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Cat Defender

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Percy Takes the Train All by Himself in Order to Visit the Penguins at an Aquarium in Scarborough


"He always knows when the train is coming as well. He is a very smart cat."
-- Sharon Jarvis


English cats are certainly an independent and resourceful group. For example, both Casper of Plymouth and Macavity of Walsall in the West Midlands have learned to ride city buses by themselves. (See Cat Defender posts of August 27, 2009 and April 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Casper Treats Himself to an Unescorted Tour Around Plymouth Courtesy of the Number Three Bus" and "Bus-Hopping Macavity Earns High Praise from His Fellow Commuters for Being the Perfect Passenger.")

Beezley travels around Lyme Regis in Dorset on a bicycle pedaled by an employee of the Royal Mail and, whereas most felines have to be dragged scratching and shrieking to the vet, Milo of Southam in Warwickshire takes the initiative and goes unaccompanied by her guardian. (See Cat Defender posts of October 13, 2008 and December 5, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Life Imitates Art as a Small Town in Dorset Acquires Its Very Own Version of Postman Pat and Jess in the Form of Terry and Beezley" and "Milo, Who Visits the Vet by Her Lonesome, Is Named Old Blighty's Most Adventurous Cat.")

Now comes word of a black cat named Percy who takes the North Bay Railway from his home near Peasholm Park to the Sea Life and Marine Sanctuary in the Scalby Mills section of Scarborough. The cat reportedly has been making the 1.4 kilometer commute on a weekly basis for the past four years. (See photo above of him with the aquarium's Amy McFarlane.)

Most astounding of all, Percy apparently does not have or need any human assistance in navigating the rails. "He always knows when the train is coming as well," Sharon Jarvis of Sea Life told the Scarborough Evening News on October 19th. (See "It's the Inter-Kitty Express for One Scarborough Cat.") "He is a very smart cat."

While most cat-owners would positively cringe at the very thought of their beloved companions riding the rails unescorted, it is important to point out that the North Bay Railway is about as far removed from a modern, high-speed commuter line as a Model T Ford is from a Porsche. It is in fact a miniature train and four of its five locomotives have been in service since the early 1930s.

Percy's task is further simplified by the fact that there are only two stops on the line: Peasholm Park and Scalby Mills. (See photo above of the 1931 locomotive Neptune passing its younger cousin, the 1932 Triton, near the now defunct Beach Station, midpoint on the route.)

It nevertheless would be interesting to know how Percy got started taking the train. It is only a guess, but more than likely one of his guardians either used to work at the aquarium or was a frequent visitor there and thus taught him les ficelles.

After all if he does live near Peasholm Park, Percy still has to cross Burniston Road in order to get to the misnomered Peasholm Railway Station which is actually located in Northstead Manor Gardens. Because of the frequency of the service and his species' uncanny ability to tell time, fathoming North Bay's timetable would not pose much of a challenge to Percy.

Once he arrives at Sea Life gaining entree is not much of a hurdle for him to surmount either in that he simply piggybacks on patrons as they pass through the front door. Just as importantly, the staffers are not moneygrubbers and thus do not mind that he is a gatecrasher. "We all love Percy and we are sure he will carry on coming here," Jarvis added.

While it is not exactly clear what he finds so beguiling about Sea Life, he is known to be especially fond of the penguin exhibit. (See photo above.)

"He particularly likes watching the penguins but unfortunately they get scared of him so we have to move him away," Jarvis related to the Scarborough Evening News in the article cited supra. "But he's harmless."

Percy's antics recall to mind those of Larry McMurtry's fictional mountain man, Jim Ragg, from out of the pages of his 1990 novel, Buffalo Girls. While on tour with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Ragg became so homesick for the Old West that he took to spending his free time hanging out at the London Zoo's beaver exhibit. It is therefore conceivable that Percy, too, is bored with urban life.

The corridors of power in Parliament and 10 Downing Street may be teeming with all sorts of political intrigue, corruption, and just plain imbecility, but far from the maddening crowd English cats and their supporters continue to enchant and inspire. To that ever-growing list of remarkable cats Percy's name must now be added and like North Bay's old trains he is a must see attraction for those visiting North Yorkshire.

Photos: Scarborough Evening News (Percy and McFarlane), Tivedshambo of Wikipedia (trains), and Moggies (penguins).