I was brought up with the old saying that a black cat crossing your path means good luck. But as I talked about in an earlier blog, in some parts of the world, including Italy, a black cat is considered unlucky. My first cat ever was a black cat and I can tell you that it is true – a black cat is lucky!
It Is True A Black Cat Is Lucky
It All Started With A Mouse
We had a mouse in the kitchen. I realise lots of people do at some point. But this was an early stage of my life in my new home with my partner at the time. And we didn’t have a cat. Yes, I confess hard to believe given that I am the ultimate cat woman. But at that time my ‘cat woman tendencies’ had not yet blossomed.
My partner was away when the mouse appeared. I was okay until he started popping under the kitchen door and sitting looking at me while I was watching television in the living room. I rang my Uncle and he came and caught the mouse and put it outside. But the first thing I greeted my partner with on his return was ‘we need to get a cat’.
At that time, we were living in Upper Beeding in Sussex in the UK. I rang what was then called The Cat Protection League whose headquarters were in Horsham in West Sussex. I said we wanted a cat, not a kitten (looking for mouse experience you understand) and we would be happy with an old one, sick one, disabled one, ugly one. Basically one that no-one else would want.
They were understandably very happy with this offer and told me they had a black cat that was looking for a home. He had been hit by a car and had a broken leg and broken pelvis. Post-surgery he was shaven and bandaged and not very attractive. “We will have him” I said.
Meeting Our Boy
Having passed the necessary screening, we went to get him. And he did look a sorry excuse for a cat. He had a dreadful limp from his broken leg and the first thing I said to him was “Hello Hop-a-long!”. His back end was bald and you could see the scar from surgery. The lady then told us his name was Golly. It took seconds for me to put ‘Hop-a-Long Golly” together and he became HG. A very distinguished name for a bedraggled and beaten up moggy.
At home, we introduced HG to the house (a small three bedroom terraced house with an enclosed garden). Our instructions were to keep him indoors for two weeks before letting him in the garden. We realised very quickly that we had got ourselves a winner. A mild mannered gentleman, HG liked his cuddles and liked to play. Particularly with his favourite cat nip mouse. Needless to say we fell in love with him in no time.
We Lost Him!
After two weeks was passed, his fur had started to regrow and he was no longer limping. I took some persuading to open the doors to the garden and let him out. We walked around the garden together. He checked out the pond, the greenhouse, the trees and flowers. Then he settled down and curled up asleep in the sunshine near the house.
We went to the pub for a drink and then came back and I rushed to open the back door and see how HG was doing. And there was no sign of him. There was no cat in the garden. I called him a few times and waited with the back door open for him to appear. After two hours there was still no sign of him.
After four hours I was sobbing thinking he was gone. My partner kept saying that HG had a collar and name tag and he would be found. My partner rode around the village on his bike, stopping regularly to call “HG!” much to the bewilderment of various villagers.
7pm and I was standing cooking pancakes, still crying, when I heard a sound behind me. I looked round there was HG looking very pleased with himself as he walked forward and dumped a dead mouse at my feet. Of course he didn’t quite get the welcome he expected! There were a lot of tears and shouts of “where have you been you monster?” etc. But thank goodness a happy ending to his first foray outside.
HG rapidly became a major part of our lives. He had a very strong character and was full of mischief.
Tormenting My Partner
The Episode of The Big Toe
In our small house, there was a hatchway/window between the kitchen and living room to let in the light. One day my partner was watching television in bare feet. HG was sitting next to his foot and as I watched he leaned forward, obviously going to bite my partner’s big toe. Before I could say anything he stopped himself. Then as I was about to point this out to my partner, HG decided to ‘go for it’ and sank his teeth into my partner’s toe. It took ages to get the mark off the ceiling where my partner hit it.
Deliberate Furniture Scratching
Another time my partner was watching a big cricket match (international thingy, no interest in it so no details sorry). From the vantage point of the hatchway I watched HG scratch the back of the sofa, all the time looking at my partner. He, of course, shouted at HG to stop. HG sat patiently waiting for my partner to become engrossed in the match again before scratching the sofa again. This went on for a while until my laughter brought it to a halt.
My ‘Alien’ Moment
Have you seen the film ‘Alien‘? There is a scene towards the end where the Sigourney Weaver character thinks she is safe and then suddenly the tail of the alien drops down in front of her. At which point she knows she is in deep trouble. Well, one Saturday I was loading the washing machine. The machine was located in a cupboard in the fitted kitchen, you could only see the machine by opening the doors to that cupboard. Well, I was just finishing putting in the washing when HG’s tail drifted down in front of my face. It frightened me half to death! I leaped backwards and hit my head on the breakfast bar nearly knocking myself out. I have no idea how he got in that cupboard.
A Giggling Cat
We had a large storage cupboard under the stairs with a full size door. One day I opened the cupboard to put away the vacuum cleaner and HG leaped out at chest height, knocking me over. They heard the scream a couple of houses away apparently. The trouble is as he walked off, I swear that cat was giggling.
Teddy Bear Camouflage
In the bedroom we had fitted wardrobes. There was a space between the top of the wardrobes and the ceiling and I put my teddy bears up there (yes as well as cats I am a teddy bear type of gal). My partner was away and I was in bed one night watching television when all of a sudden one of the teddy bears yawned and moved. It was HG of course and I can’t tell you much it scared me! Again, he looked very pleased with himself.
