My friend was living across town in Melbourne, in a neighbourhood surrounded by warehouses and crappy shops, when she noticed this scraggy ginger kitten living wild in a hole in the wall. She started leaving food for him. One night it absolutely bucketed down with rain. She heard a meow and opened the back door to find this soggy little guy sitting there.
She scooped him up and brought him inside, then rang me and said, "Julia, I've got you a kitten." I was really depressed at the time and was like, "I can't look after a cat — I can't even look after myself!"
I went over and he was hiding right at the end of some rolled-up carpet, hissing at everyone. We had to tip him out. But as soon as I picked him up and held him, he just started purring. We named him Ramone, after a band poster on the wall in our flat.
He's 17 now and he's our buddy, definitely a member of the family. My sister calls him the cat-dog. He's very handsome and has always weighed about 8kg, but he's never been fat. He's just a really tall cat.
Ramone has helped me through a lot. I'd moved to Melbourne with Fur Patrol and we worked our fingers to the bone but everything just kind of fell apart. We were emotionally, physically, mentally and financially exhausted.
By 2004, I was working in a shop and at the point where I was wondering whether I should even continue with music. I'd never thought that before in my life, so it was quite confronting. But I think having Ramone to look after definitely stopped me thinking so much about my own predicament.
When [partner] David and I moved home to New Zealand, we were lined up to give Ramone to a friend of my sister but it was devastating to leave him behind. David had to go back to Melbourne for work and was sitting on the bed looking at Ramone and thinking, "This isn't right." So we flew him to Auckland and when we picked him up from the airport, I bent down and looked through the bars of the crate and he was like, "Man, you won't believe what just happened to me …"
Ramone has staked out his position in the neighbourhood here but over the past few years he's slowed down a bit. He sleeps on the bed. He sleeps on the couch. He sleeps by the fireplace. Sometimes he sleeps in the middle of the kitchen floor.
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He's not a lap cat, but he likes being around people. If we're editing in the studio, he'll come down and hang out for a while. He's never really been that into the music, though. He doesn't like the drums.
— As told to Joanna Wane
Julia Deans appears in the live show Mansfield – In Her Own Words (Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington, June 14; Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland, June 20), performing her musical interpretation of To L.H.B., a poem Katherine Mansfield wrote for her younger brother Leslie, who was killed during World War I at the age of 21. Her Joni Mitchell tribute show, Both Sides Now, is on at The Civic's Wintergarden as part of the Auckland Live Cabaret Season (June 27 and July 4), and a limited edition of Fur Patrol's 2000 debut album, Pet, has just been released on double vinyl.