time. Anyway we awoke on the morning we were leaving but Paddy was not in the camp. We searched for him as we packed up the camp but there was no sign of him. After a fruitless search, we made the inevitable decision to leave and travel home without our beloved cat. Paddy was 13 years old but still in great condition and we all hoped he was just taking a cat holiday of his own. It was a long and sad 5 hour trip home without my buddy. We were home for a few days and Mum and Dad just packed up the car and headed back up to Miara to search for him over the weekend. They spent the weekend walking around the surrounding bush and cane fields searching for our little mate but without success and alas they returned home without him.

Mum wrote a letter to the caretakers of the caravan park with a picture of our Paddy and asked them to keep an eye out for him. Unbelievably, 6 weeks later the caretakers rang to say that a cat matching Paddy’s description started coming into their caravan at about 4.00am each morning for a drink and a loving pat before wandering off into the cane fields when the sun would rise. They said he did not want food. Well we jumped in that car and drove straight back up to Miara. I searched the fields for Paddy when we arrived without success while Mum had her regular “cuppa”. Mum then wandered around the cane fields calling “Paddy. Here puss puss puss”. Words could not express our excitement when we heard a “meow” and saw our precious Paddy come jogging out of the cane fields to meet us. I grabbed him, wrapped him in a blanket and took him straight back to the car. Well he just purred and purred as we took turns cuddling him. He was a little thinner and the hair had gone from his sunburned ears but otherwise he was fine. At 13 years of age, he survived in the wild for 6 weeks, catching mice and rats in the cane fields. We drove him home and treated him like a king. He walked through the front door like nothing had happened and resumed life as normal.

Paddy would sleep with me every night. He would slide under the blankets and purr himself to sleep. I began going out at night when I got my driver’s license and Paddy would wait up for me on the footpath until I got home in the wee hours of the morning. He would refuse to come in when Mum called him, preferring to wait for me.

Sadly, 3 years later at a good age of 16, we lost Paddy to a neighourhood dog attack one night. I lost my little mate that night and we all shed a lot of tears over him as we laid him to rest. I was 19 years old. I did not know life without Paddy. He was there from the beginnings of my memory, my first day at school, my graduation from high school, my first job and my first girlfriend. He watched me turn from a child to a boy to a man. Paddy taught me to love and to be loved. He taught me patience and tenderness. He made me believe that miracles can happen. He gave me a love of cats that has carried on undiminished into my 5th decade on this earth. I have had many great cats in the subsequent years, but none hold that special place in my heart that is Paddy’s.

I like to think that we will meet again someday. Until then, I shall go on enjoying the company of the cats in our holiday care at Ali Cats Boutique Cat Boarding, where every cat gets our caring and loving attention.

Do you have a cat holiday story that you would like to share, or perhaps a story about a cat that was so special to you and your life?

 Jamie.

Ali Cats Boutique Cat Boarding

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