The first cat I can remember was called Jimmy. That was when I was very small and lived with my parents and my older brother and my grandmother. Jimmy was a big black cat. My mother said I used to chase Jimmy, but that I loved him really. Jimmy used to go and meet my father every night when he came home on the bus from his work and he missed my brother when he went off to boarding school.
The next cat we had was Tibby. Tibby was a tabby cat and used to play with our wire-haired terrier who was called Shaun. When we went to Singapore Tibby was going to live with my aunt and my grandmother who was staying behind, but unfortunately Tibby did not like the arrangements and ran away.
We did not have cats in Singapore because my father thought it would be unfair as it would not be easy to bring them home. But when I returned from Singapore we lived in a small cottage in the country miles from anywhere and had once again a cat and a dog. The dog was a wire-haired terrier called Tim, the cat was called Monty. Monty was a very intelligent smoky cat and he used to have great fun hiding from us and popping out just when we were least expecting it. We all loved Monty very much and were absolutely heart broken when he died of cat flu three years later.
Our next cat was Mitten-the-Kitten. Mitten-the-Kitten was a black cat with a white shirt and white paws and we bought him from Herman-the-German for 50p. Mitten had a good life and used to like fresh liver, though he didn't like it if any splashes arrived on his white shirt, when he would move very disdainfully away from the dish and solemnly wash it off before returning to finish his meal. Mitten lived to the grand old age of 14, when sadly he died of kidney failure.
Around this time I left home to go to university and my parents had a black cat called Blacky, who also lived to be around 14. But when I grew up and left home and had my own house I obtained two cats called Sooty and Sweep. Both these cats lived with me and moved with me for a very long time and Sweep lived to a near record 23 years. I had both cats when I was first elected to Parliament and I told them they were Westminster cats so they looked extremely proud. Unfortunately Sooty died of a kidney infection when he was 16, but Sweep lived on to become not only a Westminster cat but a Ministerial cat. He was greatly missed when he died at the age of 23.
After Sweep died I did not have cats for a long time because I was very busy and it seemed unfair but then my mother came to live with me and as you know grannies do love cats. So we got two black cats from the Cats Protection Shelter from Bredhurst in Kent. The cats were called Pugwash and Carruthers. Carruthers had been badly treated by his owners in the past but Pugwash was taken to the shelter because he was so unkind to other cats!
Both Pugwash and Carruthers had two very happy years with us and here is a picture taken when my mother and I went to choose the cats from the shelter. I am holding Pugwash.
Sadly after two years Carruthers who was a very old cat died and shortly afterwards Pugwash caught a sudden infection and died also.
After Pugwash and Carruthers came Pugwash II and Arbuthnot. Arbuthnot became my favourite cat of all time and I do not think I shall ever have a cat so wonderful again.
I wrote this poem to Carruthers and Pugwash: