PantherPanther was a well-formed black cat. He didn’t really have a home; he was one of those rare cats that managed to make a good living by his own wits. It was handy then, that he lived in a small fishing village where on most days a few hard men in their even hardier boats cast off from the shore in search of making a living from the fish that they caught.

Panther was a familiar sight on the quayside and was quite domesticated considering he didn’t have a home. He’d let passers-by stroke him, or he would roll over for tummy tickles, but he kept his distance from small children with grasping, pinching fingers.

The fishermen all knew Panther, as he was usually waiting for them when they came back from their fishing trips. His pleading meows always did the trick as he was rewarded with damaged fish. There would also be bits of fish when the fishermen stretched out their nets to repair holes. And any cooked scraps left over from suppers on the boats always went Panther’s way.

In addition to his fish diet, Panther had a carefully worked out route that he would take through the village. He was well known at several houses where there was a scrap to be had or even a sachet of cat food at the more well to do homes.

Sometimes the free meals came at a price. There was an especially nasty Jack Russell who would launch himself like a missile with his snapping muzzle trying to catch poor old Panther. A two-metre-high fence was no barrier to Panther and his climbing abilities saved his bacon on many occasion.

At one house, there was a ginger tom who didn’t care much for him and Panther had picked up a few injuries, cuts and bites when he got his timings wrong.

But for the most part, Panther had a happy life. He knew which old ladies he could trust and the best garage roofs to lie on in the warm summer sunshine. Winters could be a bit bleak, particularly when it was cold and wet. Thankfully it never really snowed at the seaside. Panther had found a few hidey-holes where he could keep warm and dry out of the winter storms.

One of the houses on his rounds had recently been put up for sale. A lady in her fifties bought it as a dream retirement home by the sea, having just left a lifetime in veterinary practice.

She was delighted to see Panther when he appeared in her garden one morning. She stooped down to stroke him.

“Hello Puss,” she smiled. “Who do you belong to?”

Panther meowed back.

“I’m sorry I haven’t got anything for you,” she told him as she took a picture of him. When the rest of the unpacking had been done in her new home, she decided to introduce herself to her new neighbours. She showed them the picture of the glossy black cat. Everybody knew him but no-one knew where he came from, or where he lived. One chap suggested that the cat was the local stray.

“Hmmm,” she thought. “That gives me an idea,”

For the next few days she fed Panther to get him used to her. Then one morning the retired vet, wearing oven gloves, grabbed Panther and pushed him unceremoniously into a robust cardboard packing box. The local vet didn’t know Panther, nor have any records of a missing cat that fitted his profile. He was fit and very healthy, about four years old.

“What shall I do with him?” she pondered. “Should I take him in or is he better off with the nomadic life he has?”

“What do you think Panther?” she asked the cat. That was her first mistake. She had given him a name.

Panther reached up to be picked up and cuddled. “There’s your answer,” the vet told her “He looks like he wants to be yours if you want him.”

Inoculations, microchips and flea treatments were administered. Panther had a new furrever home.

But, like a leopard can’t change his spots, Panther is still a familiar sight at the quayside when the fishermen come home.

Carol Turner



The Very Best Toy for Cats

"Of all the [cat] toys available, none is better designed than the owner himself. A large multipurpose plaything, its parts can be made to move in almost any direction. It comes completely assembled, and it makes a noise when you jump on it."

Stephen Baker