Remembering a legendary cat – the pub-crawling, fridge-raiding, pleasure-seeking Fat Freddy.
“Why does your fridge have locks on the door?” my friend asked me one day as I was making tea in the kitchen.
“Watch this.” I unhooked the lock , opened the fridge and clinked a tin. There was a thud from the top of the house, and then a fast-approaching drumroll down the old oak stairs. A rotund cat barrelled through the door and meowed with a mix of hope and expectation.
“He’s learnt how to open the fridge,” I said, giving Fat Freddy a small reward for answering the question.
Over the years my family has had an assortment of dogs and cats, and even two sheep who seemed to wander in and out of the home my mother retired to in the English countryside. (Once one of the sheep disrupted a boozy Sunday lunch when it got wedged between a wall and the dining table to predictable mayhem. They left droppings everywhere but my mother waved this away as simply “ways of the countryside darling”). All our pets were equally loved but none of them attained such legendary status as that of Fat Freddy, or Sir Frederick Catalus Bart as he was known by my father, who never missed an opportunity for irreverent grandiosity and for classical education that, in his words, allowed him to despise the money he could never earn.
Fat Freddy was a gutter-rolling, pub-crawling, fridge-raiding, pleasure-seeking beautiful tabby. If he was a human he would be a cheery Victorian gentleman, waistcoat buttons straining from portly excess, always pleased to see someone – especially if it involved sharing a decanter of port and a fine cheeseboard.
Fat Freddy was also a charmer, a master at extracting food from humans so his rotund figure was never troubled by our attempts to slim him down. He simply toured the neighbourhood, making his round of social calls for food. He was regularly seen visiting the pub on the corner where office workers would feed him the ham and sausage from their lunchtime sandwiches. He charmed our Malaysian neighbour into sending round cartons of fresh meat. Once she sent round fresh lobster meat. This was too much – Fat Freddie got his share but I ate some of this myself. (This eating of lobster meat for Fat Freddy for the cat accidentally triggered an escalating Chinese whispers that caused a bizarre rumour amongst school friend s that I was homeless and reduced to eating cat food.)
Or he pestered the family kitchen. I learnt to swear from my mother’s enraged curses at Fat Freddy’s ability to insert himself between her and any point in food preparation. No matter how many times he was unceremoniously ejected from the kitchen, he would find a way back within minutes.
When Fat Freddy was replete, he would lie stomach-up on our beds, purring away. After his neighbourhood tours he would wait by the front door for someone to let him in, or he would sun himself on the window ledge, graciously accepting homage and attention from his adoring public. A well-meaning person once slipped a note through our door, expressing their concern and worry for the “heavily-pregnant” Fat Freddy meowing at the front door.
Sometimes we would hear a complaint from a neighbour that they had been broken into and burgled. The curious thing was, they reported, that the burglars had opened their fridge door and only stolen some food. It must have been some poor hungry person. The finest inspectors were summoned from Scotland Yard but Macavity was on my mother’s bed, resplendent in deep slumber.
Often when I walked back late at night, Fat Freddy would emerge with a greeting from basement flat steps or from underneath a car, trotting ahead of me with swaying stomach, leading me home then rubbing on the door step as I opened the door (Fat Freddy had a proclivity for pavement rubbing).
Sadly his lifestyle caught up with him. He had a stroke at a relatively young age and had to depart for his final sleep. That and a suspicion of inbreeding for Fat Freddy came from a family of show cat champions. He ended up with us, a beautiful charming reject with several flaws that rescued him from an absurd life of shows, yet also remembered by my friends of a certain vintage.