The Perils of Suzy.

A cat started appearing at the back door of my childhood home on a regular basis and my sisters began leaving out scraps of food for it. That was the thin edge of the wedge. Pretty soon in the manner of all cats, it had wormed its way into our affections and had the run of the house, but at our parent’s insistence it always got chucked out last thing at night.

Suzy, for that’s what the girls christened it, seemed to look forward to it, if only to escape the constant affection from them. Having finally bagged a pet on the sly, they were stroking lumps of fur off the poor creature.

One day, my father playing with Suzy and having turned her over to tickle her stomach, remarked that we really needed to rename her to Sam, but the coven of the sisterhood were having none of that. Suzy was their Suzy, so that was that – Suzy became the first transgender cat but more importantly since there were no kittens involved that we knew of or were ours to feed, the ruling elite quietly acquiesced to our having an on/off family pet who took after Schrödinger’s cat, in that he sometimes was here and at the same time, she wasn’t.

We eventually found out there were at least two other families in the area who firmly believed Suzy was their rambling free-range cat. Given the number of mouths to feed, we never bought a tin of cat food but all the scraps were always there for her and she could always hunt up her own protein. She brought back and deposited at our feet the occasional mangled field mouse just to show she was earning her keep, much to the squealing horror of the girls. I don’t think they got it really. It’s a bloke kind of thing.

On such occasions I ended up on mouse disposal duties. I’d pick it up by the tail, take it into the back garden and after a few twirls over my head, slingshot it into the undergrowth. Suzy would of course dive into the thicket, retrieve the corpse and drop it back at my feet with a – there, how’s that, sort of look? A bloody retriever cat.

There’s not actually much you can do with a cat who wants to play fetch with a dead mouse you’re trying to get rid of, except wear them down. We’d go around the swing, sling, fetch and return loop until she got bored with the whole damn business and would slink off with an over the shoulder sneer to patrol her territory. Humans, meh, no fun …

Suzy was a battle cat, and over the years collected a selection of nicks in her ears as wells as some deeper and more serious wounds as she defended her turf. To be realistic, I don’t think she was particularly good at it. When she was really hurt, she always came back to us. One time, she took some terrible damage. The length of her left flank had been razored clean open to red meat and ribs and my dad made a poultice for her. He was the sort of man who knew about mysterious folk stuff like that. He made a bed for her with a folded blanket in front of the fire and laid her down on it.

She lay in front of it without moving for two weeks.

We all fed her bits and pieces when she was in the mood to eat and tried not to step on her, which is actually very difficult in a house crowded with a stack of children that has only one heated room on a winter’s evening. Cats can really sprawl, believe you me, especially when they think they’re at death’s door. There was no way we could afford a vet – you’re on your own with this one Suzy.

Suzy roasted away nicely in the healing radiant heat of the fire and I had to work around her, since it was my job to clean out the grate every morning and set the new day’s fire for the evening. Working around the prone drama queen was absolute murder. The lazy bitch wouldn’t stir a paw. She eventually regained her strength for the return bout. I think Suzy was just laying there all the time plotting her revenge. Only us lot could be cursed with a Sicilian cat.

There was another cat out there somewhere who’d come to regret messing around with our Suzy.

Every evening, as the sun went down, she’d paw at the back door to be let out. She’d reappear, if we were going to see her that day, after breakfast and just in time for the fresh scraps. She’d down them, conceptually hitch up her trousers and with a shrug and two thumbs in her belt, swagger off like a gunfighter suitably fortified for the rest of the day.

After many years, she went out one evening and we never saw her again. Her exit from our lives was as enigmatic as her entrance, and perhaps slinking off into the sunset is the only way to go for a true ginger tomcat of the night.


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7 Responses to “The Perils of Suzy.”
  1. Thanks for this post, pointman. You sent me off on a welcome diversion from the daily trials and tribulations of the “real” kind – particularly, and in no small measure, thanks to the UN’s output of word-salads and actions pertaining primarily to “climate” whatevers and to their perpetual stream of anti-Israel propaganda. Their remarkable success with the latter, I strongly suspect, has been the “model” (you should pardon my use of the word!) for their performances over the years with the former.

    But back to more pleasant thoughts! My trip down pet-memory lane; prompted by this post of yours I recalled many happy (albeit never with a “happy” ending) “ginger cat” memories!

    Morris was my first ginger. He and I “met” at the home of some friends, who had two “natural” cats of their own. Morris appeared on their doorstep, one day; but unfortunately the “natural” cats were not at all fond of him – and a new home had to be found for him, PDQ. Long story short, Morris came home with me.

    We had a good life together, and he made many friends (of the human kind) on the street where we lived in a Toronto suburb. Until one fateful day, when my boyfriend at the time suggested that we take Morris along to a picnic in a park. After about a half-hour drive, in my friend’s little MGB, we arrived at our destination. But much to our dismay, once out of the car, Morris took off like the proverbial bat out of hell.

    Needless to say, the picnic was uneaten and we searched and called until darkness set in. We went back every day for about a week – knocking on doors of houses outside the park. No one had seen Morris. I had also placed a newspaper ad – and I received lots of replies, but none that really fit the right description. But one day, there was a call from someone who lived not far from where I did. And that’s when I met Samantha (Sam, for short) who could have been one of Morris’s “offspring”.

    In fact, when Sam started exploring the neighbourhood, many neighbours were convinced that Morris had returned! Sam was a great companion for many, many years. She survived my relocation to Hamilton and my subsequent return to Toronto, followed by marriage and relocation to Ottawa. There she learned to tolerate “Captain” our Boxer, both of whom adapted when we relocated to the Vancouver area. Although, I must say, that she was not at all unhappy when a few years later, spouse and I split. Sam came with me and Captain kept spouse company.

    Sam adapted quite well to “balcony only” outdoor activity (although she gave me a few scares when she took walks along the railing). But eventually, alas, she succumbed to old age and illness.

    The next two cats who adopted me were not of the ginger kind. But we had good lives together. And now that I’m in my “senior” years, Amber, a very “talkative” Bengal – ergo, as close to “ginger” as one can possibly get – who came into my life in 2009, keeps me company … and young at heart, as she exercises her penchant for throwing books off the coffee-table and onto the floor:-)


  2. Jaime Jessop says:

    Thanks for sharing this enchanting childhood tale of a ‘Tomcat named Suzy’.
    Animals come into our lives, sometimes suddenly, departing sometimes equally suddenly and unexpectedly – and in this case enigmatically. They always leave a mark though – like a territorial mark on our inner sanctums. I’ve quite a few lampposts in mine!


    • Old Rooster says:

      I suspect a life without a ginger cat in it at some stage is not a life fully lived. So many parallels to the experience of my own family with a pale ginger Tom who adopted us and survived a move from one side of town to another (went AWL for a week though). Loved to display his hunting prowess with birds and bunnies but in old age took on one fight too many and went down to a septic wound despite the efforts of the Vet.


  3. meltemian says:

    Made me think of this…..

    I too have had ginger cats over the years, got four black-and-whites now but there’s nothing quite like the personality of a ginger tom!


  4. Blackswan says:

    G’day Pointman,

    Thanks for this welcome side-trip back through the mists of time. When I was about a 14 year old city kid I spent a few weeks holiday with an uncle who managed a large sheep property in western New South Wales (a sheep ‘station’ in Aussie parlance), and was intrigued by my uncle’s retinue of seven sheep dogs.

    I watched for many sunburnt hours as my uncle on horseback and his dogs moved about 3,000 head of sheep across several vast paddocks, through a number of gates, and finally into the holding pens of the shearing sheds. I was astonished that these dogs and my uncle worked as a well-oiled machine, the dogs controlled only by whistles and hand gestures with never a word from the drover’s mouth.

    How does he DO that?

    In response to my many eager questions later, my uncle explained about a dog’s instinct of needing a pack leader, and he was ‘it’. He urged me to try training my dog at home along similar lines and suggested I might be surprised at the result. And so I was.

    After school, for several months, I took our labrador-cross dog into the backyard and, following my uncle’s example, I slowly trained our previously unruly big boofhead of a dog into a model of eager compliance. She would ‘heel’, ‘stay’, ‘come’ and ‘sit’ all on the basis of hand signals and/or whistles.

    It was a great experience for a 14 year old kid and that dog taught me a great deal. She taught me responsibility and patience and empathy, and something valuable about leadership. Most people don’t really listen to 14 year olds, but that dog did …. and I appreciated the help she gave me in learning such things, about myself, about animals and a lot about life.

    What I hadn’t really noticed in those training sessions was our tabby cat. She’d sit in the grass under a shady tree and watch our activities with interest. I hadn’t given her a second thought until one day she ambled out of her hidey-hole and went to sit beside the dog who was in ‘sit & stay’ mode. The cat and dog had always been great buddies, often curling up to sleep together, so it seemed a natural thing for her to do. What surprised me was that when I signalled for the dog to ‘come’, so did the cat. And on the ‘stop & stay’ command the two of them sat down together. Well, I’ll be ……

    Whoever heard of training a cat to do anything? In hindsight I suspect she’d been watching this odd charade of comings and goings between the dog and the kid, decided she could do anything a mere dog could do, and thought she’d give it a go. And so she did. With or without the pooch I could get her to ‘sit’ or ‘come’ with a hand signal, confounding friends and family alike.

    They were great days and over the years every dog I ever had would be well-trained along similar lines. No shouting, no bellowing, no angst with an unruly mutt – just a polite and well-behaved member of our human family, though I’ve never had another cat who ever showed the slightest inclination to do any such thing.

    I really miss having a dog in my life these days, but I remember them all with love and respect.


  5. Pointman says:

    WordPress seems to be having one of its “turns” and for no apparent reason slinging innocent law-abiding comments into the spam locker. Comment away and I’ll don the old hazmat suit and dive in to retrieve them. Promise.



  6. Tobias Smit says:

    Living in a rural are and on an orchard cats have always been a necessity, but always have been part of the family. I might be a “bloke” but I have fond and truly sad memories of all them even those that disappeared. I have to admit that even as a “bloke” there were some tears involved.


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