Sunday 21 January 2018

Runt of litter to king of the jungle

Sparky the cat
Sparky the cat

Nuala Shorten

Sparky was a beautiful, tawny grey male tabby cat with baby soft fur.

We got him as an eight-week-old kitten through Blue Cross, the animal charity. The owners had two cats who both had litters simultaneously - way too many for one family.

I picked out Sparky but unfortunately he was the "runt of the litter". He previously had cat flu and I was warned by the vet that he would always have runny eyes. Not a very auspicious start.

He also had halitosis from the start. He would perch on the arm of the chair beside you and you would get a noxious waft in your face. He had very bad gum disease and by the time he was two he had to have all his teeth extracted. The vet then suggested maybe he had feline Aids. This for a family with two young boys would have been very bad news indeed - a death sentence for Sparky.

However, tests came back negative; he was reprieved.

He was very skittish, even into old age. On a warm spring day, I would sneak up on him in the garden, and chase him, I would don gloves and taunt and tease him with branches or dangle twine in front of his paws. He would claw and box and kick with his back legs and hang on. I'd aim for his soft, tawny underbelly and then he would deliver the "killer bite", which in fact was a gummy wetness on my arm.

I would watch him patrolling the garden. He always took the same route, down the left side, take a leak halfway down under the hedge, then make his way down to the end of the garden, dart over the wall and disappear next door. I loved watching him transform my very ordinary, overgrown urban garden into a jungle. His tabby markings blended perfectly with the undergrowth and trees. On a warm, sunny day, he could be seen peering out from one of the palm trees or else he would roll on his back on the flagstones.

Afterwards, he would bring the garden into the house with him. I would love to hold him close, bury my nose in his soft fur, and breathe in the scent of the freshly mown grass or smell the turf or coal fires in his fur, depending on the time of year. All this accompanied by a deep rumbling purr.

The garden is empty now. Sparky's 15-year reign is over. Maybe his successor will appear in the spring.

Name: Sparky

Finest hour: Alarm clock duty

Likes: Teasing neighbour's dog

Dislikes: Wintry days

  •  If you would like your pet featured in this column, please send a story of 440 words and a photograph to clearly labelled MY PET

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