Fred, my favourite cat
When the farmer handed me the kitten he assured me that it was a boy. I did not want to be responsible for litters of kittens. I like cats but I did not want little cats running about all over the place. One cat would be enough and so I made a home for Fred who was black and clean and well-behaved.
A few months later I moved to a bigger farm house where there were pigs, including a very naughty one called Houdini. Fred was quite happy with the move and spent much of the day in the barns and the farrowing house where the baby pigs were born and where there were heaters to keep them warm. Fred was not daft and he pretended to keep an eye on the piglets for me.
Then one day I watched Fred jump down from a wall and walk across to the house. He seemed to be getting rather fat and I told him that he should do more exercise. The next morning when I came downstairs, there was Fred, tucked up in the corner of the sofa, with four kittens.
Was this my Fred, the one that the famer had said was a boy kitten all those months ago? I called out his name, “Fred.” This black cat that looked just like my Fred looked up at me and blinked, then continued licking the four kittens. They continued with their breakfast and this black cat started to purr. It sounded just like Fred when he was pleased about something.
What was happening? The house had been shut up and locked all night. None of the windows were open wide enough for another cat to get in and change places with Fred. Then it dawned on me; Fred had never been a boy.
This wasn’t the only time that Fred caught me out. One day I had just unwrapped a huge piece of cheese when the telephone out in the living room started to ring. I put down the cheese and went to answer the phone. I was gone for about ten minutes. When I returned to the kitchen I picked up my knife ready to slice up the cheese, but where was it?
I opened the fridge – not there, so I must have taken it out. Nothing else seemed to have moved. Fred was still asleep in front of the stove, with her paws tucked under her chin and her eyes closed. She looked as though she had been asleep for hours. Then I lifted the lid of the rubbish bin. There I could see the plastic wrapping for the cheese. So, I must have got it out of the fridge but where was it now?
There was no even a crumb of cheese anywhere. Not on the kitchen table. Not on the floor. There were no other animals in the house and Fred would never have allowed the mice anywhere near the cheese. There was only one explanation, only one creature that could have eaten my supper. It had been a large piece, weighting half a kilo, a whole pound. Only Fred could have eaten it. I looked down at her and she stirred, stretched out and looked up at me. Then she blinked, closed her eyes gently, and went back to sleep.
What was the first sign that Fred might be a girl?
Why do you think the author was not angry when the cheese disappeared?