He's black. He's handsome and sleek. He's our cat.

In the Middle Ages, our cat would have been burnt at the stake or walled up alive. It was very dangerous to be born with a jet-black coat.

Not too long ago though, in many French villages, a black cat was believed to bring bad luck. In Brittany, hunters are still allowed to shoot cats. They love it when it’s a black cat.

Our cat is a very strange cat and I’d like to tell you a few stories about him before he fades away from our life.

Once upon a time, my friend F. who was a vet found a 4 week old kitten dumped into her waiting room. She took him home and saved him. And since she already had 7 cats at home (and 2 dogs), she decided a kitten would be a very nice birthday gift for Swee’ Pea who was turning 17 a couple of weeks later.

Well, it was a perfect birthday gift.

At the time, we were living with a wonderful sheepdog, Branwen, who fell in love with the kitten. At first sight. She made up her mind on the spot. She would be his mother.

Strange cat, I said. Strange dog too.

Swee’ Pea was already an excellent wakeboarder. The world champ at the time was an American guy named Scott Byerly.

The kitten was very lively, a born acrobat who loved to ride our dog’s waving tail in order to land on the sofa in a perfect ‘Raley’. So Byerly he became. And Byerly he’s been ever since.

He’s been sharing our life for 14 years now. He loves us a lot but he’s totally devoted to Swee’ Pea. He goes crazy whenever his favorite wakeboarder comes home.

He’s been ailing for a few months now. He’s still quite young for a cat but he’s lost a lot of energy and his heart is none too good.

So today, I’d like to tell you a few stories about a very strange cat called Byerly.

We were kind of worried because this cat never meowed, not once in his first four years. Since he wasn’t answering to his name nor  to any enticing sound from us, we kind of thought that he was either sort of deaf and dumb or mentally retarded.

Then Branwen died and Byerly started meowing. A weird kittenish meowing. A totally unpracticed meowing.

We realized that Branwen had been his ‘voice’ all along. She had been anticipating or understanding his needs and had barked to let us know that he was to be fed or that the door had to be opened. To call him, we had to keep on whistling for our (dead) dog. It took Byerly quite a few years before he did grasp he has a name.

Does a cat try to commit suicide when another kitten is brought into his home?

My friend F. had another kitten to give away. A darling one month old blue eyed Birman Orange Point with a broken hip. She brought her over to our place to convince Popeye it would be really great to adopt her.

Byerly took one look at her and run upstairs to the mezzanine floor, 12 ft above us and never jumped down to a certain death because Popeye was faster and caught him just in time. Just in time but barely.

We adopted Sara after all.

But we were very, very careful. Byerly did end up liking her a lot after we all promised him that no way we’d end up loving her more than him. Lies of course. She was such a lovely cat! Scatterbrained but so lovely.

Crazy story, isn’t it. But nevertheless true.

Does a cat become terribly frustrated when he notices that his ‘sister’ cat doesn’t care at all about catching mice?

Byerly tried to entice Sara to go hunting with him. To no avail. Blue eyed Orangepoints are no good at hunting. Actually, I think that they are turning their (tiny) nose up at mice. They love to play with grass blades though. But mice, you’ve got to be kidding.

So one day, he brought her one mouse which he very carefully set down by her paws. Sara looked at it and then at him, utterly disgusted. He then tried to show her that she could play with it and in doing so, he woke the mouse up (she was half-dead with fright). The mouse run away. Byerly never caught it again. We could see he was really, really upset. So he went to Branwen to get a *hug* which she gave him of course, dog-like.

Can a cat jump up to 6 ft high without taking a run up?

Byerly did. All the time. We are sure about the ‘6 ft’ because we did measure his leaps.

Byerly is a very huge cat. He’s taller and bigger than a Westie. And very strong too. Probably because he’s been playing rough with dogs and Swee’ Pea all his life.

When he was younger, he weighed up to 20 pounds. No fat. Muscles. Now he is much thinner of course, down to 15 pounds. But he still is very impressive. We are lucky he never was agressive.

He’s like a very nice giant, you know. So big and so sweet.

There was even a time when he’d come up to the table while we were eating. He’d get up on his hind legs and put his front paws and his head on the table. He’d take a look at what we were having for dinner and leave. He’s a dry catfood guy. Lucky us.

Have you ever met a sheepcat? We have. Our friend Bernard used to breed Suffolk sheep. Every summer, he’d drive about 60 of them to our big field by our house. Those sheep don’t bleat. They spend their day peacefully grazing.

Byerly loved them to distraction. As soon as they were there, he’d spend the day with them, first watching them and then catching mice among them.

(Byerly is in the left angle of the picture!)
One day, he was gone for quite a long time. We started worrying. The moor. Lots of foxes and buzzards around. Popeye decided to try to find him. Hard, very hard. Remember, we thought Byerly was deaf and dumb. Popeye came back a few minutes later.

‘You won’t believe it! No camera. Lock Branwen inside.’

I followed him silently to the edge of the field.

Byerly was bringing back 70 Suffolk sheep from the other side of the field to our place. He was walking slowly in front of them, his tail proudly lifted like a standard. They were following him leisurely. All 70 of them. No noise. Only their breathing sound.

We froze to the spot. I had seen sheep stampede. They are very silly animals. One starts running and the others follow.

Our cat. Our poor cat.

No need to worry about Byerly. He kept on walking proudly and slowly. As soon as he got close to our garden, he deftly crept below the electrical fence and came running to us.

Our own catsheep.

So many stories to remember. Some really funny. Others kind of sad. 14 years with Byerly.

I once said that I never feel lonely. 

Sometimes, I wonder what it’s going to be like without our irreplaceable last cat. I'd better be enjoying the moments left even if he spends most of his life sleeping now.

By the way, did you know that black cats get white hairs when they get old?

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

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