'Camel Cat' Tommy takes on the wilds - and wins hands down

By KAREN MICHALOWSKY©

The 'Survivor - in Africa' series on TV at present already has been won - by Tommy the tough 'Camel Cat' Siamese, whose survival instincts in the wild have amazed his owners, Morris and Karen Michalowsky.

Karen takes up the tale of Tamarind's Tom Thumb, the tough guy of Table View:

'A breeder/judge friend visited me recently and met Tommy for the first time. In fact, it was the first time another human apart from my husband and I had ever touched this incredibly shy boy. I told her Tommy's Story and she said it should be shared...

Tommy is the only son of my beloved Grand Champion Thai-Su Tiny Tim (deceased). Timmy was murdered by dogs shortly after Tommy was born and I asked Ian Moore if I could have the kitten to somehow try and ease the terrible pain of losing Timmy. As small and elegant as Timmy had been, Tommy was the complete opposite.

He is the largest Siamese I have seen, has a slight squint and very old-fashioned ears. His best feature is his tail, which is quite long. As a youngster, his coat was pale for our South African sealpoints, and clearly he would never grace the show benches. We brought him into our family to just be another of our special boys without the glitz and glamour his father would have brought to our lives.

As a kitten, he did all the usual Siamesey things like sleeping in our bed and purring like a steam train, but he was noticeably disinterested in toys and games.

As he grew and gained confidence, we noticed that the great outdoors was what REALLY interested him and he would bask in the sun on top of a rock in the garden and amuse himself with occasional bursts of energy. hunting birds and fieldmice in the vacant plot next door.

By the time Tommy was adult and neutered, he had become a social recluse and would not have anything to do with humans unless it was a very cold night. Then, he would perch on the end of our bed until morning, when he would immediately set off to patrol the garden, chasing off neighbouring cats that might venture into the garden and generally acting like a watchcat.

This probably sounds as if he was not much of a success in the cuddly pet category and I couldn't argue with that: he certainly wasn't cute, definitely not beautiful (in the true sense of Siamese beauty) and his disdain for all humans really didn't endear him to anyone. BUT, we loved him, he was what, in human terms, would be described as a 'free spirit'; the luxuries of life were superfluous to him, he was an 'earth-child' cat, an adventurer, a breaker of tradition, a unique and special loner of the cat world.

As life would have it, we had to move from our home and we dreaded having to move Tommy as he clearly loved his garden and his position as self-appointed guardian of the exterior. True enough, Tommy went into deep hiding when the removal truck arrived, but as he had never wandered far from the house I was confident we would catch him, if not that day, then certainly the next.

It took almost three months to catch Tommy, my husband went to the old house every day after work, I went at other times, morning, midday, it didn't matter when, he answered me when I called, ate the food we left for him, but refused to be caught.

Eventually, as a last resort, I borrowed Johan's Lamprecht's cat-trap, set it up and settled down to wait, and wait, and wait.

Three hours later, the smell of roast chicken got the better of Tommy, he went into the box and we had him. We had moved a long way from our old home and the 45-minute drive home was a nightmare. Tommy rolled, howled scratched and fought the entire way. I thought the cat box would explode with his determination to escape.

How on earth would we cope with him at the new house and how was he going to re-act to Prince William and Seal? I heaved the box complete with mad, cat-devil inside and thought: 'This is what an exorcism must be like.' In the spare bedroom, I opened the box, fully expecting an enraged attack, and dodged towards the door.

However, he came out of the box cautiously, ate food I had put out for him and then generally settled down to a life in his new home.

Overnight, Tommy became a soppy, on-the-bed cat, his hunting days were a thing of the past and his trips into the garden rare and always hurried. Always quite a lean cat, he developed a little pot belly and settled down to the good life as an indoor cat whose meal times were the highlight of his life.

Then, change was in the air again when I was offered a good job in Cape Town. This would mean we would have to move again as we were living about 100km from my work and the travelling was exhausting. This time, I was not at all worried about Tommy, now a completely domesticated and homely neuter, and I was sure his past experience of living 'rough' would not be repeated.

How wrong can you be? Despite taking the precaution of locking him in the spare bedroom, one of the removal men opened the door and Tommy took off like a bat out of hell, straight for the bush next to the house. As he is such a shy cat, I thought we would catch him once the truck had left. However, Tommy had another agenda.

Two months later, our former neighbours managed to trap Tommy in their Wendy house. He had reverted to his former wildness, all his finely tuned hunting instincts returned and he, of course, had refused to allow us to catch him.

My husband, Morris, went to fetch Tommy from the neighbour, elderly people, who were very dismayed at the noise emanating from the Wendy house they were quite sure Morris would be torn to shreds by this wild cat.

They were amazed that a pedigree cat could become this wild and had always thought that Siamese cats were somewhat regal and pampered by their owners.

Morris was embarrassed, to say the least, explaining the Story of Tommy, is a lengthy matter ? as you can see.

Morris was not torn to shreds, Tommy allowed himself to be picked up, cuddled, put in the carrier and the return drive to Cape Town was quiet, with Tommy sleeping most of the way.

Dear, dear, Tommy has undergone yet another personality change. After a month back home with us and the rest of the 'boys', he is getting that little pot belly back again, days are spent on the patio chairs in just the right spot to catch the sun and we share our bed with him when there is a nip in the air.

We think of Tommy as our 'Camel Cat', an adventurer, equally at home in the wilds as he is snoring sleepily on a goose-down duvet.