The pet I’ll never forget: Lucy the punk cat, who chased dogs and treated me with contempt

<span>‘Even now when a black cat crosses my path I have to resist the urge to stare it down.’</span><span>Photograph: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images/iStockphoto</span>
‘Even now when a black cat crosses my path I have to resist the urge to stare it down.’Photograph: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images/iStockphoto

When my parents agreed to take in Lucy, “a lovely quiet Burmese”, from a friend of a friend, they had no idea what they were letting themselves in for. “She’s no trouble at all – just feed her Kitekat and she’ll be happy.” Eight-year-old me knew these were the exact words because my mother repeated them often, with a rising note of indignation, over the following months.

We knew Lucy had never previously been outside the walls of a Glasgow tenement, so obviously a period of adjustment was expected. But for days, she was a yowling ball of black fur lurking behind the sofa. A shiny new bowl of cat gloop remained untouched. If she was happy, she had a funny way of showing it.

“She’s going to starve,” my mother fretted. “We’ll have to try feeding her something else.”

After a protracted process, it became clear that she favoured poached lamb’s liver, salmon fillets and ice-cream from Colpi, the local gelateria. She was also partial to Jacob’s Mini Cheddars.

Now that she was enjoying a more luxurious diet than most Scottish humans, her reign of terror could begin in earnest.

“I don’t know what it is, but she does not like you,” Mum observed gleefully. A pecking order had swiftly been established. My mother was the clear favourite, and I was bottom of the league, below my dad and the postman.

I would get home from school and there Lucy would be, lying on my bed, growling and engaging me in an unwinnable staring contest. Taken in by her sleek beauty and sphinx-like demeanour, I would sometimes make the mistake of trying to cuddle her. She would extend her claws in warning, and these would get caught in my jumper. Sometimes she would scratch me, possibly by accident.

When she was finally unleashed outdoors, the real trouble began. If she was cold or bored at night and wanted to be let inside, she would use her paws to rattle the letterbox. This makes a surprisingly loud noise in the dead of night.

She was nothing if not ambitious. Birds and mice were easy prey. She would lie in wait for her sworn enemy Clarissa, a local Siamese. She got into a fight with a neighbour’s highland terrier, returning with a chunk of white fur in her jaws. But things really came to a head when she took on Blue the alsatian. Unsurprisingly, he turned on her and she fled, climbing up the willow tree in our garden. There she stayed for hours, yowling and scared. That was the last time she chased a dog.

Some people claim that their pets are a good judge of character, sussing out bad friends and dodgy romances at the outset. Unfortunately, over the years, this couldn’t be said of Lucy because her hackles would rise at anyone new. “She’s a punk cat,” a friend’s older brother observed, and I felt proud of her.

Lucy enjoyed a long and pampered life, and we were all bereft when she left us, including me. Even now, when a black cat crosses my path, I have to resist the urge to stare them down.