Cats on the farm
I grew up on a dairy farm in England, at a time when cats had to work for a living. There was none of this lolling about waiting for someone to open a can! The farm buildings were rotten with mice and rats, and it was the cats’ job to keep them under control. Semi-feral, they lived in the barns and outbuildings, and bred almost as successfully as the rodents they hunted.
At harvest time, the wheat and barley had to go through a big dryer before it was stored. For reasons best known to themselves, the cats liked to use this dryer as a litter tray. But when the dryer started, the cat poo would work its way down to the funnel device and block the exit. And the only way to clear this nasty mess was to manually dig out all the grain. Tons and tons and tons of the stuff. Over and over again! My Dad didn’t like cats at the best of times.And he wasn’t all that keen on digging, either. So not long after I came along, we were down to three cats only: My Mum’s beloved Snowy – who was presumably part of the deal when she married Dad; the tortoiseshell, Little Chat, and Ginger.
Little Chat, despite her sweet nature and diminutive size, was a formidable ratter, so good that after the litter that produced Ginger, she was sterilized – common enough now, but almost unheard of back then, especially on a farm. Ginger though, had none of his mother’s killer instinct. He was hopeless! He just wanted to be a lap cat, live indoors and eat Kittycat. So eventually, Ginger went to live at Mrs.Austen’s Sweet Shop on the green. I remember seeing him there, draped across the counter next to the cash register, or picking his way delicately through pyramids of chocolate; of course, health regulations were more elastic in the early 1960’s! Ginger was a great favourite with the customers, the star of the show, and I think he even caught the odd mouse or two, just to show that he could… 😉