The Story of Leo and Chunk


Yellow Brothers from another Mother

Leo was the first cat that we chose as a family. He was only the second cat that Danger and I had owned as a couple. Before that was beautiful Bella, a faithful friend for over seventeen years. She died of old age – very old age in cat years – and we were all devastated. We found Leo on Gumtree from a breeder who lived out West. Her house smelt unbearably of cat wee, but she sure knew how to breed Cuties. Ask Rudie’s Mum. Rudie was from the same litter.

Leo was our James Dean cat. He was young and spunky and wild. It was hard to get a cuddle out of him, but he was so fun to be around. If a human was standing still, he’d scale them like a tree…and then get stuck, as kittens do. We laughed at him trying to stalk birds in the backyard, creeping and prowling without realising that his bright yellow fur was hardly camouflage.

Little kids loved Leo. They related to him, because he was a little kid too. My beautiful friend Marina was visiting with her nephew, Lucas, and he chased Leo around the house saying “Mao”. I just thought it was toddler-talk for “Cat”. A cat says meow, so he called all cats “Mao” (and it has to be pronounced Mao, like Chairman Mao. Not Me-ow). But I found out later that he was actually trying to speak cat.

We dropped Lucas home and I was super excited to find that he lived with a BIG yellow cat. A Big Leo! With a deep man-voice the yellow cat said “Mao”. When Lucas said Mao, he was trying to communicate back. I was so excited to tell the family that night that I had met a big Leo. I even had photos on my phone as it was such a novelty.

The next day – the next day – our Leo was hit by a car and died. We’d had him for six months. It felt like he’d been snatched away from us. The shock was the same as when any young person dies. We consoled ourselves that he had lived life to the fullest. Our James Dean cat lived fast and died young.

I was all for getting a new cat straight away. I have lived my entire life with cats and I honestly believe that a house is not a home unless I’m sharing it with a cat. Danger wanted to wait and grieve Leo properly. I understood, but I still wanted a cat. A few weeks later, Marina asked us if we would like to “borrow” the big yellow cat that I had met at Lucas’s house. Did we what! We picked him up the very next day.

We found out that his real name is Topaz. Marina’s sister was cat-sitting for a friend who had moved to Perth. She didn’t mind loaning Topaz out, as she already had a dog and a young child to take care of and she knew that we missed Leo terribly. Originally we organised to take Topaz for the school holidays but we’ve had him for months now. We have never once called him Topaz. We call him Mao. Or Fatty or Ginger Chunk, or Chunky. Or just Chunk.

It’s so different getting to know a cat who is already grown. When you take on a kitten, it is like having a baby. You grow together and the love is almost parental. When you take on an already established cat, it’s like getting to know a friend. They grow on you. Now we can’t imagine our life without him. He is not Leo’s replacement, but he is the man-cat that Leo may have grown into.

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