While the Cat Was Away – An update on the search for Pete Briquette
Milo: tearing around the place like a fur tornado
First of all I’d like to thank the many readers who sent cards, emails, offers of counselling, etc, following the disappearance of my cat, Pete Briquette, last summer.
To recap, briefly, he wandered off one morning in August, four years to the day from when I had rescued him as an abandoned week-old kitten (looking uncannily like a piece of wet turf) on a bog road in Tipperary.
Searches of our neighbourhood in the days after his abdication turned up several browny-black cats, but none of them him.
He was still unheard of at Christmas. And when the six-month anniversary passed last week, I was ready to pronounce him legally dead.
One last line of inquiry had been suggested by an incident around New Year when Iarnród Éireann reported the discovery of a dog on a train arriving in Heuston Station.
The animal had boarded (without a ticket) at Portarlington, and was being detained pending contact from owners.
Now it so happens that we live close to Heuston, where the yards might well have been within Pete’s ambit.
It occurred to me that he too might found his way onto a train at some point.
Perhaps he had gone home to Tipperary, accidentally or otherwise?
But wherever he was, he didn’t appear to be coming back. And my only consolation was that I had never got around to installing a planned cat-flap in our glass back door, which would not only have been expensive but would now be haunting me like his empty chair.
Not that our pet-free status lasted long. Like nature in general, cats abhor a vacuum.
So word must have got around that there was a vacancy because, over Christmas, we acquired another stray, a month-old tabby now called “Milo”.
There were two immediately noticeable things about this new arrival. One was that he bore a remarkable resemblance to our other former cat, Jerry, an ancient creature who, after enduring daily ambushes from Pete throughout his declining years, expired of natural causes (with a little help from the vet) earlier last summer.
If you believed in reincarnation, you might suspect it to be at work here. If anything, Milo’s markings are more aesthetically arranged that Jerry’s; although of course that could be a promotion earned by Karma, from the old cat’s stoicism in the face of aggression.
Apart from his physical similarity to Jerry, however, the other striking thing about the new kitten was the utter temperamental contrast between him and Pete. The latter was never entirely tamed by human contact. He needed a lot of personal space and wasn’t into purring. When picked up and petted, he would almost grimace while waiting for the first chance to escape.
Milo, by contrast, is an affection junkie. He will never sleep in an empty chair if there’s a human lap available somewhere instead. In response to even a pat on the head, he purrs like a Bentley.
Also – and my apologies if you’re squeamish – he has an embarrassing habit of trying to breastfeed any adult females (human ones, that is) who pick him up.
His neediness aside, however, he is also growing feistier every day. And of course he’s growing in general. Already tearing around the place like a fur tornado, he will soon be a match for any adult tom-cat that might enter his space.
I mention this last possibility because, one night earlier this week, I returned from a run to find three missed calls from my teenage daughter, followed by urgent texts – “I saw Pete” and “Explain later”.
She had been visiting a friend in an estate not far away, when a cat of Pete’s general appearance approached and started weaving around her ankles and bumping her with his forehead. During an emotional reunion, she was even able to pick him up and pet him.
“Did he have the thing in his eye?” I asked, incredulous.
Pete had for a long time had a small dark spot in one of his eyes that the vet said needed watching. No, my daughter admitted, there was no eye spot. “But it was definitely him.”
For various reasons, she didn’t try to bring him home then.
He looked well fed and in good health and she was sure we would find him there again.
So for now at least, Pete has disappeared back into the night.
But if it really is him, and if he does return eventually, I’ll be fascinated to see how he reacts to the youthful reinvention of the old cat, now waiting to greet him.