This book was written with children in mind
but it is proving to be popular with grown-ups
to Purdey, Symes and Wright
our three beautiful cats
As a way of relaxing, perhaps reducing my wound-up tension when I am writing full-length thrillers and other works, I occasionally pen short stories inspired by my three cats - Purdey, Symes and Wright
not only do I find it beneficial and therapeutic just like our cats
it is also very enjoyable
The Morning Conference
Wright, as usual was the last to arrive
wet and weary - unhurried and seemingly bored. His restrained greeting to Symes and Purdey was typical of his laid-back, casual attitude. The others were already in the dry snugness of the tractor shed and both greeted Wright with their customary nose to nose kiss.
'Let's get it over with.' Wright was obviously hungry - wanting his share of the breakfast tin-full - then a long day's sleep before the wood-burner - even through it was out of use in deference to a summer season that was more in name than in nature
but often when bored with a long sleep he would intersperse it with visits to the neighbours - Molly, a large tortoiseshell and her ginger companion, Pooky.
'I'm hungry too' proclaimed Purdey, 'but first I need to catch my usual long-tailed vole. It's expected of me - and besides I'm always rewarded with a piece of strong Cheddar.'
'You lucky little girl' observed Symes. Each time I take them a dead bird they scold me and refuse a reward.'
'That's because you are stupid - a stupid boy they like birds but regard mice and voles as pests' suggested Purdey. 'I worked that out a long time ago and now only present them with rodents. When I kill a bird I eat it before Mum or Dad have a chance to see what I have done.'
'You always were their favourite' Symes risked provoking her, 'Birds often make you sick after you've eaten them and I'm sure our humans now realise that'
'Any other business?' asked Wright
'no? Then breakfast it is'
I like to rest or sleep, high up - where I can easily see who is around me
particularly the boys, Symes and Wright. Yesterday, after our short morning conference in the tractor shed, Mum and Dad were still lazily in bed so I thought I would also take a nap - in the kitchen where I could be the first in the queue for breakfast.
Normally it is my practice to sleep on the top of the coffee machine, a habit my Mum says is unhygienic - so now she covers it with a tea towel for me to lie on
but today for a change I decided to seek higher ground and jumped further up - onto the lower shelf of the units adjoining the wall.
Unfortunately one of Mum's ornate flower decorated vases had got there first. Cat plus vase equals - something has to go to make room
a Chinese vase left to Mum by her mother and treasured
As and I was stronger and heavier than the vase, it went
bouncing down to the top of the coffee machine then down to the slate-tiled floor. Result - about five-hundred-thousand shards of the china and a horrendous loud crash.
Following fast footsteps downstairs, Dad appeared,
'Purdey - you bad, bad cat' he bellowed.
How he knew enough to blame me - I will never know. Staying motionless and with my eyes closed tight, I feigned innocence
but I knew that with the delayed breakfast and a temporary lack of affection that I was the prime suspect
Long Tail Small Mouse
The looming shape coming towards me was unmistakeably Symes
even at a distance that masculine hulk, twice as much as I weigh - that arrogant swagger which only a successful hunter could convey, with its slightly crouched walk could only be my adopted brother
and the dead form of an unfortunate long-tailed mouse limply hanging from his lion-like mouth only confirmed it.
An idea - a chance
if perhaps if by persuasion or theft the big boy cat could be persuaded to part with his trophy - if by chance I could steal or borrow it. I took the bold course. 'Symes my fiend - please lend the mouse to me for a few minutes please.'
'No way, Purdey it's mine, I'm going to eat it.'
My purring stopped. Symes I thought was being unreasonable. I only wanted to present the mouse to Mum. She would think I had caught it, call me 'Good Cat' then reward me with a piece of the strong Cheddar cheese she bought every Tuesday, at Salisbury market for Dad. After I had eaten the cheese I would return the little body to Symes for him to eat. My tastes were more refined than his and I preferred the cheese. Symes was too stupid to understand.
Another tactic was called for - so I curled back my gums showing the boy my teeth, hissed and lunged at him - expecting him to drop the animal, then run away...
despite him being twice my size it usually worked...
but this time it didn't. Symes ran off into the long grass to eat his mouse and I had to settle for Whiskas when what I craved for was a nice lump of cheese
Big Ears, Long Tail
the two humans took away my sister and I never saw her again
they had looked at me, stroked me - made me purr then cuddled me. Finally the female placed me on the sofa, saying
' she's too ugly. Look at those big ears and long tail.'
