The story of Figaro

Well, it’s back to the cats. I haven’t posted anything since June so I may as well continue with the cats that have shared my life. I find it pleasant recalling them with their particular habits and foibles.

Just before I got married at an unseemly young age, I came across the smallest kitten hiding in some fallen tree logs on the property next to my parents’ grounds. A little ginger striped kitten looking a somewhat darker red because of all the fleas attacking its wee body screamed at me as I bent over the wood pile. I hoped it meant it wanted to be picked up.

So I did and immediately regretted it. The fleas jumped all over me so now both kitten and I were screaming with discomfort. I deposited the kitten in the garage in a drawer and found a bowl into which I poured boiling water and Dettol. I am presuming that people still know what Dettol is.

The ubiquitous Dettol bottle

I can’t remember now how long it took me to divest the kitten and me of these bloody hungry insects. I had bites all over my arms and legs, neck and ankles. I had to pick the fleas out of the kitten’s fur and then comb the fur through with a fine-toothed comb to dislodge any eggs and droppings. At least neither of us became infected with any disease from these damned things.

Horrid biting cat flea!!

I went through a lot of Dettol and hot water and it took days to rid the poor animal of these pests. My mother, who was never very enamoured of my domestic companions any way, was horrified and wouldn’t let me bring my kitten inside the house because of the fleas. Blackie and Wabbie were still alive at that time and they marshalled forces to keep intruding and competing felines out of the house any way.

Of course, the best thing to emerge from this was a close physical relationship between my little kitten (who started to look a gorgeous ginger) and me. He followed me everywhere and I picked him up and held him along my arm and took him wherever I went around the house and property. He was a male as are most ginger or red cats. Some – a small minority are females and by and large the females are sterile. It is possible to find a fertile red female but very rare. I will go into that sort of breeding later on. I found colour breeding of cats fascinating.

I had been brought up, inter alia, with Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti et al. Our mother took us to seasons of operas and operettas when I was in my middle teenagerhood. Who could not help but try to emulate Figaro singing Largo al factotum? Here is a terrific rendition by Hermann Prey singing this great aria from Il barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini. Here’s another version by the wonderful Thomas Hampson singing at the Met. Gala Concert in 1991.

Is it any wonder I named my little kitten Figaro? What a marvellous thing it was to stand outside the house calling him not in a baritone but my high young soprano! I had great fun and provided amusement to family and neighbours alike.

Once married, we shifted into a block of apartments and I could exercise my lungs and Rossini calling for Figaro across Nedlands in Western Australia. I made ginger beer once a week or so and Figaro loved it when the fizzy bottles were opened with a pop. He sat on the washing up sink and watched while each bottle was opened. Well, to be honest, when I was about to open a bottle, I would find him (by singing him in, of course) and make sure I only opened the bottle under his watchful gaze.

Unfortunately my only camera was a Kodak Brownie and this is the only photograph I have of Figaro.

Figaro the beautiful

He is crouching against the wall of our apartment on the breezeway. He was a very beautiful pussy cat and I loved him so!

My desolation when he was hit by a car was immense. I was inconsolable for some time but was pregnant with our first child. Inevitably the advent of this baby took my heart and occupied my time and Figaro remained in my memory evidenced by the one photo I have left.


5 comments on “The story of Figaro

  1. Michelle B says:

    Cats indeed are seductive in their charm, grace, and beauty. I love them dearly also. Thanks for this sweet story.

    • Veronique says:

      Oh, Michelle. I probably don’t have to tell you the beautiful feeling of running your hands down the back of a cat’s body. I know you understand the feeling that a cat’s purr, and the lifting of its head so it can look at your eyes, makes you feel so incredibly treasured.

  2. Rosie says:

    What is it about fleas – even reading about them makes me itch! Dettol wouldn’t do it for me, but Thomas Hampson certainly distracted me somewhat… But then, so did the Monday morning discovery about the gender of ginger cats. That is amazing! V, the wee photo of Figaro is a treasure. What a gorgeous cat!

    • Veronique says:

      I know, Rosie! Looking at a flea makes me itch. I put the Dettol in the boiling water and dropped the fleas in as I took them off Figaro. There were so many that I didn’t have time to squash their hard little bodies. Dropping in Dettolled water was the answer!!

      I loved that 1991 Gala Concert. We bought a DVD and watch it quite often. I had never heard of Hermann Prey though and thoroughly enjoyed the youtube clip.

      He was a gorgeous cat indeed. I ended up breeding Siamese cats for colour points but will go into all that next time:-). Mendel always turned me on and colour is a bit like his selective pea breeding in the 1800s.

  3. Dod says:

    That rendition of ‘Largo al Factotum’ by Hampson is probably one of the best ever, I’ve yet to hear anyone sing the “speedy bit” with such accuracy, clarity of diction and speed!

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