The Flying Cat And The Greenhouse
One morning I was standing making coffee in the kitchen when I noticed HG sitting in the tree at the end of the garden. While I was watching he jumped from the tree onto the roof of the greenhouse. Of course, the inevitable happened as he went through the roof and smashed all the glass. I dropped my coffee cup and ran, expecting to find a dead or severely injured cat. Instead, there he sat, shaking his head, looking slightly dazed. Not a mark on him but with huge shards of glass sticking up all around him. He was okay (thank goodness) but the greenhouse was wrecked!
The Iced Over Pond
We had a tiny garage at the end of our garden where we parked our car. Then there was a door from the garage a small fishpond to the left and the garden path to our back door. One winter day, my partner came home from work and stood at the back door, soaked from his shoes to above his knees. “The ice wasn’t thick enough for me to walk on” says he. It was one of those occasions when words failed me.
The next day I heard a noise in the garden and looking out could see a trail of wet footprints on the garden path. I opened the back door and there sat HG, absolutely soaked up to his neck. “Some twit broke the ice” is what I thought I heard him say as he shuffled past me into the warm.
The Surprise Fireplace
My Mum and I went off on a week’s holiday. My partner announced before I left that he was opening up the fireplace so we could have an open fire. He was doing the work so it would all be finished by the time I got home. My Mum still managed to get me to go on holiday (close run thing). We had a nice time.
When I got home there was a beautiful open fire with logs roaring. The room looked spotless, I was so impressed! HG heard my voice and came running to see me. I picked him and cuddled him and then realised my hands were black with soot (remember he was a black cat). “Okay, give”, I said to my partner. This is the story.
There was a point when the fireplace was opened up and there was a big hole leading up to the chimney. My partner decided to go and make a cup of tea. When he came back he couldn’t find the cat. Then he saw an inch of HG’s tail dangling below the hole. So he grabbed HG’s tail and pulled. Down came the cat, along with an awful lot of soot that covered the carpets and furniture. In a blind panic, my partner started phoning around until he found a professional cleaner who came in and cleaned the carpets, furniture and curtains. So that was why the place looked so clean! But he forgot to do anything with the cat… HG did not enjoy his bath, nor being blow dried afterwards.
Be Careful What You Eat
I came home from work one day and I thought we had been burgled. The living room was wrecked with ornaments smashed on the floor etc. Then I saw a hysterical black thing streaking around. HG was running around like a mad thing and I could see he had what appeared to be a long piece of string hanging from his back end.
I managed to grab him and yes, he had a long piece of string, maybe 18 inches hanging out and it had lots of metal pieces on it. A mad rush to the vets where they managed to remove the rest of the string without causing damage. (Note, never pull something like this yourself, you don’t know how much is still inside the cat and it could cause damage). It turned out to be string that had been wrapped around a piece of meat. HG had obviously found it in some neighbour’s rubbish and eaten it!
The New House
After a couple of years we moved to a new, bigger house in Barns Green near Horsham where I started my own business. It was close to a railway station which was great for my partner’s commute to London. By now, HG was slowing down. We never did know how old he was but he had arthritis from his earlier injuries. He loved the house and the bigger garden and spent hours watching the fish in the pond while sunbathing.
The New Kitten
It began to occur to us that HG would not be with us forever. He had become such a part of our lives we couldn’t imagine a house without him or a cat. So we decided to get a kitten. We thought it would keep him company while we were at work and when HG died we would still have a little guy to carry on. The new kitten was six weeks old and called Maximillian or Maxi for short. You couldn’t get much more of a contrast with a black cat, Maxi was a gorgeous pale ginger. His story is told in another blog.
Unfortunately, Maxi adored HG but the feelings were not mutual. HG hated the kitten with a vengeance. We had to keep them in separate rooms for a long time. Even then HG would sit outside the door of the room containing the kitten, growling. Eventually we reached a point where we could let them mingle but HG made it clear that the kitten was merely tolerated. He wouldn’t sleep with it or play with it. Maxi still adored him.
The Dog Attack
While HG appeared to hate the kitten, there was something there. This was clearly evidenced one day when my partner and I were washing the cars outside the garage. Maxi was playing on the grass verge and HG was asleep under the rose bush.
All of a sudden there was the sound of a man shouting and two German Shepherds attacked Maxi. Lots of things happened at once as time seemed to stand still. I screamed and tried to get round the front of the car to the kitten, my partner started running towards me (he was the wrong side of the car to be any quicker). And HG shot forward and stood between the kitten and the dogs. He was fluffed up to twice his size and howling and spitting at the dogs who momentarily paused in their attack. They appeared shocked that a black cat had appeared out of nowhere! HG took advantage of the pause and walked backwards, pushing the kitten under the car, while keeping his focus on the dogs. It was long enough for the owner to grab the dogs and apologise profusely and take them off.
My partner and I both needed to sit down as we were shaking. Maxi was completely unhurt. Until he came out from under the car and HG smacked him hard on his head with his paw…
Saying Goodbye To HG
By the time Maxi was 18 months old, the two cats were settled into a peaceful living arrangement. HG would even occasionally let Maxi within a foot of him.
HG started to limp and look like he was in pain. The vet said HG’s arthritis was worse and we put him on some medication but there was no improvement. Then we had some X-rays that showed that half of HG’s pelvis no longer existed, it had been eaten away. Remember his pelvis was broken in the accident before we got him. Of course there was nothing we could do but put him out of the pain.
We brought HG home to bury him and Maxi sat and watched. And then refused to eat or drink, clearly pining for his brother. The vet said he was dying and there was only one solution…
You can see what happened in Maxi’s story which is next in this series of cat memories.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!