Two days later more humans arrived. Following tea with my foster mum they examined my brother: 'Very nice,' one remarked turning her attention to me
'what a long tail and those ears. She's ugly'
they left, taking my brother - I never saw him again.
A common mistake humans make is not realising we understand their voice and languages perhaps they had not meant me to know they did not like my big ears and long tail
certainly calling me ugly - but I did and it hurt
Ten days passed and I was joined at the Salisbury foster carer's home by three brothers all about two weeks younger than me. They had been born in stables owned by a famous television star and although given to the Cats Protection people, felt very pleased with themselves. Soon afterwards two more humans arrived. The previous day their much-loved cat Bootsie had died and their pain was unbearable.
Hoping to find solace they wanted to quickly locate two kittens they could love
a boy and a girl and I was the only girl kitten there.
The bigger boy was cuddled, stroked and chosen.
'Let's call him Symes' suggested the female human. She then picked me up and I purred as loudly as I could. 'not very pretty big ears and long tail' she judged.
My little heart was almost bursting
I didn't think I could take more rejection.
'Perhaps she'll grow into those ears' observed the man. 'We can't possibly leave her - we'll call her Purdey'
at last I had a home - and the larger boy kitten too
Then one of the other boys, the shy one looked very unhappy. Desperately he leapt onto my new Dad's lap purring intensely. Stroking him gently Dad said to my new Mum; 'I just can't leave this one behind. We'll call him Wright'
Spiky lives in the large clump of brambles that obstruct the view of the goldfish pond from the conservatory. He makes irritating grunting noises and if you get too close he smells. Normally Purdey, Symes and Wright aided by friends Pooky and Molly, mostly drive other mammals and birds away but none of them are prepared to take on a hedgehogs spiny defences
' I heard our humans talking about him' said Wright. Apparently Mum found him outside the back door in a terrible state
starving, weak - almost dead.
She found a big box, lined it with straw and fed him water and some of our cat food. Within three weeks he had doubled in weight and was now fat enough to hibernate. She kept him in her study - just as well as his smell upset Dad'
'Dad's always upset about something' said Purdey. ' he was upset when I broke Mum's Chinese vase in fact he said something about re-homing me'
'So what do we do?' asked Symes.
Nothing they all agreed - it was just too Spiky a question
I thought I saw a wildebeest
there were two of them - both nibbling Mum's pink roses that grew up the back wall of her house. Neither were big - about medium dog size, with strange familiar-looking faces - with short upturned tusks protruding from their lower jaws I should have recognised them but
unable to identify them - I found a name in my brain that seemed fitting
Wildebeest - I knew nothing about what sort of animal a wildebeest was - just that it was strange
the animals I was seeing just had to be wildebeest
Later, telling Symes and Wright at out usual morning conference in the tractor shed what I had seen
Symes laughed at me in that scornful, dismissive way he reserved for little girl cats; 'Purdey you idiot - they were just Muntjac Muntjac deer - they look different from the usual roebucks, but Muntjac is what they are.
Both live quite near - less than forty metres away - in the clump of bushes opposite
just there' he pointed his big front paw at the clump separating us from the nearest point of the lake.
' silly girl'
why, why can I not use Dad's computer? He has received a very nice mail from someone who from her name, sounds like a cat, but I suspect is really her human, her Mum
and it is very frustrating that I cannot reply directly.
Why do humans have all the fun and I cannot communicate with Minnie? She sounds good fun and we have much in common - both originally collected from cats Protection
and obviously by caring humans
her Mum sounds nice too
why is the world so unfair humans with the Internet while we have to rely on our sixth sense - that magical ability to know, not just what other cats think, but humans too?
but when all is considered
I and Symes and Wright - just love being cats
black and shiny
what is bigger than Symes
and black and shiny?
Wright was late not unusual for the morning conference as it was his habit to linger during his early walk around the larger lake.
with a long tapered tail - and whiskers like us?
'What on earth are you talking about, Wright? What have you seen and where? Purdey asked her adopted brother.
'By the smaller lake - down near the stream. It was eating a trout. Already the head had disappeared but I knew it was a trout by the spots on its body
and it was not scared of me in the slightest'
'Ah - that's the problem' declared Symes, ' it wasn't scared of big, bold Wright.'
