I’m not exactly a stranger to cats, I have fed and cat sat for friends, family and even professionally over the years, so I shouldn’t be too surprised when this particular juvenile feline specimen gleefully bounds towards me with mouse limply but firmly gripped and dangling from her chops of death.
However, this is the third unfortunate creature to be clasped in such a manner and plopped at my socked size tens in the same amount of intervening hours and the mouse dance is getting weary. I’m sure the cat believes this is excellent service. Gift supplying on a scale paramount to none: a rodent express. “From the killing fields of West Sussex to the unsuspecting sitting rooms of increasingly wizened, middle aged and bedraggled writers in a matter of moments” so this cat’s advertising rightly assures me. A service UPS or the Royal Mail no less would find hard to match in both in its regularity and punctuality. “Care to sign for this?” she intimates with a meow.
Perhaps Amazon should begin a cat mouth delivery service, I ponder. I’m not sure what sense of direction most cats have but this black and white fiend gets to my door without fail each time, every time. Another human fronted service bites the dust through the implementation of a more effective animal method, I think. And as this thought wanders through my cavernous, mostly empty, brain box I begin to drift away and wonder how I ever got into this situation on this cold morning in my “office”. For this cat is not even mine. My wife and I have no pets, we never have. This beast is, I have been convinced, a beautiful playful and sweet kitten, the looking after of is a lovely favour to our great friends whilst they traverse the pitfalls of finding and moving in to their first home together. “Bah!” I snort to myself whilst muttering something subconsciously about the nature of my friendships under my breath.
When I was a child my sisters and I were not allowed pets. Not under any circumstances. By the age I had become a pet curious boy I knew not to ask. My elder sister had done all the pleading before me. If her protestations had had no effect I, the mentally weaker of siblings, stood no chance. My mother, a fierce single mother bringing up 3 children on her own, had enough on her plate! Well, we did have an escapologist tortoise who, instead of obediently hibernating in a cardboard box, like Blue Peter said it should, applied the good old Colditz spirit by chewing his way out and making a “run” for it.
One year he had tunneled his way under five garden fences to number 38 by the time we caught up to him. No mean feat for any reptile in the colds of Lancashire in the 1980’s; never mind one with its whole house to carry with it. We soon had him back in his box. Which he chewed out of a second time and promptly buried himself under the rockery for the winter; just as promptly as the A-team escaped from that stockade as described in the opening sequence of the programme. I always thought promptly was an odd choice of words for an escape, but I digress. Our tortoise escaped “promptly” every year until one year he never resurfaced or escaped for good. We never found out which one it was.
Timmy the tortoise was our only pet growing up. Oh, my big sister has a suicidal fish too. Her fish threw himself out of his bowl in an attempt to be “free”. Free, away for the boy band poster filled walls and Culture Club on repeat. I like Boy George’s voice but on the twelfth rendition of “Do you really want to hurt me?” I don’t blame him I would have done it too.
I think my sister saved Robert (I called him Robert Fish, which was a very poor school boy pun on Robert Smith from The Cure) a couple of times but she couldn’t be on suicide watch forever, she had to go to school. You can imagine the emotional scene as she skipped into her room in a post school, boy band frenzy only to find her fish sadly flopped in the middle of her bedroom floor. One final and successful attempt at escape had been made, soon to be followed by a lovely send off in a match box coffin or ceremonial flushing. The two most popular ceremonies for pet fish I believe.
After that my mother put her foot down. No more animals. It was hard enough for her as a single mum to take charge of the three monkeys she had in the house as it was. Enough was enough.
I look on fondly on those pet free years as I stare down at the prostrate mouse placed lovingly before me.
Most mousey victims brought forth are biding their time pretending to have succumbed to the jaws of doom merely in repose, striking an alert death posture from which they spring to life soon after they hit my plushy carpet. This is the case with small mammal three of the day. From here our macabre three way dance begins as I try to save a rodent that does not want my help from a cat that only has my best interests at heart by providing me with a joyful gift. At least when the dance is done with a mouse and the cat is victorious the cat will eat it all the mouse excluding some choice cuts of offal and the intestines. If this was a dance with a Shrew the cat would not even eat her victim. Apparently Shrews don’ts make good eatin, they are just for post-mortem display.
As I have been in charge of the furry critter for several weeks by this point and I am quite adept at letting the kitten do most of the chasing whilst I strategically place our bathroom bin to scoop up the mice as the cat unwitting drives the creatures towards me. Suddenly a TV format for one man and his cat pops vividly into my tumble weed laden head. And as the cat does the rounding up and I move all the furniture around the office I see an end in sight. Reluctantly, yet swiftly, the mouse scurries into my humane rodent trap. Hurrah! It is at this point I lock the cat indoors for a short while I release the mouse.
“Now don’t get caught again!” I chastise the mouse.
“There’s no telling how many times I’ve saved you or if it’s the first time but for now we have the victory. Go and live your life, be free!” Needless to say the mouse does not stick around for the end of my speech and is happy to breathe fresh field air once more.
I re-enter the house and give the kitten a stroke. She is still prowling and patrolling the area from which I freed the mouse, hoping to find it and scoff the lot. I stroke her again. I can now see how cute she really is as she purrs around me rubbing my legs and giving me love. I stroke for a third time.
“Ahh, your quite sweet aren’t you?” I say affectionately. She bites my sodden socked feet. I go to get her some cat food. I know my place.