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Very short news items of feline interest from today and yesteryear
Luton, England: May 2012
Denis was one of a litter of kittens born to a stray cat in Luton, in the south of England; luckily someone found and rescued them, although Mum and most of the kits eventually died. Denis survived and had a good home, and like many cats it seemed he liked to reward his humans by bringing home 'presents'. In Denis's case, though, they were not dead animals but accessories such as sandals, Barbie dolls, cardigans, underwear, toys, ladies' slippers and lots of sponges! The kleptomaniac feline was featured on the BBC's One Show, available at YouTube, and at the Mail Online. There's also a Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel. Denis became a sponsor for Homeless Cat Rescue Bedfordshire, and was featured on T-shirts sold for charity.
Update: An attractive-looking and modestly-priced little book titled The Adventures of Denis Cat Burglar, 'aimed at children, cat lovers and friends of Denis', was published in late 2017, with part of the proceeds going to the rescue charity. Not long afterwards Denis developed kidney problems and sadly died in March 2018, but several months later his Facebook page and Twitter account were still active, and he is also remembered at this webpage. Another book, A Christmas Tail of Giving, was published in late 2018 to raise further funds for the charity in Denis's memory. Both books available at eBay.
Ayning, near Munich, Germany: April 2012
There were reports in April of a ginger male cat called Poldi being found in woods near the city of Munich some 16 years after he disappeared; he was identified by an old tattoo on his ear. However, it seems he wasn't missing for that length of time after all! He went missing from his original owner after about a year, but was found in the garden of a family some 20 miles (32 km) away. They took him in, but their vet failed to identify the tattoo, so he lived with his new family as their cat for those 16 years, under the name Burli. It was only after he disappeared from their house that he turned up in woods 15 miles away (24 km) they have no idea how he got there. It's now been ruled that his second family may keep him, but his first, original owner has the right to visit him. All's well that ends well for the 'old boy'!
Dartford, Kent, UK: August 2012
A beautiful tabby kitten, only about 6 weeks old, survived a 2,000-mile journey in a trailer from Turkey and was being cared for by Cats Protection. Named Yonda, she will spend the required 6 months in quarantine before being rehomed. Staff at the depot where she was found, and the Turkish company owning the trailer, both donated towards the cost of her care. Another cat in the trailer unfortunately died, but Yonda soon settled down and was doing well. See ITV News.
Whitchurch, Shropshire, England: March 2012
Five-year-old black-and-white cat Demi had a horrifying and life-threatening ordeal when, unbeknown to her family, she was trapped in a tumble drier that was switched on with a load of towels inside. She experienced at least half an hour in a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. When discovered, she was rushed to the vet as an emergency, with a high temperature and very rapid breathing. She was put on oxygen and a drip, and given steroids for her muscles. Fortunately she recovered well physically, but was understandably so terrified of the drier that the family disposed of it.
Rottach-Egern, Bavaria, Germany: July 2008
When Gitti Rauch's neighbour was packing up for despatch a child seat she had sold on eBay, she didn't know that Gitti's one-year-old black cat Janosch had decided to take a nap in the crate. The package was duly sent and arrived in Dorsten, over 700 km (450 miles) away in the Rhineland. Luckily, an alert postal employee there noticed that something was alive and moving inside the crate and was able to free him. The sender of the package was informed, and told Gitti but unfortunately her job meant she couldn't travel to Dorsten right away. Janosch was put in a shelter and it was nearly a month before she could go to collect him. She had not missed him at first as he often went wandering for a few days. After his adventure he was said to be staying at home more and enjoying plenty of his favourite 'Wiener Wurstchen' sausage!
Felindre, Swansea, South Wales: 2007 / Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: 2011
Most cats have 18 toes 10 on front paws and 8 on the back ones. Ten-year-old Des has 26, boasting 7 on each front paw and 6 on each back one. It's said that cats with extra toes were quite common in the nearby former county of Cardiganshire, where they were known as 'Cardi-cats', but polydactyl felines usually have 24 toes and to have more is very unusual. The extra toes are the result of a genetic defect, with that particular gene pool apparently concentrated in south-west Wales. Des's owner Alison Thomas says the extra toes don�t bother him but he can be temperamental, so people need to keep well out of the way of all those claws! The record holder for toes is thought to be Bobbi, of British Columbia in Canada, who was reported in 2002 as having 28.
