You may remember I told you about our Kent farm cat Sooty (he was black) and how we took him with us when we got posted to Kitwe in Zambia. I explained how this small dinky looking fiend incarnate made himself quickly at home by terrorising our house staff and laying waste to the neighbourhood. In the next few paragraphs I will tell you more of his antics and how he became known within the community as ‘Madam’s Devil Cat’.
I preffered ‘devil cat’ to our house servants name for him which was ‘Madam’s pussy’. It started to get embarrassing as Silas would frequently burst into the lounge in front of guests and say “I cannot find Madam’s pussy” which raised many a guffaw. “I last saw it in Madam’s bedroom” he would continue.
Silas and I had a number of issues about who he should call what. For instance he would insist on calling me Bwana which made me feel like some kind of ancient white hunter. I frequently had conversations with him about it which went something like this:
Silas I cannot find Madam’s pussy Bwana.
Me. How many times have I told you? Stop calling me Bwana.
Silas. Ya Bwana
Me. I want you to call me sir.
Silas. Ya Bwana sir.
Me. No! Not Bwana sir. Just sir.
Do you understand?
Silas. Ya Bwana!
Me. Give me strength.
After a couple of weeks Sooty was beginning to feel at home. Despite being black and furry he seemed completely oblivious to the incredible heat although he did start to pant like a dog. He set about establishing himself as the top cat in the neighbourhood and rarely a day went past without hearing the sound of yowling, spitting and barking as he wreaked his havoc. He further amused himself by ambushing our gardener Patrick by lying on top of the garden archways and hurling himself on Patrick’s head as he walked underneath. The poor man would then run around the garden shrieking until Sooty stopped chewing and jumped off.
Another problem Sooty caused involved venomous snakes. I remember he found one in the garden where it had nested under the pool pump cover. He used to kill them but sometimes, as in this case, he wanted to show off by bringing it in and dropping the live and angry serpent on the lounge rug. Everybody jumped up onto the furniture as the thing thrashed around while Sooty sat a safe distance away licking his bottom and grooming himself in general.
The uproar brought Silas in. “Oh Bwana” he cried. Before I could say ‘don’t call me Bwana’ he was out the door. He returned a few seconds later with Patrick’s machete and chopped its head off. We had to live with a stained rug with a four inch cut through it for the rest of our stay
When he was not eating creatures such as insects, spiders, geckos, snakes (he always left the head) and other such things he insisted on Whiskas tinned cat food which we brought in on our trips back from holidays in England. It created great interest at customs. The officials saw the pictures on the tin and became convinced that it was tinned cat. “What does cat taste like they asked? I had trouble getting through to them that it was tuna jelly meat Whiskas for cats not of cat but with little success. In order to get it through customs I had to leave a few tins for them. They told me afterwards that cat tasted delicious and quite a bit like fish!
We only actually lost Sooty once. I reminded Silas of our agreement which was effectively ‘no cat equals no job’ for him and the neighbourhood was mobilised. Things looked bleak and we became resigned to the likelihood that Sooty was probably in some cooking pot or had fallen prey to one of the local guard dogs who harboured a grudge against him.
Suddenly we heard some ghostly wailing and an urgent cry of “Bwana, Bwana I have found Madam’s pussy!” We ran around the side of the house to find Silas leaping up and down pointing to a large diameter storm drainpipe where the yowling was coming from. Sooty was stuck in the ‘U’ bend. We had to tear the pipe off the wall to get to him. When it was horizontal a large lizard shot out with Sooty in hot pursuit. It ran up the wall and so did Sooty and the lizard was no more. He ran up the slope of the roof with the lizard’s tail hanging out the side of his mouth and on reaching the peak evacuated his bowels in shock.
In all the years we had Sooty it was his one and only showing of fear. Unfortunately it was one to remember as, for the next six months the pyramid of excrement stayed there until the monsoons washed it away. Despite everything he was a lovely cat and one you could definitely call a ‘character’, although many in Zambia did not share my admiration for the ‘Devil Cat’.