"My wife and I have kept cats for many, many years now, and have taken them with us when we've gone on holiday. This all started when our neighbour, who used to feed our cats if we were away, said to us once, 'She's fine if youíre only away for a weekend, but if it's longer than that, she seems to get really upset.' One thing our cats have taught us over the years is that they are as individual as people, so each of our cats would merit a story but Fleetwood, our ginger moggy, is particularly interesting. It was late August in 2003 and we were about to go to the Fylde Folk Festival in Fleetwood, Lancashire (northern England) in our camper van with our two cats, Chivers and Bramble. Chivers was a fit, strong, 13-year-old ginger ex-tom, and Bramble was his 11-year-old sister, a velvety black lady.
"Just days before we were due to leave, Chivers was squashed flat on the road outside our house in Loanhead, near Edinburgh, Scotland. Naturally we were devastated, and as our cats were regular favourites at the festival campsite we phoned our friend Carol, who lives in Fleetwood, to tell her why Chivers wouldn't be coming. To our surprise, she told us she'd found a tiny ginger stray, covered in fleas, wandering near her house on the day Chivers had died. When we visited her that weekend, our first sight of this tiny chap was seeing him holding on to the tail of their female German Shepherd dog, being dragged around the kitchen floor! As Carol had been unable to track down an owner, we decided we would take the little soul back with us always providing he could travel all right. On the day we were due to return home we brought the as-yet-unnamed kitten into our camper van to let him explore the space, and to meet Bramble, who eyed him with great suspicion.
"We sat for a while, then offered both cats some food. As the kitten tucked in, I started the van's engine. He looked up, slightly curious, and then just carried on eating. After idling the van for a little while, I gently moved off, expecting a flurry of ginger, all teeth and kitten claws. Instead, he took no notice whatsoever and carried on blissfully eating! The journey to Edinburgh took about 4 hours, and was completely uneventful. The kitten lay on the floor, or sat on my wife's knee, while Bramble looked on balefully, frowning as only an elderly lady can do. The obvious name for our new kitten, born in Fleetwood and now living in Scotland, would be Mac, and we would have called him that except that one of our neighbour's cats is a large tom with that name. After a week or so mulling over possible names, we settled on Fleetwood.
"Fleetwood settled into his new home with obvious relish, and he and Bramble soon seemed perfectly at ease with each other; but with the fate of Chivers still very much in our minds, my wife was petrified something would happen to spoil this perfect set-up. The obvious way to know what was happening to him was to have him with us when possible so when we went shopping, he came with us; if we went to the pub, we carried him along. That's how the pub visits started.
"Naturally, the first pub he came to was our local, the Masons Arms in Loanhead. It's also the only pub he's been barred from! The reaction from other pub-goers to his initial visits was mixed, to say the least. Some were intrigued; some thought it bizarre; one or two were outraged; others thought it perfectly reasonable. One of the barmaids at the time doted on him, and would bring treats with her to feed him; but one of the other barmaids didn't like cats (or us very much, for that matter!) and asked the manager to have him excluded. The manager ruled that, as long as Fleetwood was well behaved and didn't wander around, he was welcome, just as dogs already were. Shortly afterwards, the manager went on holiday, and during his absence the unfriendly barmaid persuaded the area manager to have Fleetwood barred on account of his 'bad behaviour'. This comprised 'being behind the bar' (he had been carried there by the doting barmaid), 'being on the tables' (he was trying to reach the treats put there for him by the same barmaid), and 'wandering around' (untrue, since we always kept him on a lead, close to us).
"The ban which was specific to Fleetwood, not to cats in general lasted for a couple of weeks, when the area manager contacted us to say that Fleetwood was welcome back. He had received numerous letters from punters requesting that the ban be lifted, as it was unjust. One complaint made to us by a customer we did feel was fair enough: he objected to Fleetwood being on the seats. At first we put our coats down for him, but then we bought a cat bed and put him in that. This works amazingly well; he clearly knows the bed is his, and will go in it wherever it's placed. What's more, he stays in it without trying to wander off.
"My wife and I both have an interest in music, and most of our travels have a strong musical context (music festivals, pub music sessions, etc.). It was clear that Fleetwood enjoyed his pub visits, and it was equally obvious that he loved being in the camper van (you know pretty quickly whether a cat wants to do something or not), so we generally take him to the various pubs we visit. Even stranger is the fact that he seems to love listening to music, to judge by the deep, contented purring to be heard when he's in there beside the players! Of course, we always enquire at a 'new' pub whether he will be allowed in or not; we've found through experience that the question, 'Do you allow animals in on leads?' works best. If the answer is 'yes', then we point out that it's a cat; if the answer is 'no', we just accept it. If the answer is, 'We donít allow dogs in,' we point out he's not a dog; which more often than not has gained him entry. Though many pubs have rules about dogs, very few have a rule about cats! In his four years so far and up to September 2007 he has been in 52 licensed premises which may say more about us than about him! You can find a record of his visits at Fleetwood's Travels [where there are also many more photos of Fleetwood enjoying his musical pub outings.' Ed.]. Refusals are infrequent, though it did take until September this year  for him to gain access to a pub in his home town of Fleetwood; our thanks to The Steamer for that privilege.
"Of course, life's not always fun, even for a cat. Two years ago he disappeared from home for three days, turning up again on Christmas Eve. Amongst other injuries, he had a dislocated tail, clearly the result of an encounter with a moving vehicle. We were distraught, and he was a regular at the vets for nearly three months, running up a bill for some £1100 (well over 1500 dollars). Fortunately he made a full recovery, albeit minus what had been a magnificent tail. For this reason, we occasionally refer to him as 'Fleetwood Manx'. He doesn't seem to mind!"
Fleetwood continues to get around, and his tally of licensed premises visited has climbed to 87 (September 2009).
We understand that he spends most of his pub visits just sleeping: as one commentator put it, 'He goes to folk sessions and sleeps through everything from banjo to bagpipes in his fleecy, tiger-striped basket'! By a curious coincidence, at one pub the Sun Inn in Lothianbridge Fleetwood met their resident cat, Tiger, who is also ginger and who also lost his tail in a road accident. Apparently they studiously ignored each other.