Late in 2011 a further 26-toed cat, called Daniel, was reported from Milwaukee. He took part in a unique fund-raising campaign to raise money for a new building for the Milwaukee Animal Center, whereby people were asked to make $26 donations, one for each toe! The campaign was very successful, and now Daniel lives at the Center as mascot. There's a nice video clip at YouTube.
Wiltshire, England: January 2012
Ten-month-old Fidge is credited with saving her owner Wendy Humphrey's life by alerting her to a malignant cancer in one of her breasts. Every evening for a couple of weeks during 2011, while Wendy was lazing on the sofa in front of the TV, Fidge would jump up and sit on her right breast never on the left. After a while Wendy went to see her doctor, as the breast was painful and she thought maybe it was bruised. It turned out there was a lump there, and a hospital scan showed that it was cancerous, leading to months of chemotherapy after which Wendy was due to have surgery. She is convinced she could have died had the cat not alerted her to the problem.
It's known that some dogs can predict epileptic fits, and it has been shown also that they can detect lung cancer from the breath of sufferers, maybe because cancers produce volatile chemicals the animals can smell. This could be the cause of Fidge's 'talent'; whatever the reason, Fidge has a special place in the Humphreys household.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: 2008
A small colony of feral cats have established themselves on the breakwater rocks on the shore of Point Pleasant Park, near Halifax harbour. There are volunteers who regularly feed and keep an eye on them, and the cats at least some of them have been given names. Visitors also come to watch them and will bring food. There is a well-made short video about them at YouTube, although unfortunately the web link given at the start of it no longer works.
Update: The following comment was later made at the YouTube page: 'The two remaining Point Pleasant Park cats, Tar and Ripple, have been successfully trapped and will live out the remainder of their lives indoors with one of the loving volunteers who cared for them for so many years. They are getting up there in years, so their caregivers decided it was time for them to come inside before another harsh winter hits.'
Boston, USA: 2010
In early 2010 a special little black-and-white kitten was handed in to the MSPCA in Boston as his owners were unable to find him a new home, unlike his litter-mates. The reason was that he was born without hind feet. In every other respect Nubbins was a normal, playful, rambunctious kitten, and his impairment seemed to hardly affect him. After some weeks of care and attention he was able to walk relatively normally on the malformed limbs, which developed calluses at the ends of his legs, allowing him to walk safely on carpeted surfaces without needing any other protection. He would need a home with carpets throughout, rather than wood or tiled floors, and preferably without stairs on which he might injure himself. New owners would also need to be able to give him plenty of time and attention, and to have good access to a veterinarian for regular check-ups.
Happily such a home was found, where Nubbins' needs will be met. A short video of him playing can be seen at Love Meow.
Chester, UK: 2007
A small kitten had a very lucky escape when she was found in a pile of scrap metal, just before it was due to be scooped up and taken away for recycling from Chester Recycling Centre. Operative Victor Stevenson heard a faint mew and found the little mite wedged in a mound of scrap metal. How she got there is a mystery. She was taken straight to the vet's, where she was found to be unharmed, if a bit shaken, and was estimated to be about seven weeks old. Mr Stevenson took her home to be cared for until there was a place for her at the local Cats Protection adoption centre, as he and his wife already had two cats and did not feel they could take on a third one permanently. Although we don't know the end of the story, Penny, as she was named, was playful, inquisitive and cute and we have no doubt she would have found a new home without much trouble.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA: 1930
It had not rained for over forty days and forty nights in the long, hot summer of 1930 and was not expected to when the phone rang one day in the office of the Baltimore Sun newspaper. A lady called Mrs Fannie de Shields confidently announced there would be rain within 24 hours, because Napoleon, her 9-year-old white Persian cat, had predicted it. He had assumed a certain position, she explained, crouched on his stomach with his head down between his front paws, and when he did that you could always count on a change of weather. He had possessed this gift since kittenhood, she said. Needless to say, the newspaperman taking the call was somewhat sceptical but within less than 24 hours it was raining buckets. Napoleon's reputation was made and reporters and photographers flocked to his door, although he preferred women reporters to men.
