April 19th, 1998 was the day that I overcame my deep-rooted fear of cats.
A ginger moggy bit me quite badly when I was a toddler; this was undoubtedly the catalyst for what would eventually become an irrational mistrust of cats. This wariness was also something that I had in common with my Father who a general disdain for all things feline!
Back in ’98, I was 20 years old and had visited the States for the very first time to begin my overseas long distance romance with Amy.
I was very privileged to be invited to visit Linda and Mark’s place up in the Ozark Moutains in Missouri; the couple were friends of the family (that’s the short version!) and had a gorgeous amount of rural land up in the moutains which they had dedicated to rescuing unwanted exotic pets and former circus beasts who had outgrown their irresponsible owners. To be fair, it was probably more acurate to say that they had their private zoo!
Amongst their flock, they had several Cougars (two of them lived inside the house!), a brown bear called BJ, some turkeys, a cranky old wild cat and the big attraction; Saben, a Siberian Tiger who had a recesssive gene (he was orange/white mixed). I felt a kinship with Saben, after all, I have a recessive gene of my own. It’s called non-brown!.
I think shyness at the prospect of meeting new people made me retreat a little into the bubble that I lived in back then; I had absolutely no idea what would await me as I walked up into the courtyard………several huge beasts were nervously stalking around in their cages having a good smell at the newcomers. Amy, her Mom, Fred (Amy’s Stepfather at the time) and myself.
I can remember being in complete awe of Saben as I approached him for the first time. He was beautiful and utterly majestic, lying confidently in his domain. As I approached he begin making a huffing noise, similar to that of a horse……as I walked closer still he suddenly reared up, slammed down both his paws and briefly roared at me at point blank range. At that time I was only separated by a very flimsy looking cage fence.
I can still remember being frozen to the spot as the inhuman deep bass tones of his roar shook my insides; his head had opened up to an impossible size and I got a bloody good look at his serated teeth. I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to! It was a test, eventually he accepted me and put his nose up to the fence so that I could put my hand there for him to smell. He really was just a big, big, dangerous kitty!
SABEN AND I
SABEN BEING FED
As you can see, I was still pretty wary (even with the fence), but the true test was yet to come! I was fascinated watching Saben being fed; he ate pieces of chicken like they were wafer thin!!!
The next morning, we checked out of our motel and headed back to Linda and Mark’s for breakfast. There I had spicy biscuits and gravy (the food of gods!) and was ‘introduced’ to the two Cougars who lived in the house, I was so on edge it was untrue; knowing that any second they would be let out of their room!
They let the young female out first, she was very cautious and not aggressive at all. I thought she was beautiful; then they let Mikey out! An extremely boisterous and playful male, who rather enjoyed getting up behind you and putting his paws around your neck to pull you in for a playful bite!
Here’s the whole experience anyway!
I think my fear of cats was ripped out of me that weekend; the whole experience was mindblowing and I am very lucky that Fred recently sent me the recording again. It brings back so many wonderful memories; think Amy was much braver than I in retrospect!?
Try not to laugh too much as I go pure white with fear in the moments before their release; or when Mikey paws my glasses clean off my face!