Written in September 2000
Our life with Sorcha started out as a simple enquiry as to where I could buy a Somali breeding queen. I had been owned by Pasht, our Abyssinian for 5 years, Merlin, our first Somali for a year and a half and the "cuckoo in the nest" Briagha, our Havana, for a year when I finally decided I would like to start breeding Somalis and have lots of my own little Merlins running around the house. I had already decided that I wanted to use my local stud, being Tanoshimi Redshadow, and so I began to search for a suitable unrelated queen. A telephone call to Jane Gee, who was then the SCC secretary, put me onto Deidre Wheeler who had a litter of 6 kittens from Tooannes Liberty Belle and, according to Jane, there was a little queen in that litter who showed a great deal of promise. So during our spring holiday, Barry and I drove to Crewe to meet a 6 week old Pyjamarama Theda. I freely admit that at that time I had no real idea what to look for in a breeding queen, or indeed even a good Somali, but I took my guidance from Jane and Deidre and to this day I have always acknowledged that any success my breeding has had, goes directly back to both Jane and Deidre for suggesting I buy Sorcha in the first place.
So 8 weeks later we went back to collect her. As we drove home, with her sitting firstly on my lap and then Barrys, we had high hopes of her future, but little did we even begin to suspect just how successful she would be for us, both as a breeding queen and a show cat.
She walked into our house as the most confident kitten we had ever introduced. I chose for her the gaelic name Sorcha, which loosely translated means "bright eyes", because if ever there was a bright eyed and bushy tailed kitten it was her. From the day she came into our house she proved to be the most intelligent of all our cats, she caught onto everything instantly. She hadnt been in the house for a week before she fell in love with Leo, our long haired German Shepherd and it wasnt long before she decided that it wasnt fair that he was locked in the living room at night and all the cats were allowed in our bedroom. So, taking matters into her own hands (or should I say paws) she worked out how to open the door to let him out! It was a few weeks before Barry realised that he wasnt losing his marbles and forgetting to shut the door. To this day every door from our hallway has a lock on it, because she simply will not be locked out of a room!
As a breeding queen I truly think she excelled. In her breeding career she only had 5 litters from 3 different studs, but there were champions/premiers or prospective champions/premiers in every litter. Indeed her first litter of 3 produced for us Gr Ch & Gr Pr Feorag Bohemian Rhapsody, (Leyla) who was actually her first born kitten (and if Freddy Mercury hadnt died 3 weeks after they were born, she would have been registered as Feorag First Born!). Leyla was our first home bred Champion and Grand Champion and the first Somali to achieve a double grand title and for that alone Sorcha exceeded any of our expectations. Her second litter produced Feorag Cracklin Rosie, now a Champion and Premier and Rosies sister Feorag Sweet Caroline, who was only shown once but gained her PC and BOB. Her third litter was Harry - what can I say? If ever I should be grateful to Sorcha for anything at all, it is for Harry! Although, strangely enough, he was the one kitten she gave birth to whom she never really appeared to like at all. Having said that he was her first single kitten and therefore a bit boring after litters of three and so from the day he was born she decided to share his upbringing with us and brought him into our bed each night - maybe that is why he is the way he is?
As a show cat again I think she excelled. Knowing that we intended to show her also, Deidre entered her as a kitten in the Pick of Litter Competition and she finished only 1 point behind the Top 10 table - 6 shows, 6 1sts and 6 BOBs and we were so proud. She went out on the bench and won her ICs and then became the first female Somali Champion in the country, being beaten by 1 week to the title of first Champion by her half-brother Gr Ch Zorrito Carajillo. Unfortunately we discovered that after she had her first litter of kittens we were going to have a constant struggle to keep her weight up to show standard - it was a losing battle and so we retired her. In the next 5 years she was shown only twice (both times the show fell just after her kittens were 12 weeks old and she bloomed in pregnancy and lactation) and on both occasions she won the Reserve Grand. After she reared her last litter, she returned to the showbench, in March 1998 at 8 years old. In that year she gained her Grand Champion title. She was entered in 10 Grand classes in that year and won 4 Grand Certificates and 5 Reserves, culminating in her winning the Best of Breed at the Supreme Cat Show. She was then neutered and came back out on the showbench as a neuter in the beginning of 1999. She gained her Premier title and her Grand Premier title each in 3 straight shows. In that year she was entered in 8 Grand Classes and won 7 Grand Certificates and 1 Reserve - all at the "Grand" age of 9 year old. In her show career she has won a total of 4 Grand Challenge Certificates, 7 Reserve Grand Challenge Certificates, 14 Challenge Certificates, 7 Grand Premier Certificates, 2 Reserve Grand Premier Certificates, 12 Premier Certificates, 3 Intermediate Certificates, 34 BOB's and 93 First Prizes. She was the Somali Cat Clubs second highest scoring cat in 1998 and the top winning cat in 1999.
