Alfred the Great

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2006:

Alfred the Great, 17, named for his political wisdom, was
euthanized due to incurable suffering from conditions of age on March
30, 2005.
While removing a poacher’s snares set for fox or coyote from
an abandoned junkyard near Brigham, Quebec, in December 1988, at
twilight, in a blizzard, ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton found
hints that a kitten had been used as live bait but escaped. Amid the
snow, in the gathering dark, among countless hiding places, the
kitten could not be found.
“I reluctantly hiked home,” Clifton recalls, “and was just
shaking the snow off my coat in the woodshed, when my landlady,
Lorna Kemp, came out and pointed to a tiny gray-and-white kitten
stumbling up the road behind me, looking like a moving snowball.

“Alfred spent his first week in the house tied to the
woodstove with a pink ribbon, eating everything we gave him so fast
we were afraid he’d make himself sick, then abruptly changed from
the wildest kitten ever to the tamest. He started trying to fight
our 10 other cats as soon as he tamed up. He was so small that they
all thought he was nuts.
“I adopted him out two months later, but was called two
months after that to rescue him from a violent domestic dispute.
After that I kept him. He rewarded me by often bringing me live
snakes.”
Joining the ANIMAL PEOPLE household in December 1989,
continuing to catch snakes occasionally even when kept indoors,
“Alfred was at the bottom of the hierarchy,” among 41 rescued cats
at peak, recalls publisher Kim Bartlett, “but in 1992 he began
following a grouchy old cat named Gidget, nicknamed ‘Devil of the
Boss Cats’ by our son Wolf, then two years old. Gidget kept other
cats at bay with a snarling swagger. One day I found Alfred
following a step behind her, in the same gait, making the same
snarl. From then on, Alfred mimicked Gidget around other cats. He
rose into the upper echelon of tomcats, and kept his position
through cunning, rather than brawling with younger and stronger
cats. When he did get into a face-off, Alfred always out-growled
and chased off the other cat, even with a considerable size
disadvantage.
“Voltaire, the reigning tom until his death in March of
2004, at almost 20, slept on my pillow,” relates Bartlett. “A few
nights after Voltaire died, Alfred crept onto my pillow, and was
acknowledged by all the other cats as the new king. In recent
months, as Alfred declined mentally and physically, he gave up the
pillow and began sleeping next to me in the center of the bed. He
seemed to know that he could no longer hold the dominant position.
When I placed him on my pillow in his old spot, he quickly moved
away, as if afraid that he might be challenged if he pretended to
still be the king.”

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