'But what was it? Asked Wright. 'Eating one of our trout'
' An otter you silly boy.' Said Purdey. 'An otter'
I was once called Mouse
at the Cats Protection place, my foster mother Carol, used to call me Mouse and when the human who is now my Mum asked; 'Why?'
was told; ' Because she likes cheese'
True, I have always liked, loved cheese - and it's almost my favourite food - along with fillet steak, chicken, tuna and Whiskas Pouches.
but Mum and Dad thought it a stupid name for a cat.
'Cats catch and eat mice' said Dad ' you can't name her Mouse, not a little cat, 'she's a hunter so lets call her Purdey after the top gun maker
and we'll name the others likewise Symes and Wright after the makers of my favourite shotgun.'
It was quite a reputation to live up to normally when I take a mouse home they obviously do not eat it - ungrateful I call it after all my effort and generosity, but I am always rewarded with cheese
not just any old cheese but the expensive vintage cheddar that Dad buys for himself.
So recently I caught a wood pigeon, killing it carefully by biting its neck and leaving the rest unmarked. Dad was delighted
he loves wood pigeon.
Mum carefully removed all its bones, including the legs - all from the inside but cutting off the wings. She then stuffed it with a mixture containing apricots and roasted it for his lunch
Dad was ecstatic and I was given a very good portion of cheese which I prefer
who says crime doesn't pay?
Sunday morning and Mum was cooking chicken 'Purdey get down' she ordered. 'I said get DOWN' now more a shout than an order.
Wright, who had been sitting silently, sloped across the slate tiles with that slightly guilty lowered walk which he always adopted when in danger of being unjustly blamed for something
But Purdey and Symes were not the only cats aroused by the appetising smell of roasting chicken
outside a small back nose twitched, a hopeful glance was aimed towards the open
'Blackie has smelled the chicken' said Mum, ' the poor thing really would like some.'
'Why don't you give him a little?' Offered Dad. 'You're about to give the bird's wings to Purdey and Wright.
'Don't you remember - we agreed not to feed him. It would only cause fights with our three and possibly with Molly and Pooky
and as a stray, he's probably got some horrible disease.'
'I can't bear it,' complained Dad, 'he's a poor thing - fur a bit ragged and turning brown in places - but he's still a cat, and I love all cats.'
Suddenly Blackie's step quickened and he hastened toward the woodshed where we suspect he sometimes sleeps. Symes appeared from the direction of the road walking in his laid-back almost lazy style
almost a casting vote if we needed one - chicken for three cats
and for Blackie
on being a cat
Our humans often make the mistake of thinking we do not understand what they are saying
particularly silly because if they really knew - we could not so easily 'play dumb' and pretend we do not understand when they are scolding us for some imagined misdemeanour such as knocking a Chinese vase off a shelf
no playing dumb and innocent is easier - just waiting until their tone of voice becomes loud enough to feign fear and rush outside, leaving the human feeling guilty and then resorting to bribing us, calling pitifully with offers of tuna or some other treat
humans are so easily fooled
Do they not realise that they really belong to us - not the other way round. They exist to serve us, look after our every need and buy us treats, rewarded by our purring and shows of affection that only get us more and more goodies. We can even spend most of the day sleeping in the best, sunniest places - with them believing that we are awake most of the nights guarding the house from any unwanted vermin
as long as we take in the occasional mouse as a present
the strategy works
and even then we are rewarded life is good being a cat
there is nothing worse than being accused of something I haven't done
at least that is my story and I am sticking to it
the story goes like this. Mum and Dads television was not working very well. Every time it was switched on it developed a 'snowstorm' effect and took about five minutes to settle down and show a clear picture
not good enough.
It was a large floor-standing set with a videotape machine in the base - not the slim elegant ones sold now. The Television engineer removed it to his workshop to investigate the fault, and in due course returned it to us.
Our humans were curious to know what had caused the machine to miss-behave. Alistair, the TV engineer laughed and from his pocket produced a dead mouse - shrunken, dried - mummified
'this I think Wires were chewed and we found this' he said, shaking the poor animal's body.
'Purdey, roared Dad you bad, bad cat'
Now why did I get the blame? Why me? Whenever I catch anything I always claim a piece of cheese as a reward
no way would I have let a good piece of cheese escape into a television set
do we dream
I heard my humans once discussing this, this very stupid question. Do cats dream?
