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Wednesday 13 July 2022

RIP Pussen, the feral harbour cat.

For those who have lived and worked on the harbour in Newlyn over the past 10 years, the sight of a black and white feral cat hunting for rats in the rocks by the RNLI boathouse wouldn’t have been a strange sight. She had a great bounty there which kept her fit. 

The hunting ground

But as for her main food supply she depended on the many pigeons that housed in the wall face on the way to the net sheds opposite Trelawney fish shop. It was in this location that I was lucky enough to see her engage in what she did best. 

Pussen pose

I rigged gillnets in the end shed which gave me a front seat to the act. I called her to me almost daily after that but she showed no interest until I saw her pass one day and offered her some fresh ham from my lunch. This she accepted from a distance and turned up regularly after that, head to one side looking at me from 4 metres away. After a month or so the distance between us lessened until one day she was sat in front of me in the shed. It took another few weeks before she allowed me to stroke her and then the friendship began in earnest. 

Fred and Pussen

Like every new addition to the family, a name was needed for her. At the time I was reading Ulysses by James Joyce whose main character’s cat was called The Pussens which I though quite apt as a celebration of my Irish heritage. 

From then on she had proper cat food which I bought at the local Co-op and eventually ‘moved in’ to the shed that winter where she had a nice warm bed and a dry home. Her rent was paid by a constant supply of rats of which we had plenty. But after a month the population of vermin lessened and moved home to safer ground. Over the following 8 years she still had an occasional gift for me in the form of a headless pigeon or some of the aforementioned rats. Comically, when I turned up at the shed some mornings she was always vocal on entering the shed and was great company watching me rig nets; always appearing out of nowhere as soon as she heard the kettle boiling, which telegraphed a possible morsel from my sandwich. 

I often spotted her hunting in the rocks by the boathouse. On calling her name, which she had got used to after a few weeks (or maybe the brogue of my voice) she would come running across the footpath to the shed at a great pace, a trick that could have won me many bets with the lads when I told them that she comes to her name from 50 yards. Their surprise was always good to behold as she got closer letting me know she was just there. She was always wary of people and only came to me and my partner Liz and my son Jude who loved her dearly. 

Net-setting in the net-shed.

For the following years she was great company until I noticed a change in her about two months ago. Two weeks ago I took her to a vet in town where I registered her. They diagnosed her with kidney problems and they gave me medication for her. Unfortunately she didn’t rally at all and her quality of life and her health deteriorated. She stopped eating and lay about in the same spot talking to me every time I looked at her. It broke my heart to take her to Mounts Bay Vets who eased her pain and left her at peace. So any of you who are wondering where the black and white cat has gone, rest easy knowing that she had an amazing life in the net shed with Irish Freddie and made many friends from a distance. So many of the guys have told me stories of her hunting prowess so it falls to me, and Larry to impart the news on a wider scale. 

Freddie Bates, adopted cat companion.