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About a beautiful black, half Siamese cat who lived with me for nearly 18 years. I still miss him.

The two of us were meant to be. There's no doubt about it. We'd had 2 seal point Siamese when I was a teenager and when they died, although I'd left home by then, I began to get twitchy about there being no cats in the family any longer. I wasn't sure, living on my own and working shifts, that I could cope with a full blooded Siamese, so I'd looked around unsuccessfully for a half Siamese cat. Things got left, until that summer I read "Cats in the Belfry", a very funny book about 2 Siamese cats, became completely broody and decided to phone some breeders again. When I rang the first one, I couldn't believe my ears. Yes, they had a half Siamese kitten. Yes, he was male. Yes he was all black. Yes he was 4 months old. (I couldn't have coped with a younger one because of the problems of shift work and feeding a very young kitten 4 times a day.) The only thing they couldn't tell me was whether he had the Siamese yowl. They thought he might be dumb because they'd never heard him miaow or purr.

I didn't drive in those days, so a friend took me round to the breeders. Alexander was brought to me, wriggled straight out of my grasp and vanished. When he was brought back I could feel him tensed the whole time he was on my lap despite the fact I was talking to him and fussing him. If I hadn't held him firmly, he'd have been off like a shot again (one of his subsequent nicknames was Black Flash). Cats normally relax very quickly with me, so I really had serious doubts about whether he'd settle. We agreed that I'd take him home and if he was clearly unhappy, I'd bring him back and take an 8 month old pedigree queen who, unlike Alexander, was doing her best to sell herself to me. Because he was such a wriggler and so quick, the breeder said that it would be best if I got into the car and she'd bring Alexander out and hand him to me.

Alexander investigating his new territory

Investigating his new territory

This was when it became embarrassing! As soon as he realised he was leaving home and coming with me, Alexander began to purr, more loudly than I've ever heard any cat purr before or since. He spent the entire journey bolt upright on my lap and purred at full volume the whole way home. We got back to my small flat and he promptly did a tour of the whole place commenting freely and at length on everything he saw. And this was the cat the breeders thought might be dumb! Once he'd done the entire circuit he jumped on the settee, made sure he was touching me and promptly fell asleep, one very relaxed little kitten - provided I didn't move! Talk about a U turn, and all in the space of a couple of hours!

Alexander in full voice.

The kitten who'd never miaowed or purred had certainly made up for it within a day of moving in with me.

Although the breeders had looked after him and certainly hadn't mistreated him, there were a lot of cats in their house. I realised afterwards that Alexander had the Siamese bonding instinct and just desperately wanted a human all to himself. He'd been thwarted in a house heavy on cats and short on humans.

They say you never get a 50/50 mix with a half Siamese and I certainly didn't with Alexander. Apart from his colouring, he was almost entirely Siamese in build, coat and temperament. By the time my Mum came over to see him the following day, he wouldn't let me out of his sight and was very clearly "my cat".

Alexander on my lap the day after I got him.

Establishing ownership - his ownership of me. This picture was taken the day after he came home with me.

One of the things I love about Siamese, is that all the ones I've had anything to do with have purred at the drop of a hat. Alexander was a hunter and when he was in his prime, he'd see me off to bed and then I'd hear the catflap bang as he went out for the night. Occasionally (I'm a very sound sleeper), I'd hear the catflap bang when he came home again, then I'd hear the sound of him coming up the stairs, followed by the thud as he jumped on the bed and settled down, purring away to himself. One of the nicest things of all is to hear a cat purr for no reason other than all's well in his world and he's contented with life.

Alexander doing an imitation of an ornament.

A model cat!

Alexander loved playing games and we had several ongoing ones. A favourite was for me to clap my hands and say "where's that cat?" which was the cue for him to hare off, usually up the stairs (I'd moved to a house only a few months after I'd got him), and "hide" - usually in the same place. I'd run up the stairs after him and find a pair of bright eyes, full of anticipation looking out from some hidey hole. I'd pick him up and he'd purr away. We often had to repeat the game several times in quick succession - who needs to work out at a gym when they've got a cat?! We also had a ritual at bedtime. Once I was finished in the bathroom, I'd come downstairs to get him and there'd be no sign of him. He was invariably hiding under the coffee table pretending he didn't want to be picked up. I'd retrieve him and take him upstairs with me, purring his head off yet again. The games I wasn't so keen on were the ones that involved me going upstairs with a cat's jaw firmly attached to my ankle. There was also the occasional night when he didn't wait to be collected, but was sitting by the bed waiting for me with a particular glint in his eyes that told me as soon as I moved either foot from the floor to the bed, I was going to have a cat pouncing on it..

Alexander and me in the back garden. Me and my boy

He enjoyed going for walks with me and when he was older, would often sit by the door waiting for me to notice that it was time for our late evening stroll. I had some very strange looks when people out walking their dogs saw me, walking around the block, apparently on my own. On passing the time of day, I could see the incredulous looks on their faces when I threw into the conversation that I was taking the cat for a walk. The looks then changed to amazement when Alexander, who didn't like to be kept waiting, would appear out of the shadows to chivvy me along.

The welcome I got when I came home depended very much on how long I'd been out and the time of day. He'd never forgotten the days when I worked a night shift a couple of times a week. (When he was out hunting, he liked to know I was available to run home to if needs be, so my night shifts didn't suit him at all.) So if I came home late at night, he was so pleased I was back that I was met at the garage and escorted home. (It's in a separate block very near to the house.) If I'd been out all afternoon, I was met at the foot of the stairs, although if I stopped to talk to a neigbour for too long, I'd hear the catflap bang and he'd be out asking me what I thought I was doing keeping him waiting..If I'd only been out an hour or two, it didn't justify him getting off the bed.

Alexander keeping a watchful eye on things.

Keeping a watchful eye on things

Alexander saw himself as a very important member of the household; which indeed he was, and couldn't bear to be left out of anything. When it came to building this website, he would never have forgiven me for excluding him, so you'll find him at the bottom of a number of pages, usually making a comment or two. He'd be on more, but I didn't have a digital camera in those days, so the pictures I have of him are limited.

Alexander couldn't bear to be left out of anything.

Alexander always made sure he was included in anything that was going on.

Alexander lived a long and, I think, a very happy life. Talking to other catlovers, it seems we all have one cat that stands out from the rest. A cat with whom we have a very special relationship that's never quite repeated with subsequent cats, however much we love them. Alexander was mine.

One of my favourite pictures of Alexander

One of my favourite pictures of Alexander



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Copyright Ann Dickinson 2004