Jackson was your typical bully.
He was full of attitude, fat and horrible. He was unpredictable, violent, and a Ranga to boot (a tell-tale sign).
But despite all of this, I loved that cat.
When I was in my mid-teens, Mum came into my bedroom one morning with a box. Dad had found something while he was getting the header ready for harvesting the wheat.
When I peeked inside, I saw three little kittens.
He stood out immediately. He had a luxurious, fluffy ginger coat. I picked him up and asked the obvious…
‘Mum, can we keep him? Pleeeease.’
Permission was granted, much to Mum’s regret later. My eldest brother Nige gave the other two kittens a home.
While my brother’s two kittens grew into lovely affectionate cats, Jackson did not. He was a nasty piece of work. Beauty is most definitely skin-deep. Jackson was a picture postcard for this saying.
The signs started early. One night I woke with fright in the middle of the night. At first I was confused as to why. There sat the kitten Jackson on my chest, intently and silently staring at me.
Another night I woke up in agony with his jaw clenched firmly onto the end of my nose.
You would innocently walk by the bed in your room and he would fly out from underneath it, headed straight for your ankles biting and scratching.
Mum spoke to the vet, he suggesting de-sexing him might have a calming effect.
It did not.
He just got fat. And fatter still.
There were times I’d be sitting on the couch and he’d stomp by, belly swinging from side to side underneath him. I’d call him, he’d pause and stare at me as if to say, ‘What are you looking at?!’
His attitude problem wasn’t just reserved for the humans in the family. Our beloved dog Digger was terrified of Jackson. It’s not often you get to see a cat beat up a dog. They’d meet nose-to-nose, Jackson would rear up, claws out and box Digger’s nose with left and right jabs until the dog retreated from the room yelping.
He was lazy too.
Ours was a large house, and Mum installed a cat-flap in the back door for all the assortment of pets to let themselves in and out. Except Jackson. Rather than walk around the house in the early hours, we would just sit outside Mum’s bedroom window and meow constantly, until she finally relented and got up to let him in the front door.
If he decided he was hungry, he’d go looking for Mum. If she was in bed he’d jump up, stomp from the foot of the bed up to Mum’s face and tap her cheek with his paw to wake her up.
My parents went away one weekend, and Jackson, finding Mum absent, continued through to my brother’s room to find someone to get up and feed him. He tapped his cheek a few times, but Gus pushed him away to try and go back to sleep. He tried again, unsuccessfully. Next thing Gus knew a ball of ginger was attached to his face biting and scratching in a frenzy. He got up and fed the cat.
Jackson never forgot his natural instincts. They just never came very naturally to him. I’d laugh as I’d watch him ‘hunting’ birds in the front garden. The fat tub of lard would lay low under a tree, eyeing off a group of twelve apostle birds, bum jiggling in the air in anticipation.
Jackson would take off with the speed of my grandpa getting out of a Smoky Dawson chair. By the time he got anywhere near them, the birds had already safely regrouped up in a tree. Then the tide would turn and the birds would start dive-bombing Jackson.
This is when he’d make a beeline for the house, birds swooping down on him, and I’d open the door for him to make a quick escape.
Mum loves a lap cat. One who purrs and lavishes you with their affection. Unfortunately for her, Jackson was the opposite.
Although, in his defence, he did used to follow Mum everywhere. If she was hanging out clothes, he’d be snoozing on the lawn under the clothesline. He’d sit on the arm of her chair if she was watching television, but never on her lap. And like I said earlier, if she was in bed, he’d try anything to get her attention. But he’d never allow anyone to cuddle him. Or if you did dare put your face anywhere near him, you had to risk the biting and scratching.
One day, Mum had had enough of Jackson’s indifference and constant lack of affection.
‘He’s a horrible cat. He’s just, he’s just a F%&! SH*^!!’
All of us almost fell of our chairs, a) Mum was swearing, b) It was a pretty accurate description, and c) Mum was swearing!
After that outburst, Jackson had a new nickname, and it stuck. He didn’t seem to mind, he seemed proud of it. It became normal. My friend Liz came over one day and we were hanging out in the kitchen. Mum left the room and an astonished Liz asked, “Did your Mum just call the cat F%&! SH*^?”
“Oh yeah,” I replied casually, not thinking twice about it, “he’s a real asshole!”