What on earth do they think we do in the long hours when we sleep or at least close our eyes pretending to sleep whilst our subconscious is completely aware of even the slightest sound or smell around us?
Symes has just jumped up beside his dad - howling pitifully - like he is in pain
but it's only a loud irritation saying 'I'm hungry - feed me'
do we cats dream, and if so - what do we dream about?
Hunting - cream, particularly ice cream - tuna on a bad day - scrambled eggs if you are Purdey and of course if you are her, especially cheese - particularly old Longley's vintage cheddar
soft cushions, high places from which to look down on you humans, roaring log fires to sleep in front of in winter - to be left in peace most of the time and at others to be stoked and pampered
And Wright dreams of Molly - his girlfriend next door
whilst Symes's fantasy is that he is an even bigger feline than he really is - at least a leopard - and sometimes when the moon is full
a great tiger prowling through the rushes and elephant grass
do cats dream? Don't be a silly human
the smell was not unfamiliar, catlike but much stronger - and the shape was just like the shape of my own paw but more than four and a half times bigger in every direction - making it about twenty times bigger in area
it had to be it could only be the print of a much, much larger cat - one I had never before seen evidence of
I wanted my Dad - he would know what to do. So I went back to the house, as fast as I could go running for a few yards then walking to regain my breath then running again
until after about ninety yards Purdey joined me where the path from the Old Orchard meets the lake; 'Symes, why are you running?
'Can't stop Purdey - I'll tell you later'
As Dad has trouble understanding, I 'yowled' loudly several times - accompanied by running a few steps back in the direction from which I had come. Eventually he understood and said; 'OK Symes - I get the message. Wait while I find my stick'
Dad followed me with his walking staff and camera. Nosey Purdey soon joined in and accompanied us in her usual curious manner.
'No wonder you seem bothered Symes' as we arrived at the place on the path where I found the large paw print in the large patch of mud - amongst hoof prints, deer slots and dog tracks.
'It's exactly the shape of your paw prints, Symes - only much bigger' remarked Dad. He put a five-pound note beside the impression in the mud - to give it scale and photographed it. On later analysis he calculated the animal had been about twenty times heavier than me - making it about two hundred and seventy pounds
'I wouldn't go there again if I were you, Symes
it's a very big cat'
'Purdey you pest
you bad, bad cat' I think somehow I had annoyed Dad and all I wanted was to find out what he was eating - hoping it was scrambled egg with cheese on top and that he would give me some
it was his own fault what had happened - if indeed he was complaining about what I assumed I was being blamed for All I wanted to do was to find out what he had on the tray he was foolishly balancing on his knees whilst looking at Susanna Reed on BBC1. If he ate at a table like any civilised person such accidents would never happen
' no breakfast for you You've gone too far this time.' He bellowed
All I had done was to jump from the floor onto the back of the sofa
or at least that had been my intention - but lazily, instead of doing it in one leap - I decided to use his leg as a staging post I missed and accidentally my front right paw went into the full bowl of marmalade
leaping out I trailed sticky marmalade over the leather sofa - then across the carpet whilst I made my escape
with both of my humans shouting at me
'Bad - bad cat
naughty, naughty naughty.'
eggs and a cream tea
I am sick of being blamed for every thing that goes wrong in this house 'Purdey, you bad cat' is all I seem to hear these days.What now? What is it I am supposed to have done?
Mum was now calling to Dad; 'I don't know what you were hoping to eat for your breakfast' she yelled, 'but you're getting scrambled eggs'
I like scrambled eggs too I thought - but somehow I sensed I would not be getting any of them. In fact I might be not getting anything this morning
'Purdey, you bad cat' is all I seem to hear these days. Why am I being blamed for the six-egg pack Mum found upside down on the kitchen floor? After all only one egg was smashed - the rest were only cracked.
