DO YOU BELIEVE IN FATE?
She was our first-born kitten, born on the 7th November 1991 and was the odd one out from the beginning. Her brother and sister were usual Somalis and she was a sorrel, so from the very start she stood out because of her golden colouring next to their black. For the first three weeks of her life she was nicknamed "the blob" because she never moved. When I put the three kittens on the bed (even before their eyes were properly opened) the two usuals would go off on "explorations", while she never moved. Even at 4 weeks, when we moved the kittens into the living room, she was still the odd one out, as her brother and sister were always charging around like hooligans while she was very quiet and subdued in comparison. Also they were quite slim and streamlined, whereas she was rather like a barrel of lard so my son began calling her "Lardy"! When I decided I wanted to breed these beautiful cats, I chose "Feorag" as my prefix, which is gaelic for squirrel, as Somalis remind me so much of squirrels, with their bushy tails, bright eyes and little ear tufts and tips. As that November was the month that Freddy Mercury died and I am a great Queen fan, all the kittens were given Queen songs for names and she was registered as Feorag Bohemian Rhapsody - an impressive name for a little ball of fat! We really wanted to keep her, but when she was a small kitten her tail was rather short and as I wanted to breed from her, this could be a problem. Phyl Cassells, the owner of the stud cat, advised us that if someone wanted to buy her, we should let her go. As we were novices, this being our first litter, and the advice was sound, sensible advice, she was sold. Her brother, Teddy, and sister, Chelsea, left us to go to their new homes on the same day, but because she was a little "snuffly" after her second flu innoculation, we kept her a further week. During that week her personality developed a hundredfold as she found her niche in our animal household - at that time consisting of a large and very hairy German Shepherd Dog, an Abyssinian, Somali and Havana, all male neuters and "Sorcha", her mother. After that week it was very hard to see her go and I began to regret my decision to part with her. She went to live with a family who lived about 35 miles from us and we visited her about a month later and were delighted at her progress.
Eight weeks after she left us, we had a 'phone call from a member of the family who had bought her saying that they had been involved in an accident on the motorway and Jeanette, the mother, had been badly injured. There was a possibility of her being in plaster for 6 months and she was worried about the kitten. We had told all the owners of the kittens that if, at any time, they could not keep them, we would gladly buy them back and so we agreed that we would take her back to live with us and on Easter Monday, when she was 5 months old, we brought her back home.
Her arrival back at our home was greeted with much approval by the dog, feigned indifference by the male neuters and open hostility by her mother. In fact, loosely translated her mother's language said "If I have to look at her, I'll kill her". So she spent the following two weeks literally running for her life every time her mother caught sight of her and I despaired of them ever becoming friends, or indeed even tolerating each other.
Nevertheless soon everyone settled down and "Leyla", as we re-christened her, became a much-loved member of our family once again. She is more "laid-back" than her mother and Merlin, our Somali neuter, but by no means as quiet and unassuming as she was when a kitten. She has a naughty side to her nature, is very affectionate, has the loudest purr imagineable and she just loves men! Unlike all the other cats in our family, who gravitate to me, Leyla loves Barry. As soon as he sits down (which isn't often!) she appears from nowhere, throwing herself on his knee and will lie there for hours having her tummy rubbed, an expression of sheer ectasy on her face. Her main ambition in life is to get into our loft. Barry spends a lot of time there, as this is where we store our stall stock etc and she is the only cat who can correctly judge the jump from the top of the wardrobe through the loft hatch. Needless to say she is not allowed in the bedroom when Barry goes into the loft, but we always know when he is there because she is to be found crying outside the bedroom door to be let in.
Funnily enough, when she came home to us, her tail appeared to have caught up with her and no longer looked short and so we decided we would show her. At 9 months 1 day old, at her first adult show, she won her first Challenge Certificate with the Best of Breed and became a Champion in 3 straight shows, in only 2 months - and so we had our first home-bred champion. Her mother had already made history by becoming the first female Somali Champion in the UK, in 1991 and we were absolutely delighted to see her daughter following in her footsteps. By the time she was a year old she had 5 Challenge Certificates, all with the Best of Breed and had become The Somali Cat Club's Best Sorrel Female for 1992.
Shortly after her first birthday she was mated to Emanan Squirrel Nutkin (and the events which took place there inspired me to write "A Winter's Tale") and presented us, in early February 1993, with a beautiful litter of kittens, one usual male, two usual females and two sorrel females. They were a beautifully balanced litter, a delight to rear and they all have superb temperaments. Three of these are now on the showbench and have done very well.
Following a strong lecture by both her human and feline mothers on the expected behaviour from members of our family, she made a return visit to Emanan Squirrel Nutkin in January 1994 and behaved impeccably! In fact, this time the bitch vanished and she fell in love. Her reputation is redeemed! At the time of writing this we are eagerly awaiting the patter of tiny paws.
"Leyla" has become an irreplaceable member of our family and it is strange to think how happy she is with us and we are with her, when she could so easily have never come back. So, was it fate that brought her back to us and should we not have let her go in the beginning? I like to think so!!