Over the next six years, unless he was ill, he would successfully predict weather changes, such that farmers and hikers would ring up to get his advice. He became renowned throughout Maryland and beyond; more than a few times he flatly contradicted the Weather Bureau and was correct, leaving officials red-faced. Napoleon died peacefully at home in 1936 aged almost 19, and was buried in a pet cemetery under a headstone inscribed 'Napoleon, the Weather Prophet, 1917-1936'. The Baltimore Sun headlined his obituary 'Napoleon, the Weather Cat, has Forecast Last Storm'.
Warsaw, Poland: 2011
On 29 May 2011 a sculpture was unveiled in Warsaw's Balaton Park called the 'Monument to an Independent Cat'. The sculptor is Bogna Czechowska, who has also made a sculpture of a 'happy dog' in Warsaw. The cat monument was sponsored by Certech, a company well known in Poland as a producer of absorbent pet litter. The 'godfather' of the monument is Robert Janowski veterinary doctor, TV showman and of course a cat lover and its 'godmother' is Olga Bonczyk actress and also a cat lover.
There are innumerable funny cat clips on YouTube, but we thought these two, apparently originating in Japan, were irresistible. Scottish Fold kitten Munchkin stands on his haunches to investigate a tempting plate of meat; and Maru seems to be obsessed with clambering into boxes, no matter how small! See another video here, and Googling 'Maru cat in box' will bring up several similar clips. Maru's tail waves enthusiastically throughout his box adventures!
Shropshire, UK: February 2011
One day in 2004 tabby cat Parsley went out on her rounds as usual in the village of Tushingham, near Whitchurch, Shropshire, in England's West Midlands, and was expected back a few hours later. She did not return. The Brownlee family mourned her and gave her up for lost. Imagine their surprise, therefore, when SEVEN YEARS later, in February 2011, they received a call from the local vet's to say a cat had been brought in and the microchip showed it belonged to them. It was Parsley! Where she had been remains a mystery, but she appeared in good health and clearly she must have been looked after. The family, while hardly believing their good fortune at having her back, were hoping that perhaps someone would come forward to shed some light on Parsley's seven-year absence.
Belfast, Northern Ireland: 1912
Facts about the ill-fated liner Titanic's cat are hard to come by, especially now that there are no living survivors. One version says there was a ship's cat called Jenny, who had kittens on board and they all perished with the ship. However, another quite different version tells of a cat at the shipyard having kittens before the ship was launched, and then becoming Titanic's cat and sailing with her during trials. But when the ship docked at Southampton prior to embarking on her maiden, and only, voyage, the cat removed her kittens one by one and left the ship. An Irish crewman who had been assigned to look after the cats took that as a bad omen and also left, claiming the cats had saved his life. See Feline Folios for a fictionalised telling of the tale.
Boston, USA: January 2010
The Espinosa family was trying to figure out how their pet cat Sal was summoned for jury duty. They thought the mix-up arose because on the last Census form, Anna Esposito listed him under 'pets'. 'I just wrote "Sal Esposito", scratched out the "dog", and wrote "cat",' said Anna. When the summons arrived, she filed for Sal's disqualification of service on the grounds of 'Can't speak English', but the jury commissioner was unmoved and demanded the claim be put to the test. Sal's service date at Suffolk Superior Court was set for 23 March but in fact the matter was sorted out before then and Sal did not have to appear! For some reason the story was picked up again by the media a year later, but the events took place in early 2010, not 2011.
