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|Tigger, our last Birman cat|
We obtained Tig from a breeder close to Oxford and first saw him when the litter was only five weeks old. We picked him as the most active of them little knowing how lively he would be compared to the average Birman. Birmans are normally very quiet cats who much prefer to be inside or with you and ideal for a boat. They were originally temple cats in Burma and all have been bred from a single pair sent to a French and English office who saved the monks during the first world war. There is a page giving more about Birman cats and the legend of their creation.
After we had picked him, or he had picked us, there was a short period of uncertainty as he had the potential quality for breeding - if his markings had all been perfect he would was destined for export to Scandinavia and a very different life. Fortunately for us he turned out to have a tiny extra bit of white up the back of one of the boots so only counted as pet quality. We went back to see him as he grew up and have some video of him before we collected him at 12 weeks - by then his true lively character was showing.
When we first collected him the lady told us that he always seemed to be on the go and she never seemed to find him sleeping. We got him back early afternoon and he explored everywhere played with everything he found and never stopped - no sleep by the evening - none that we could tell overnight - still none the following morning - at midday however he finally fell over on the settee with all four feet vertically up and slept for all of ten minutes then he was off again! We wondered what we had let ourselves in for.
He grew at a tremendous pace and ate three or four times as much as Tush did and by August when we first introduced him to the Narrowboat on his first trip to Bath and back on the Kennet and Avon nobody would believe he was only 6 months old. He was also introduced to a harness and lead for walks or more often mad runs down the towpath, but at least he was sleeping a few hours each day by then. He has only fallen in once - off the gangplank on his first trip - and he was on a lead so he was unceremoniously lifted back on board looking very surprised and lifting up each leg looking at it in horror and shaking it.
Wherever we stop people come up to him - Birmans are still fairly unusual with their long white hair, dark points, bright blue eyes and white boots on the end of their feet. He is also considered unusual in being quite happy to walk on a lead - he will sometines walk half a mile down the towpath and on the odd occasion even walk back. He even waits at the door for his lead to be clipped on. He is not keen on dogs, especially small ones after one got behind him whilst asleep and nipped his tail.
By the time he was seven he was a bit quieter and sleeping more during the day at least. He particularly enjoys the boat as he knows it means a walk every evening and has been all over the country with us. He even has a little lifejacket for the tidal stretches. He still plays a lot by himself favoring such items as corks which he can carry around and hide. We came in at home one evening to find he had retrieved eight or nine and placed them neatly round the outside of his empty food dish - some sort of hint we concluded. On the boat he likes to look out of the windows and can be found balanced on various shelves with his front paws holding onto the brass rails securing the bottom of the curtains. He will also "paddle" the windows to attract attention, this makes quite a noise if they are loose or open. One day we heard some children go by and one said "That's the cat that waved to us"!
Fortunately he was not destructive as some cats are and does not scratch all the furniture although he often goes and pretends to scratch the front of the speakers, up on his back legs looking over his shoulder waiting to be chased away or something thrown for him.
He is greatly missed.