Bigfoot is dead- no, not that Bigfoot!
Bigfoot was my cat. An Abyssinian. He had all presence and charisma of a movie star. In appearance he was a young cougar, a mountain lion. Sitting at the window his statuesque image stopped passers-by in their tracks. When they pointed and gaped at him he turned his head away, aloof, not in the least troubled that they took his photograph.
He was a star, no doubt about it. He was never concerned about attention, just took it in his stride, expected it, treated it as the downside of celebrity. It came with the fame. The upside was getting top table at meal time.
Experts aver the Abyssinian is the forerunner of all breeds, from the Victorian age to today. There must be truth in it. You can see all breed colours in a single Abyssinian hair. It runs from white through the spectrum to burnt sienna and finally to black at its tip. The eyes are green, the ears big and erect, the coat short, the body muscular.
Compared to the world’s troubles, and Scotland’s black and blue aspirations for fair play, the death of a cat is as much news as the death of a bug on a car windscreen. But Bigfoot was a superlative cat. He deserves some mention of his passing.
From dogs to cats
I was a confirmed dog man until I was introduced to smart cats, Burmese to be precise. An Abyssinian beats all other breeds, paws down, to my mind mainly because they are so independent. They are not good house cats. Burmese make excellent house cats. Bred to keep vermin at bay, they treat anything not a cat or human in the vicinity of the house as vermin.
Previously I thought cats no more than okay creatures, better than dogs only in their habit of taking care of their own poo. I knew all cats are handsome – except the flat face variety, a breed too far, contorted as Pekingese – until they lay that lifeless offering at your feet and expect praise. “You’ve slaughtered the last remaining Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, you little thug!!!
Sometimes they place a dead mouse on the kitchen worktop, blood and gore everywhere.
Once, in the middle of the night, I heard prolonged screaming coming from the kitchen. The high-pitched yelp sounded like a child, fingers caught in a door.
My two Burmese had dragged a young rabbit through the cat flap and rounded upon the leveret in a corner of the kitchen. It was terrified. I rescued it from its traumatic situation, facing death by brutish Burmese, and in pyjamas and dressing gown, let it go in the fields hoping it would find its parents. (I was in pyjamas, not the bunny.)
The cats were named after famous painters: Raeburn, Ramsay, Miro, and Pablo after Pablo Picasso. Pablo was the smartest pussy on the planet.
Pablo was a chocolate Burmese. It was so smart, a damn Einstein, it could pretend to be a throw cushion and, lying still and prone, flopped as if a limp bolster across the top of the sofa, slither down the sofa toward your supper plate of bread, cheese and pickle.
He accomplished this manoeuvre at an imperceptible pace, slower than slow motion, slower than the eye or brain can register movement. He played this trick while you were distracted watching television. When you reached out for that last delicious bite of cheese it had disappeared. Discomfited by the mysterious disappearance of the last morsel, bemused by the loss, you looked around only to find Pablo licking its paw clean.
“That bloody cat will have to learn it isn’t human!”
Different in all sorts of ways
Bigfoot was entirely different. Abyssinians are BIG cats, the male bigger than a fox. They eat what they please, sleep where they please, and go where they please. They are their own cat. No one owns them. They remain wild animals.
Bigfoot hated physical contact. He was decidedly not a touchy, feely cat. When you lifted him up for a cuddle you got a hefty paw placed hard against your chest or chin pushing you back. “This far and no further!” There was no way he was going to allow you to kiss him. If he wanted to be near you he chose when to sit on your lap.
Bigfoot scorned a dog’s ingratiating ways. He wouldn’t comply with your need to be reassured you’re a great person ten times a day. His attitude was, “Mature. Get a life!”
Bigfoot could also play games, clever games, without food as the reward. I would lie on my belly on the rug one side of the sofa, Bigfoot hiding at the back of the sofa. Like an assassin moving through long grass in wait, I moved around one end of the sofa attempting to scare the hell out of him. No matter how quietly I shifted position Bigfoot could anticipate my every movement, throw a huge paw around the corner, and whack me square in the face before scampering off to a safe distance.
I’m sure I heard him laughing.
I never knew until then cats were capable of playing sophisticated games, activity more complicated than chasing a feather at the end of a piece of string.
A macho cat
Bigfoot was a cat Macho Man was happy to be seen with. He was a real man’s cat, a cat for manly men who do manly things. You could walk him like a dog. And he barked like one!
But living in small, city centre house was an unacceptable imposition on such a noble beast that craved the forest and the mountain. When the decision was made to part with him, the house incompatible with the Ranulph Fiennes of cats, I gave him to a lovely Edinburgh couple whose Victorian pile backed onto one of the city’s biggest park lands, a place with stream, trees, glen and lots of pounce cover. I’m told he lived like a Texas Ranger spending many a glorious day chasing alien grey squirrels off his territory.
What’s the difference between a cat and a dog?
When a dog watches you putting up a shelf on the wall it thinks to itself, “You are the most talented carpenter I have ever seen. Just terrific.” A cat watches in disbelief. “You do know, don’t you, you’re using the wrong screws? You idiot.”
Bigfoot had a long life, fame, and freedom to roam … I kinda miss him.