I am writing this post because the writer of a blog I follow, dovegreyreader scribbles posted about her missing cat and asked for comments. I decided that my story of how we lost our first cat was too long to post as a comment on her blog and that I should write a post of my own about it. The story happened way back at the end of the 1970s but I have never written it down, so now is as good at time as any. We have virtually no photos of Tiki, who was our first cat, because we lost most of them in our house fire in 1999 but here is one I found and have managed to scan.
Tiki went on his great adventure from our house in Tooting, London. It was a two-up, two down in a tiny street that ran off the main shopping street. When we went to work we used to leave the back downstairs window open for him as the houses had virtually no gardens and we figured he could not go far. But we reckoned without this feisty Siamese whom we had acquired at the age of six weeks (far too young for him to leave his birth mother). He was about eight when it happened on a wet Friday in November. The street was full of parked cars because everyone came shopping on Fridays. Tiki was an extremely fussy eater so we were really worried and his first night away was Guy Fawkes. Later we realised that he had got out the back window, climbed over two fences and come to a house where builders were working and had left both the back and front doors open. This enabled him to get through the house and climb into the engine of a car. He had done it once before in the hot summer of 1976 but he did not go on a journey that time.
What do you do when you lose a cat in London? My in-laws thought you told the local radio but that would not have worked so we just put a card in our front window. After all, you do not expect to see stray Siamese. We also spent hours looking under cars and knocking on doors but to no avail. After five weeks we realised we would not get him back and prepared to go to the cat show at Olympia the following weekend and choose a successor. Then an elderly woman who lived a few doors down approached my husband as he walked home from work and asked if we had ever found our cat because there was a stray Siamese where her daughter lived about two miles away. The daughter lived just round the corner from a main road and a parade of shops. So began our attempt to get him back.
We put a 'small ad.' in the newsagent's window with our telephone number on it. Nothing. I was commuting to near Heathrow and one day I had a phone call at work saying the cat had been seen behind the parade of shops. Hopeless. It would have taken me an hour to drive back. At the end of the week we had a phone call from someone who said he lived over the DIY shop and that our cat was living behind the shop. He had moved across the side street where our neighbour's daughter lived, after spending several weeks trying to make friends with them. That was when we knew he had definitely got into the engine of their car on their regular visit to her mother. The man who phoned said he worked in a butcher's shop and was bringing Tiki home choice cuts of rabbit etc. so at least we knew he wasn't starving. The man said he could shut him into the back of the shop and would then phone us to come and get him. Saturday evening came and we did not get the expected call. After watching a movie on TV my husband drove out in heavy fog to find him. When he got there he locked himself out of the car and had to walk two miles home in the fog at midnight to get the spare key.
Next morning (Sunday) I was woken by the phone to say Tiki was 'caught'. But even that was not simple. Apparently our phone was not working properly and directory enquiries initally refused to help. But the man refused to give in so the cat was found! When we got to him he had the biggest fleas I have ever seen but he did recognize us and purred madly. We had been told that he was likely to go feral after so long away so we were very lucky.
This was not his only adventure. The summer 1976 episode revealed him when he fell out of the car engine in our street covered in oil. We had to rub him with butter and then put him in the bath and shower him. Not popular.
The year after his big adventure we moved to a larger house. He was only allowed out when we were home but that did not stop his adventures. One November Sunday afternoon he came in from the back garden, shot straight up the stairs and out the bow window at the front of the house. I think he had learnt his lesson and he spent the afternoon cowering behind the dustbins of the house opposite until I heard him and we rescued him.
I am afraid we did finally lose him but by then he was fourteen so he may have gone away to die. We were in the process of leaving London and I was working in Oxford and only home at weekends. My husband would let him out into the back garden (we were still in a terraced house) and then put the carving steel against the carving knife to call him in before he left for work! It was summer this time. One day he did not return. We spent hours knocking on all the doors and got our young nephews to post 'lost' notices through the doors of all the houses in our street and the next one behind the gardens. The house immediately behind us was on the market so I got the estate agent to come out and go through all the rooms. But we never found him and concluded that he had either wandered off to die or hitched a lift in yet another car. It is for that reason that all our other cats have been more or less 'house cats' who have only ever gone out under supervision.
This is the only other photo I can find apart from two negatives which I must get prints from. You can see from this photo that he as a boz-eyed Siamese. They were very common in those days, much less so now.