Osama Ben Kitty, alias Fitz, alias Stripey Pants, came to us as an infant kitten in the arms of a little girl who had found him in the hollow of a fallen tree. He was so beautiful and so vulnerable we immediately got to work feeding him with powdered milk in a small opaque bottle. He guzzled greedily and chewed at our fingers, clearly determined to survive. The little girl named him Fitz although this name soon became superseded by the name Stripey Pants, on account of his wonderfully striped legs. Little Stripey Pants lay on Johan’s large chest showing off all of his splendid dark grey markings and batting at a string we dangled in front of his nose. He had a darling face and very large ears pointy at the end like a wild cat. The vet we later took him to for his shots said he thought he could easily be of wild cat lineage, and coming from the feral cat population of the farm, this made sense.
From the start Stripey Pants was unafraid and fierce. He didn’t flinch when the dogs barked threateningly at him, hissing back at them and clawing at their noses. When played with by us humans he would grab at our hands shaking his little head violently from side to side and biting whenever he could. This fierce response only got worse after four little girls came to visit over Christmas. The girls aged between eight and ten adored Stripey Pants and they rode him around in a doll’s pram and clamoured to bottle feed him, wrapping him in a blanket like a human baby. We think this was formative for Stripey Pants and accounted for his absolute refusal as an older kitten and adult cat to be picked up or even stroked by anyone. His response was so strong that if one dared try to lift him he would scratch and kick and bite leaving one wounded. He also developed the habit of lying in wait and leaping at one’s feet as one walked past scratching and biting at one’s ankles. This was particularly troublesome in the middle of the night when one went for a pee, and it was these attacks that made him ‘a terrorist’ in our eyes and caused his name to be changed once again – this time to `Osama Ben Kitty’. This name immediately stuck and he became Osama from then
Osama was a very agile cat. Even as a kitten he would shimmy up the huge oak tree in the farmhouse garden and then run and leap down it at record speed. The first time it happened we saw him at the top of the tree and panicked about how we would get him down. But before we had even devised a plan there he was at our feet safe and sound. He was also a great leaper leaping two meters into the air in pursuit of low-flying birds. Sometimes he would run and leap just for the sheer pleasure of it. He was a funny cat.
Least funny was his tendency to steal food. One time at a wedding, unseen, he leaped up onto the canape table and elegantly plucked the smoked salmon off the canapes. The bride, who was in the middle of her wedding ceremony, spotted him and shouted `cat’ pointing at the scoundrel. We had to bat him off the table with a book I fetched from the library. He would also jump on the tables at wedding receptions and fast as greased lightning would lift a piece of meat off the guests’ plates and then leap away. Attempts to get hold of him ended in scratched hands and arms until I took to luring him away with food. At one wedding an irate woman, unaware of the danger we were averting, objected saying she as the bride’s mother had paid for all the food and we had no right to feed it to the cat.
I should not give the impression that Osama was always troublesome. Much of the time he hung around doing cat things like sunning himself, doing yoga stretches, and vigorously washing his face. And despite not wanting to be petted or picked up, he always hung about near us. A strange thing was that he never purred although if one held a finger at his throat one could feel vibrations. He was clearly admired by humans who paid special attention to him and asked after him if he was not in sight. He was much photographed, by visitors as well as professional photographers, so he often managed to appear in wedding photographs. He was also sketched by one visitor who captured with a few lines his naughty face.
Happily, Osama lived a long life, dying at the age of fifteen when he developed kidney failure. Strangely just before his death he actually started purring. He is buried in the farmyard and remains forever in the memory of those that knew him.