I’ve always wanted a cat. I was the child running off to cuddle mangy strays and feeding the next-door neighbour’s Persians. Growing up as an expat, though, my parents (very wisely) would not let us adopt one of our own. It’s cruel to them if you have to leave at short notice, they said. They were totally right. I’m angry each time I see a request for a new home for a ‘beloved family pet’ on social media, or I have to put an ad into my paper for a home for a ‘lovely dog, great with children’.
For a year or so, I fostered cats. It was superb, a really good way of filling my life with fluffy pals, doing some good, and maintaining my freedom. Then I moved to Lewis.
Living on the edge of the world, not knowing a soul, with a massive house and a safe garden, my kitty-lust went crazy. I couldn’t stop thinking about cats, much the same way many women get baby-fever. I went along to the local cat shelter with every intention of adopting an older cat, one that people might overlook in their quest for cute kittens. It turns out that in this rural landscape, the older cats are absolutely fine. They might be technically stray but they live in barns or garages and are perfectly happy. They are captured, kept with their kittens until the little ones are old enough to be adopted, then neutered and put back exactly where they came from. So it’s the kittens that need homes.
I brought home a tiny, curious, fluffy kitten. I named him Basil, because basil is one of the best things in this life. Basil slept on my chest from early on, bonded with me instantly. He is curled up at my elbow as I type this. Living up here, so far from my close friends and my family, with my husband working at sea, this little guy has been invaluable. He brings me so much joy. He is funny, sweet, chatty. Anybody who tells you cats aren’t loyal just hasn’t had the privilege of bonding with one.
But I’m in a pickle. Duncan and I aren’t going to live in this big house in rural Scotland forever. We don’t know where we’re going- it could be anywhere. Basil needs to be able to travel. He needs to be comfortable in a harness and driving in a car, he needs to be OK with living in a small space and getting his exercise on a lead, just in case.
Which is why on Saturday I took my cat to the beach.
It was meant to be his first camping trip, but I think I went too far too fast. He’s been trained in the harness since he was five months old, so he’s very happy in it now. He’s been in the car lots of times, allowed to roam about while the car has been stationary. I think my mistake on Saturday was expecting him to be fine with the harness, and the moving car, and then the tent at the other end. We didn’t get very far before his yowling got the better of me and I turned around.
We came back to Ness and went to the beach instead, where he mooched about on the lead. He was absolutely fine in the dunes and seemed happy to explore with me following closely behind. Next time perhaps we’ll try camping at Eoropie Beach, five minutes from our house, and then hopefully in the future Baz will be as happy with travel as we are.