Cats and Petal by Clive Andrews

Cats have been with us Humans for countless centuries being first domesticated during Neolithic times. Undoubtedly, as mankind made the transition from hunter to farmer, the use of the cat to protect grain stores from rats and mice must have favoured its domestication and explain why it was during the new stone age, when people first settled to farm the land, that the cat became part of our society. In many ways cats still take on this role and I recall when first moving into my present house, how quickly my two Welsh born farm cats demolished the mouse population both in my house and next door.

Image of Petal

In ancient Egypt the cat was associated with both the goddesses Isis and in particular the goddess Bastet and many mummified cats have been found there. This sense of magic and mystery has remained throughout history, although in the past cats have not always attracted such a favourable press, especially in the 16th century, when cats where often seen, by the suspicious, as the familiars of witches and hence associated with the devil - To this day the association of a black cat with omens of ill luck has remained.

In pantomime, we all remember the part played by Dick Wittingham's cat, in helping his master seek fame and fortune in London town through his phenomenal rat catching ability. Cats feature in poetry as well, and amongst the most popular of cats poems are those written by TS Eliot which became the basis for a London musical- called Cats of course. I like best the poem Macavity the mystery cat, which describes the criminal mischief of a large ginger moggy:-

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw, For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law. He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair: For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

I would like to dedicate this essay to Petal, a black and white cat that Yvonne acquired from a pet shop in Sandhurst. During her life, Petal has lived in Little Sandhurst, in Little Bytham near Stamford, and in Farnborough until she sadly passed away last year. In her last years she imprinted on me and often followed me about especially whilst in the garden. She liked to follow me up to the sheds at the bottom of the garden, where we would look behind to see what may be lurking there. On finding nothing we then came back to the kitchen. It was never clear who was leading who up the garden path! One early morning however we both saw a fox on the garden shed. She looked at the fox, I looked at the fox and then Petal looked at me as if to say: - " What was that then ". The fox of course, in the usual fox like habit, looked at both of us, seemed almost to shrug its shoulders in a sign of indifference, and then it slowly sauntered off elsewhere.

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