My first day on the job got off to an unusual start, I meet the departing Rico volunteer who is to train me and one of the park managers Annabelle, a hard as nails Frenchwoman whose bark I discovered is worse than her bite. To get to Ricos cage we have to walk through the monkey park where semi tame monkeys roam free, we have to watch our bags closely as they try and steal everything - as I stagger along the steep jungle path clutching my backpack on my front something soft and furry lands on my head, a monkey, whose little hands are now clutching around my head and over my eyes so I can't see a thing - it's like wearing a big heavy furry hat and isn't really condusive to walking jungle trails - he doesnt leave my head for about 5 minutes so I finally have to say "ermm excuse me, I have a monkey on my head" I instantly regret saying anything and feel like a total twat as the Frenchwoman looks at me like I am simple and says "weeel just shake eeem orf". I do and off we head through the wilderness to Ricos cage. First impressions? He is stunningly beautiful, all complicated cream and brown dots and swirls and big huge brown eyes - he is about the size of a Labrador dog and not overly intimidating until he opens his mouth. He sounds like Linda Blair in the Exorcist uttering a series of growls, gutteral demonic sounds interpersed with snorts like a pig. This I discover is normal for an Ocelot, they do it when they are happy, when they are sad, when they are wanting a pat and when they are pissed off. And right about now he is pissed off as the cats don't like different people so he saves up his worst noises for me.
Ocelots are the divas of the park, they don't like the rain, they don't like the heat and if Ricos meat is dirty from the ground he will wash it in his water bowl. Every morning I have to go and pick him the most tender and succulent grass from the garden and armed with a lunchbox of meat and chicken heads in one hand and a bouquet of grass in the other I climb the long climb to his cage like an anxious suitor on a first date.
My biggest problem is that the little bugger wan't walk. I can clip him onto his rope runner which allows him some freedom but he won't take a walk like every other cat in the park. "eee is veerry delicate" says Annabelle as he stomps about growling like a demon. Finally today all alone in the jungle with him I gathered up the courage to try and get him to walk, I approach and holding the lead rope I hope that he will head up his trail, but no, instead he turns around, runs at me and sinks his teeth into my leg. As you can imagine being attacked by a 24 kilo cat is not pleasant. I yell, push him off and he runs off into the bushes to sulk for the rest of the day. I feel like I hate him by this point and I'm ashamed to admit I told him that I wished someone would make a coat out of him.........Mind you, I'm sure that Ed has no sympathy as he has been busy fighting off the attentions of a 70 kilo cat in the shape of Roy the Puma. Apparently Roy has something called "Attack Eyes" and when he has an attack of attack eyes everyone better get ready for a mauling.
As for me, I reckon I'm in for a mauling of lifetime tomrorow. Yep it's back into the jungle along with young Rico tomorrow for 8 hours trying to get him to walk, claws, teeth, demon noises and all. What a delight, did I really ever say that I was a Cat Person?