I am Hamish the Red. I am a prisoner in this house in the city. I may look domesticated, but my real identity is that of a wild and free Woodland Creature, a tiger at heart, captured and dragged into servitude.
When I lived in the woods, I had a brother, Evan, who lost the end of his tail. He was captured before me, at the same time as Scooter, and lives somewhere else now. This is the only picture I have of him:
I live here now, and I don’t run away, because of:
my friend, Scooter.
They think I’m the youngest, but that’s only because Scooter is so big and fat. We came from the same woods, but Evan and I were captured 2 weeks later than him, and he ate for us both while he waited for me. He still tries that one if I don’t keep an eye on him.
Then there’s the dog. I love her, even if she won’t play with me. She says someone always gets hurt when they play with me, and it’s never me. Puzzling.
My toys. I love mice most of all.
No, that’s not quite true: I love birds. Real ones. Someone brought a dead bird indoors the other day, and I loved it so much I had to hold it in my mouth for half an hour and growl fiercely, like a tiger. It reminded me of my free life in the woods, before my captivity and enslavement.
Mrs Danvers took it away in the end. I still feel bitter about that. Mrs Danvers (or Rachel as the girls call her) is such a spoilsport.
This is how I arrived here. Caged. Yes, you may well gasp in horror. Me, a wild forest creature, caged! I had lived with another family for a few weeks before I came here, the same family where Millie was born, but I stayed fierce and wild and proud, and I defeated them!
They sent me here to be socialised so that I could be adopted, like Evan was, but Mrs Danvers wouldn’t let me leave. She said her home needed a ginger cat to light up its dark corners.
I wouldn’t come out for a long time. I don’t give in that easily!
And when I did, I stayed under the table and chairs, until Mrs Danvers gave me a bed behind the furniture.
I kept to my woodland hours, sleeping under cover during the day, and waking up at night to eat and play. I was lonely during the night, because everyone else went to bed, and I had to run about on my own and throw my toys about all over my room.
Then Mrs Danvers began brainwashing me. Bits of chicken, soft voices, furry toys on a string. I fought, but I had no choice but to give in.
Slowly I started to forget my home in the woods, and to stay awake during the day. I moved into the little den on the climbing frame. Mrs Danvers gave me a hot water bottle, and sometimes I would let her stroke me. She liked that.
Eventually, the brainwashing got stronger, to make me come out from undercover.
And to pounce and wrestle with Scooter, even if the humans were watching.
I still let her stroke me. I’m much braver than Scooter. But she isn’t allowed to pick me up, oh no!
I have to keep an eye on that Mrs Danvers. She’s cunning; once she even tricked me into the cat basket, but I escaped when the door fell off. I wouldn’t let her near me for a long time afterwards – she was going to take me to be microchipped. Me, the free spirit!
So I wait for her to come out of the bathroom every morning, and I watch her every move during the day, till she’s safely tucked up in bed. I’m her Shadow, she says, but she doesn’t understand why I still run away if she looks at me too much. She doesn’t understand the soul of a Woodland Creature, I think; we need to know exactly where our human captors are, and what they’re doing. They are sly and underhand, and whisper to each other about vets and microchips and cat baskets.
Never let your guard down, is my motto!
It’s easier when we stay in a group; I like it best when we can all hang out together and relax. Mrs Danvers never gets up on our climbing frame, and we can watch out for each other.
I think I might stay here. But I will always be the woodland tiger at heart.