'What's wrong' called Dad from the top of the stairs. 'It's Purdey again' replied Mum, 'she's obviously knocked a box of eggs off the worktop - and they're all cracked or broken. Hence, you're having scrambled eggs for breakfast whether you like it or not. She's your cat'
Why was I being blamed?
there was no proof. Nothing to indicate I was the culprit. It could have been Symes or Wright - why me? I always get blamed. Those pampered boys get away with murder To add insult to injury I was shut in the kitchen and given only the smashed egg to eat for my breakfast
whilst Dad ate four of the cracked eggs scrambled, on a tray in the living room - garnished with melted cheddar cheese - a favourite of mine
and he didn't leave me any
For the rest of the morning I skulked around trying to keep a low profile, having to put up with the occasional comment of 'Bad Cat' or 'Naughty Purdey'
In the afternoon things began to look up
Tara visited us and Mum served Victoria Sponge enhanced with a generous helping of fresh whipped cream and some delicious ice cream. Already I was lying on Tara's lap purring away whilst she stoked me and had to listen to a pack of fibs about knocking a box of eggs off the worktop.
Although Tara listened patiently to the slanderous tale, she carried on stroking me and I carried on purring
and soon Mum relented and gave me a lovely big saucer of whipped cream and ice cream
a change of strategy?
'Wright - you are soaking wet Get down from there' and so I am in trouble again. Unlike Miss Perfect who gets away with most things
often by pretending it was me or Symes who has been naughty.
Earlier today Purdy had either genuinely not been feeling too well or was just trying to get attention something which is often in her nature. As usual she had turned her nose up at the plate of ordinary Whiskas that Mum had put out for our breakfast. Mum did not know if Purdey was just being difficult - often she disliked sharing a tin with Symes and me
thinking she was special and should be fed on her own.
Mum, thinking today was such a case - opened a Whiskas pouch for the spoiled little princess to have all on her own
but unusually she refused to eat the more expensive food - preferring to yowl pitifully and harass her favourite human for something more exiting.
Eventually Mum gave in as Purdey was feeling very skinny today and we were worried that she was not eating enough
opened a tin of Waitrose tuna and offered half the contents to the spoilt little madam, who wolfed it so quickly we thought she might choke and then Purdey asked for something more. Mum, being of kindly disposition, scrambled an egg for her and while waiting for it to cool - gave the impatient little cat some freshly whipped cream
meanwhile Symes had gone outside to hunt and I consumed the contents of the pouch originally offered to Purdy. I must admit to felling a little resentful at the preferential treatment she had been given
but later - I was given a lesson in how she achieved it
Mum found a dead vole left anonymously at the exact spot on the worktop where Purdey had eaten the cream
a complete change in strategy. Normally she would bring in a dead rodent - then guard it until rewarded with cheese
this could only be a thank you to Mum
and guess what?
She was given more cheese at this rate she will get fat
Mum and dad have a big indoor fishpond. I have heard Dad boasting that it holds one thousand six hundred gallons of water.
whatever a gallon is?
Wright had just told me it is just less than four thousand four hundred litres - a lot of water - and it contains some fish
big fat greedy things called Koi in several different colours and patterns
They seem to eat a lot - and we cannot get at them as they cruise around with their mouths open - enthusiastically hovering up the 'pellets' Mum feeds them with. Our humans have covered the pond surface completely with a fine net. It does not stop us looking at the fish and they claim it is to prevent the silly things jumping our and dying on the stone surface surrounding the pond
but we know differently
it is obviously to prevent us from fishing them out with our claws - if we fancy some fresh fish
Some of these coloured fish are growing seriously big. I heard Dad tell Mum that the biggest one, a thing he called a Chagoi weighed twice as much as Symes - making it more than four times the weight of poor little Purdey
who would be the most likely thief
Me? I don't like fish
I would just be an amused observer
Dad's shout was sharp, resentful and reprimanding and at first I was not sure what I was supposed to have done
I had been peacefully asleep on his lap when Mum brought his mid-afternoon cup of tea with some biscuits coated with chocolate that she had bought him yesterday at 'Desert' the caf in Salisbury where he often enjoyed the unique patisserie that the owner made fresh every morning
and as I stretched to sniff what was to me a new snack to be investigated and perhaps sampled I was nudged aside to the arm of the chair
where there was this Kindle device that dad had been playing with his new touch-screen Kindle.
Not knowing what it was, I naturally sat on it not realising it was still on
and inadvertently pressing the Buy symbol in the middle of the screen
not a book that either Dad or Mum wanted
but it only cost him 5.99 I'm in trouble again
Purdeyyou bad cat, you
Peter Hunter 2012
Peter Hunter's Cats and Other Tales is available on Kindle