In the end, the cats were rounded up and put into a room. My father went into the room with his First World War revolver, more reliable, he said, than a shotgun. The gun sounded again, again, again, again. The cats that were still uncaught had sensed their fate and were raging and screaming all over the bush, with people after them. My father came out of the room at one point, very white, with tight angry lips and wet eyes. He was sick. Then he swore a good deal, then he went back into the room and the shooting continued. At last he came out. The servants went in and carried off the corpses to the disused well. Some of the cats had escaped – three never came back at all to the murderous household, so they must have gone wild and taken their chances. When my mother returned from her trip, and the neighbour who had brought her had gone, she walked quiet and uncommenting through the house where there was now one cat, her old favourite, asleep on her bed. My mother had not asked for this cat to be spared, because it was old, and not very well. But she was looking for it; and she sat a long time stroking and talking to it. Then she came out to the verandah. There sat my father and there I sat, murderers, and feeling it. She sat down. He was rolling a cigarette. His hands were still shaking. He looked up at her and said: ‘That must never happen again.’ And I suppose it never did.
I hated cats. I was a dog lover," Des says with a shrug. "What's the point of a cat? They're not affectionate. But that's because it's not my cat. I mean, your wife wouldn't jump on my lap. That's because she's your wife, not mine. Until you have your own cat, you really don't understand.