Copyright 1993, Sarah Hartwell

How on earth can one cat be responsible for so many 'missing cat' alerts? That's what happens if you name a cat after decathlete Daley Thompson. "Thompson's gone walkabout" became a regular, and quickly self-explanatory, message on the Lost and Found line. Whenever we had a call about a little black cat found within a 1 mile radius of Central Park we automatically dispensed Thompson's home phone-number. Monthly statistics began to look very encouraging until you read the comments: '19 cats re-united with owner - Thompson 16 times, 3 others'.

'Have paws, will travel' Thompson achieved brief local fame when a firm of solicitors advertised to find the owner of a friendly black cat which had taken up residence in their office. Thompson was arriving promptly at 9 a.m. and the staff were on the verge of fitting a catflap when Thompson's owner grounded him.

Once back in circulation, Thompson turned up at the bus station cafe, negotiating Central Park and a subway under the ring road to get there. A couple of phone calls later and he was despatched home by bus. Having discovered the easy way to travel, Thompson started queuing at the bus-stop by the market.

By this time his owner had fitted her peregrinating puss with a collar and tag. After the third trip in as many days to collect 'daily Thompson' from the bus-stop, she grounded him again. The first day he was let out he turned up at Marks and Spencer's hoping to do a spot of shopping. Hygiene regulations prevailed and Thompson was sent packing without so much as a sausage to show for his efforts.

A little discouraged, he stationed himself halfway up a tree in Central Park. Every time someone went by, Thompson miaowed forlornly. Within a few weeks, every catlover passing through the park had rescued Thompson from his tree.

He even tried to fool me, but having grown wise to Thompson's tricks, I told the feline fraudster not to be such a wozzack. I suddenly found myself being admonished by two brolly waving little old ladies who threatened to report me to the RSPCA for taunting a stuck cat! Thompson smirked as I was forced to rescue him at brolly-point.

Being rescued and carried home palled after a while. Luckily for enterprising Thompson, a local factory had lost its works cat - it had been sacked after scoffing so many snacks that it could no longer tackle the mice. Thompson applied for the post despite lack of qualifications, but his career prospects took a dive when he spent a fortnight in kitty-camp while his owner was on holiday. Unimpressed with this absenteeism, the factory did not look favourably upon his application.

Concerned by this rejection, Thompson began attending lectures at the local University but was expelled from classes after sabotaging some display equipment. So far, news of his expulsion has not reached his owner and he is still frequenting the Student Bar. The less sober members of the Students' Union are planning to nominate him for SU President.

Since he got a collar, the Lost and Found line has been relatively Thompson-free ... apart from intermittent calls about a little black cat with a red collar stuck halfway up a tree in Central Park.

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