New Zealand: January 1917
From 1910 to 1919, Ginger the cat lived at the North Egmont Mountain House with manager and guide Harry Williams, who had rescued the kitten from the bush. Ginger was popular with visitors to Mount Taranaki and regularly followed tramping and walking parties. 'He was a lovely fellow and naturally came in for a lot of attention from guests who read of his exploits in the New Plymouth papers of the time,' Mr Williams wrote. On 16 January 1917, Ginger became the first feline to climb unaided to the summit. The party was guided by Mr Williams, who took photographs of the top cat and made him up a certificate verifying his ascent. 'He was never happy unless he was wandering around the mountain, even though it cost him great pain after his trips across the snow. It was nothing unusual to see poor old Ginger lying on his back with his paws in the air, they were so frost-bitten.' Ginger's worn collar is now preserved as part of the Puke Ariki collection at New Plymouth.
Cornwall, England: December 2008
At 27 years old, a black cat called Mischief was reported to be still living up to his name despite 'slowing down a little', according to his owners, who obtained him as a kitten in 1981 and still had photos of him as a youngster at Christmas that year. Nearly three decades on he 'has become an indoor cat now, but still has a spring in his step,' they said. 'He still manages to jump over the stair gate and he's round your ankles constantly for food.' A spokesman from Guinness World Records said a ginger cat called Spike was the previous feline to hold the title of UK's oldest cat, but he died aged 29 in 2001, since when there had been no further official record holder. The oldest cat ever was Creme Puff, born on August 3, 1967 and lived until August 6, 2005 an amazing 38 years and three days. She lived in Austin, Texas.
Glasgow, Scotland: 2004
When a fire started in the Glasgow home of well-known TV designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, their cat Felix raised the alarm by constantly meowing. Apparently, sunlight had bounced off a goldfish bowl and acted as a giant magnifying glass, causing a table in the lounge to burst into flames. For his prompt action, Felix became the first animal to receive the Scottish Executive's 'Don't Give Fire a Home' fire-safety award, established in 2003. He was presented with a special certificate, a specially branded medal and a new food bowl by representatives from Strathclyde Fire Brigade. Colin said: 'Felix is a true feline hero and we are immensely proud of him.' And the fish? They were unharmed.
Germany: January 2009
Leading weather forecaster for German TV Jörg Kachelmann had just started his two-minute prime-time slot on national TV, warning Germans to wrap up warmly on the coldest night of the year, when the tip of a tail moved across the bottom of the screen. Lupin, a colleague's cat, had wandered into the studio and was rubbing around his legs. Thinking viewers would wonder what was happening, and that cats don't like being ignored, Kachelmann scooped up the cat, which nuzzled his beard and gazed at him while he completed his forecast without missing a beat. He ended with a comment that he hoped cats had thick fur to protect them during the night. The episode can be found widely on the internet, such as this clip at YouTube.
Prestonpans, Scotland: 2004
At Hallowe'en 2004 the Scottish town of Prestonpans officially pardoned 81 people, and their cats, who were executed centuries ago for witchcraft. In times of political intrigue and religious excesses during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, some 3,500 people, mainly women and children, were executed in Scotland, along with their cats. The evidence was usually flimsy; owning a black cat could be enough, or making your own home-made remedies sometimes prosecuting witnesses claimed they heard 'spirit voices', or felt the presence of evil spirits.
Prestonpans had one of the largest numbers of witch executions in Scotland. Many were carried out within the jurisdiction of the Baron Courts of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun, and Gordon Prestoungrange, the 14th Baron, granted the pardons in the last session of his court, due to be abolished at the end of the following month. 'The court declared pardons to all those convicted,' he said, 'as well as to all the cats concerned.' Fifteen local descendants of some of those executed were invited to attend the ceremony.
Tasmania, Australia: September 2009
Himalayan cat Clyde was returned to his overjoyed owners three years after vanishing in 2006! Even stranger is the fact that he was found 2400 miles (3800 km) away in the remote town of Cloncurry, Queensland. A nurse there had found him hanging around and had cared for him for 4 months, but then she had to leave town. When checked, Clyde was found to be microchipped and so his owners were traced. How he got to Queensland so far away and including 185 miles of the Bass Strait is a mystery, but it seems likely that he ventured into a camper van or similar and was unwittingly transported. He appeared to be in good health. He was flown home free by animal transport company Dogtainers.
