By Doug Smith

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of Minou that you can see - just the ones in my head.

Minou was my first cat. My father introduced her to the house the same day my mother and I came home from the hospital. The theory was that my two year old older sister wouldn't be quite so jealous of the new baby [me] if she had a new pet to play with. I'm not ashamed to admit that I stole her.

Minou was a small, long haired black cat, named Minou because my mother thought she fussed around like a little french maid.

I always remember minou as being rather aloof - she always used to sit slightly away, watching me carefully. No doubt, I must have gone through the "annoying small child" phase, and she never quite recovered from it.

The thing I remember most about her was then whenever I held her, cradling her on her back, she'd reach one claw filled paw up and rest it on my nose. I like to thing she was intrigued by the funny thing sticking out of my face, however, it was probably more intended as a gentle reminder that she wasn't quite defenceless.

She seemed to appreciate us. The first time we went on holiday as a family, she was left home with the neighbours dropping in to feed her. We were away for one week, and when we got back, there were seven small voles lined up on the doorstep. She would never bring them inside - that was not allowed.

She took full advantage of all of her nine lives, she was shot by some people hunting pheasant in the woods behind the house, she fell in the septic tank when it was being drained, she had a fight with one of the local dogs which left her missing a piece of her ear, my mother ran her over in a car [well, Fiat 500] and worst of all the boy who lived across the street tied a piece of string round her neck with a brick on the end of it - she ended up hanging between the house next door and it's garage for two days before we found her. If you ever meet an Andrew Pratt, ask if he ever lived at 19 Torksey Avenue.

She survived all these trials, and started to get more mellow, more and more often you would see her chasing things in her sleep, and if you could persuade her to fall asleep while you were stroking her she would sleep so soundly that you could lift her head up and drop it an inch or two without her waking.

Her glossy coat faded from a rich shiny black to a dull, reddish colour and we had to groom her to prevent it getting matted. Her hunting forays turned into a doze under the rose bush - she still caught the occasional bird that would settle in the bush above her, but only very rarely. She would sometimes lie in the sun so long without moving that her long hair would singe.

When I was 16, my parents divorced, and my father and I moved to a small town called Gainsborough 12 miles away. We took Minou with us, but the area around the house already had an established cat population. She wasn't really capable of establishing her own domain, and ended up sulking in the house most of the time.

Eventually, she was claimed by the busy road outside the house. Her difficulties establishing her own run forced her to cross the road; she never used a litter tray, and would only "go" outside.

She was run over by a Ford Granada two days before I left home to go to University, I was out the night it happened, so mercifully I didn't see her in that condition. I miss her, I still carry her little pet ID tag on my key ring. Somehow losing Minou marked the transition from childhood to adulthood, part of my life was gone and it was time to move on.

Doug and his current cat, Nutmeg