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December 22nd, 2012
December 22nd, 2012

Olympic Athelete Malcolm Howard

Channeling Basil Fawlty

Malcolm and his Burmese feline, Basil Fawlty
Malcolm and his Burmese feline, Basil Fawlty
Photos courtesy of the Howard Family

Basil is a champagne coloured Burmese cat who has grown into his namesake:  Basil Fawlty.  Like the character on the 70īs British sit-com, Fawlty Towers, Basilīs antics and intensity generally bring on troubles, much to the amusement of his owner, Malcolm Howard.

While training with Canadaīs national rowing team in 2007, Malcolm was living with his mother, here in Victoria, when the idea of getting a cat came up.  Jake Weitzel, a national teammate, put Malcolm in contact with the breeder where he had already picked up a cat.  Not surprisingly,  “As soon as we saw the kittens we knew we were going to get one,” states Malcolm.  Initially Basil was meant to be the family pet, however, things didnīt work out that way.  “My Momīs a big knitter and Basil and my Mom have not always gotten along very well because of the whole knitting thing.” Basil had more contact with Malcolm than anyone else, so their bond grew very strong.  “Then I met my wife, Erika, and he just adores her too,” which helps.

Malcolmīs family had both a cat and a dog while he was growing up here on the Island.  Given the demands of competitive rowing, when it came time for him to select a pet, Malcolm felt a cat was the most appropriate choice.  “Youīre so busy, so much going on, you donīt have the time to exercise the animal.  Whereas with a cat it just works a little bit better with the lifestyle.  He is very excited when you come home; he comes and spends some time with you, sits on your lap and is happy there.  But, he is also quite happy to spend time on his own, as well.”   And Basil has had to adapt.  Not just to Malcolmīs absences while rowing for Canadaīs Olympic gold medal in Beijing and silver medal in London, but also when Malcolm recently relocated to London to study at Oxford.   A move Malcolm feels Basil has adapted to “super fast”.

Malcolm depicts Basil as affectionate, very playful and rambunctious.  He is an indoor cat because “heīd get into way too much trouble if we let him outside.”  Basilīs favorite toy is a string he managed to remove from the hood of one of Malcolmīs sweatshirts when he was just a kitten. Several years later it remains his favorite and no other string will do. “Heīll even play fetch with it, if he is in the mood.” Basil has other toys, including a huge tree house/scratching post that is 5-6ī tall.  He also likes to leap between the tops of two 6ī tall wardrobes that are about 41/2 feet apart.  But it is the racing antics that endear Basil to Malcolm.  For some reason Basil likes to do laps in the apartment around the time his owners decide to go to bed.   Malcolm describes one incident, “We donīt know where he is and my wife and I are brushing our teeth and all of a sudden we hear this running cat and he sprints into the bathroom, jumps behind us, full speed, expecting to land on the laundry hamper.  The only trouble, he didnīt realize the lid of the laundry hamper was open.  Straight into the laundry hamper, slams it shut, right in there. Then you just hear this little meow from inside.”

Just like the TV character, when frustrated, Basil reacts. While living in Victoria, and told not to jump on a lap as the Howards ate dinner, Basilīs reaction was to “Talk back to us as most Burmese do. Then weīd hear him sprint away, and jump in the bathtub.  Then heīd do a circuit of the bathtub and so you could hear him running along the wall and then heīd sprint back downstairs.”  

Sometimes that affectionate side of Basilīs personality and the love it generates comes in handy.  As Malcolm explains, “He is allowed to sleep with us. The other night, I donīt know if he was jet lagged or what, but he decided he was going to jump across us on the bed and misjudged it and jumped right onto my face.   I was sound asleep.  I think he was as shocked as I was.”   No doubt, Malcolm was digging deep into his reservoir of affection for Basil that night.  

For Basil every day brings new adventures and Malcolm gets great enjoyment out of being around Basil, anticipating his mayhem and knowing “weīll have him for a long, long time.”

(see the PDF Newsletter for all the articles)

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More Images

Basil & Malcolm at play
Basil & Malcolm at play
Basil as a kitten
Basil as a kitten
Cat jump
Cat jump

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Comments (1 )
Namesake Basil got enough identification worldwide that people can recognize him with his uniqueness. He seems to be a candid person who has great insight towards life and sports.
February 21st, 2013 00:40:47
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