Monday, November 06, 2006

Fluff’s Story

Once upon a time as a kitten, Fluff had a proper boy’s name. He was christened Freddy. Very soon though he succumbed to the nickname, something to do with his wonderfully fluffy tail and general all-round soft purriness. He was our first animal in the days before the children arrived, when we were subconsciously trying out for parenthood, so with a lot of attention lavished on him, he soon showed his remarkable personality. He was a true 'boy', uncomplicated and loving but a thug too and he loved eating banana and broccoli. One month later we felt sorry for him being an only cat and got him a sibling, a black cat who we called Horatia. She poor thing got landed with the nickname 'Horror'. Fluff was not impressed by her arrival and for a few days used to leap on top of her, squashing her flat. After a while they decided to call a truce and cuddle up together.

In those days we lived in our photographic studio in London. It was in a semi-industrial yard surrounded on three sides by railway tracks. Fluff became Urban Cat, padding over the rooftops at night, socialising with the photographers and models using the studio by day. Our lives became more domesticated once the children arrived and eventually we moved in to a house. We worried about moving the cats from the studio – they were studio cats with an important role to play in the rodent department and we also knew we’d be moving to South Africa sooner or later. Would they make the transition to rural farm cat in Africa, coming up against snakes and worst of all farm dogs (they were both terrified of dogs)? Maybe it would be kinder to leave them at the studio where they were at home, where they had grown up?

Eventually, reassured by the vet that cats are adaptable animals, we decided that they were too much part of our family to leave behind. They moved to our suburban house and two years later, joined us on our great move to Africa. Friends, or shall I say acquaintances, thought we were barmy paying good money to transport two furry creatures all that way, when we could have got new ones on arrival....

The plans were laid. We would fly out first, travel to visit family for a month, then the friend who was staying on in our London house would despatch the cats to join us. Paperwork was completed, the house packed up, children bundled up and we flew into our future.

Two months later we heard that our cats had been booked on a flight. Then that they were on the way. We were full of anxiety for them. How frightening it must be to be bundled in a box, surrounded by strangers, strange noises and smells. Had we done the right thing?

The next morning we had a phone call from the airline. Apologetically the representative relayed the news. “Your one cat has arrived, but the other escaped at Heathrow...”

Escaped! How could he possibly escape, which cat was it, what was happening to him? Horrible visions of our baby wandering loose in a terrifying environment trying to find his way home..we should have left him at the studio after all.

We were reassured that he was contained in a warehouse in Terminal 4, that he couldn’t get out and would be caught soon. The airline personally escorted the cat that had arrived, who turned out to be Horry. So Fluff was the escapee!

For three days, our personal airline representative called us twice a day to let us know that there was no news yet. We appreciated her calls, better having her call than not, but we were getting desperate.

On the fourth day she had good news for us. He was found! At Terminal 1. At least 13km over runways, among aeroplanes taking off, taxiing and landing, our Fluff had trekked, in completely the wrong direction for home, but perhaps all those radio waves confused his internal homing device. He was bruised, paws worn raw, airfuel burns on his belly and scratches, but he was alive! He spent the weekend at the vets' and then another month with our friend to recuperate before being flown out to us. He was escorted out to our farm, personally by our stalwart rep, who was not too scared to phone even with no news. We expected a sad, shivering wreck, but as soon as his cage door was opened, out he came, tail up, purring!

Since then he has taken on his new environment with aplomb. There is not a dog who will mess with Fluff. They cringe if he approaches. He takes unkind advantage of this by lying in wait on a kitchen chair and swiping at their noses when they pass too close. One of the border collies is obsessive about him, she is desperate to chase him and quivers as she points at him. He stares her out and if he gets bored of the staring match will charge her, sending her whimpering down the hill. He knows who’s boss!


  1. Now this is one of a nine lives tale!! Great story, great welcome home!!

  2. What a lovely story! Could make for a great children's tale...I can just see it now at my nearest bookstore....Freddy Does Heathrow! ( a true tale of survival at the world's busiest airport by a frisky feline named Fluff aka Freddy) Really enjoyed your telling of this Kit...and a testament to this cat's "grit"! :) My youngest Alex loved this story also. No wonder the other animals respect him!

  3. What a brave and courageous Fluff! He earned living out his days on an African Farm, didn't he?


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