However, for all her success as a breeding queen and a show cat, for me her main quality is her endearing affectionate personality and I just could not imagine my life without her. She has always been very affectionate, she is an incurable "kneader" and will spend hours on mine or Barrys chest kneading away, purring constantly. When we first brought her home we both had to go back to work the following week, but our son Iain was at home on school holidays and he formed a wonderful relationship with her. Every night when I came home from work, there he was sitting on the settee watching TV with Sorcha flat on her back while he rubbed her stomach. She would lie there for hours, toes curled, tail curled in an arch over her stomach in ectasy and to this day, even though he left home 6 years ago, Iain can walk into the house pick her up, flip her over and she just turns into putty in his hands. That was when I first thought "squirrel" - when I looked at her lying there. On her first Christmas she delighted in playing with hazelnuts, which she helped herself to out of the bowl of nuts on the Welsh Dresser. She would play for hours and she only had to lose a couple under the furniture before she realised how she was losing them and thereafter whenever a nut got near to the furniture, she would pick it up in her paws, put it in her mouth and carry it away from the "danger zone" to get on with her game. Again I thought "squirrel" and that was why I chose Feorag as my prefix, as it is gaelic for squirrel and I hoped that Sorcha would provide me with lots of little squirrels in the years to come.
She has always reacted to catnip, but strangely her main passion has always been for peppermints. One day when she was very young I was sitting eating a mint when she came onto my lap and when I spoke to her she literally shot forward and tried to push her head in my mouth. I took the mint out and held it to her and she began licking it and drooling everywhere. This obsession has stayed with her to this day and she appears to have handed it down to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We have to be very wary of speaking closely to any of our Somalis after we have cleaned our teeth, otherwise we risk having a head forced into our mouth! Interestingly, her latest great granddaughter has recently gone back to Deidre as a breeding queen and Deidre tells me that she has the same obsession. According to Deidre neither Sorchas mother, Belle, nor any of Deidres other Somalis have this obsession and so we assume Sorcha inherited it from Zorrito Romancero who was her father. Maybe Jane Gee can throw some light on this one? One lovely characteristic which Deidre tells me she definitely inherited from Zero is her penchant for head butting. I only have to bend my face towards her and her head instantly drops to the side ready to give me an affectionate head butt and I love it! This is another characteristic which she has passed down to many of her descendants. In fact her granddaughter, Purrdy, carries it to an extreme whereby she starts tilting her head as soon as she sees us looking at her and often by the time we reach her she has bent so far that she actually falls over.
One day I lost her in a bag of polystyrene beads! I was filling bean bags for the club stall from a very large, newly opened and extremely full polythene bag of beads and she was sitting on my shoulders, as acting supervisor as usual, watching with great interest. Finally she could stand it no longer - it needed further investigation and so she jumped off my shoulder into the bag. It was as though she had jumped into quicksand. She vanished instantly and I literally threw myself into the bag after her in an almost blind panic, thinking suffocation, while almost all of my bulk (and it was bulk) of polystyrene beads flew out into the living room. I found her almost at the bottom, grabbed her and pulled her out. She came out in as big a panic as I was and flew round the room scattering polystyrene beads all over the living room - it looked like we'd just been hit by a severe hailstorm.
The strangest thing I have found about life with Sorcha and I think it is a strange quirk on my part not hers, is that because of her intelligence and attitude I very often find myself putting human emotions and reactions to her. For instance, when a cat does something naughty, I will naturally scold it, but I find it very difficult to do this to Sorcha. Instead I usually find myself expressing disappointment to her, because she should know better. In fact, often I have heard something break or fall over and arrived on the scene to see a pair of black ticked apricot breeches scuttling away and I have shouted some verbal rebuke, assuming it was Harry or Purrdy, only to find that it was actually Sorcha. Then I discover that I have an overwhelming urge to apologise to her for shouting at her. I think the "problem" is that I just do not expect her to do "naughty" things like the other cats, because shes so intelligent, she is just above all that - its very difficult to explain.
I have tried very hard in this story to explain just how much having Sorcha has coloured and fulfilled my life and just how much I love her, but I doubt I have done a good job - it is so hard to explain when an animal just captures your heart the way that Sorcha has mine, but Im sure lots of you reading this will recognise what I am trying to say and understand. Its just that every now and then one particular animal will come into your life and just fill it and for me Sorcha is that animal and I simply cannot imagine my life without her.