PULLING over the car to admire the view of a loch while on our holiday on South Uist, I decided to get out and photograph four Shetland ponies grazing besides the water. Four heads rose instantly. Eight ears pricked alertly. Nostrils flared (theirs not mine) and as if with one brain shared between the group, the four little ponies tramped steadfastly towards the car.

Within seconds, an enquiring head was poked through the open car window. If the pony could have spoken, the expectation of a snack was very clearly expressed. One apple donated, I closed the window and asked John to drive on very slowly away from the group.

This was the second example of animals accosting people I have seen this week. The first, far more unlikely than the ponies, but possessed of an even greater sense of cunning and expectation, was when we met up with Columbus the cat, near a car ferry on the island of Harris.

While waiting for the ferry to take us over to North Uist, I spotted a rather dozy looking feline snuggled up close to a van selling refreshments. The delicious smell of fish and chips drifted from this van, and as we had arrived early, we decided this would make a handy lunch for us. Back in the car we opened the doors while we tucked in and it was only when I was taking back the chip papers that our lunch had been wrapped in, that I spotted we had a stowaway. Columbus. After shooing him out of the car I remarked to refreshment van owner that it was lucky that we had not taken the cat on the ferry.

“Oh that was his plan,” he answered. Apparently this cat is a frequent stowaway. On his travels he has lost an ear and because of his predilection for fathering numerous kittens, his reproductive kit too. He has been returned by plane, boat, lorry and car and likes nothing better than a bit of VIP treatment on his return to sender as it were.

A plan by the port authorities to ensure that Columbus’s extended family were also sterilised (all 18 of them at the time) was, however, thwarted by Columbus himself. Not only a skilled stowaway, he also quickly learnt the trick of releasing the bait intended to lure his offspring into the traps, and gobbling it all up himself.

I never did hear the end of the story as an impatient toot from our car indicated that the ferry had arrived and it was time to sail. Minus Columbus and his metaphorical knapsack.