Zermatt, Switzerland: 1950
In September 1950 there was a ten-month-old kitten at the Hotel Belvedere, which is situated at a height of 10,800 feet (almost 3300 metres) near the famous Matterhorn, in Switzerland. The youngster is said by most accounts to have belonged to a climber who was going to climb to the mountain's summit the following day, although others say he was the hotel's cat. Whichever is the case, when the climber left at dawn with all his gear and accompanied by the rest of the climbing party, he thought he had left the black-and-white kitten behind to await his return. But the kitten had other ideas! After an arduous climb to the 14,700-foot (4478 metre) summit, involving two nights spent in huts on the way up, the kitten joined in their celebrations on reaching the summit. Matt, as he was subsequently named, had followed the party all the way, including the ascent of steep rock faces. He was very hungry and thirsty, but otherwise just fine; the Italian guide felt he had earned a break and carried him much of the way down in his rucksack but to the village of Breuil, on the other side of the mountain. There he stayed, despite the hotel's pleas that he be returned to his original base. During the following winter another guide reported that Matt was still in Breuil but had been stuffed and was adorning a restaurant.
Read about Tomba, another Swiss cat whose regular mountaineering exploits over a period of four years made him much more well known.
Shropshire, England: 2004
We've all heard of the cat that got the cream, but in October 2004 Cloudy, the 16-year-old cat of Mrs Bess Driscoll of Shropshire, England, got some fruit salad to go with it. Bess opened a tin of Cloudy's favourite Whiskas Supermeat, only to find the tin was full of fruit salad! Cloudy was not impressed. Bess said, 'I couldn't believe my eyes. If the labels got mixed up, I feel sorry for the person who thought they were buying fruit salad! They would have had a nasty shock.'
Early in 2005 it was reported that a new feline bloodline had been created by the mating of a Bengal female cat, Zamba, with a male Asian leopard cat called Apollo one of only five such breeding males in the world. The three female and one male kittens in the litter were classified as F1, meaning they were the first generation derived from wild blood. The Scottish family who owned them also had a female leopard cat, but did not plan to breed from her.
The female kittens could have been worth between £60,000 and £80,000 each at the time, but the owners did not want to sell them in Britain, preferring to maintain their uniqueness as the only ones in the country. They would sell the male, though, as the first three male generations would be infertile.
Paris, France: 1910
In August 1910, on the first plane flight across the English Channel to carry a passenger, American aviator John Moisant flew from Paris to London accompanied by both his mechanic and his cat, named either Mademoiselle Fifi or Paree, depending on which newspaper you believe. The feline accompanied him on nearly all his flights 14 are documented earning him the nickname 'Captain Kitty', and he did everything possible to make her comfortable when flying. Luckily for Fifi she wasn't aboard when in December 1910 Moisant crashed his plane near New Orleans and was killed; he always refused to wear a seatbelt. In the image of Fifi in a basket, she's dressed in mourning attire while attending her master's funeral.
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Our featured feline at the head of the page and above, and your companion through Mini-Fragments, is Midge (short for Midget, as she was so small when she arrived with me in 2003). She came from the same place as Maggie (see Fragments), but they weren't sisters and Midge was a little younger. Seeming to be slightly prone to accidents and minor ailments, Midge was nevertheless a cat of great character and it would be impossible here to describe all her quirks and funny ways. Later in life she suffered from arthritis in her front legs, although medication helped, but she was still able to enjoy life and the occasional trip outside to 'help' me in the garden. Midge was very much 'my cat' and a little treasure, so it was very upsetting when she suffered a stroke in February 2018 and the kindest thing seemed to be to put her to sleep. She's often in my thoughts.
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Page created March 2011, with later additions and revisions