We have a cat….. No! Let me start again. There’s a cat that lives in our house. It has done so for about 16 years, which according to my reckoning puts her at about the human equivalent of 300 years old. She wasn’t new when she arrived, probably the feline equivalent of a teenager. She was acquired from a local cat rescue mission, in response to daughter #2’s need to own a pet. The need inevitably wore off once the harsh reality of pet ownership struck, and suddenly the cat became a shared resource. Its name is Treacle. It is black, but has a white dog collar. It was going to be called Dibley (after ‘The Vicar of…’), but that would have been just too cool, so Treacle it is. Perhaps that’s a good thing; in the present circumstances Dawn French could sue.
Treacle is a cat of many parts; part deaf, part blind, part senile, part incontinent and partly arthritic. Certain body organs only continue to function in response to extortionate veterinary bills. Despite the interventions and meds, she has also become something of a gourmet in her advanced years, developing a fine palate and a discriminatory attitude to a multiplicity of feline foodstuffs. These feedstuffs represent a financial and geographic challenge in their acquisition by the catering staff. They are served in the kitchen at a 24×7 luxury buffet. [It’s a line of saucers perfectly positioned in front of the washing machine – should any piece of laundry slip from your grasp as you extract it from the Bosch, it is destined to drop into one or more of the irresistible feline treats in the buffet below.]
Commensurate with her advancing years, her behaviour has adjusted accordingly. No more can she be bothered to pop outside when nature calls; it’s a short trip to the utility room, stand in the litter tray and fire No.1s or No.2s in random directions – well, it keeps the litter tray clean, even if the utility room is a bio-hazard. She can often be found around the house staring at the wall; any wall will do – she’s not fussed. The assorted wild life that populates the garden can go about their business unhindered; birds, squirrels, mice and frogs now enjoy an unmolested lifestyle. She may often sit at the patio window and watch, whilst her brain wrestles with distant memories of the chase and the kill. Occasionally, a few feline neurons will connect and encourage her to exit, arthritically, via the cat flap, but by the time she’s made it through, she’s forgotten why she went out there.
The familiar, gentle meow and purr have long since
transformed into a feline howl – presumably her meow and purring apparatus has also deteriorated. The digital communication system (meow = I need food, purr = I am having fun clawing your legs whilst I rest in your lap) is now reduced to a monotone that varies only in volume. Interpretation of its intended message is a challenge of epic proportions; even she can’t remember why she’s doing it.
But despite the decline, there is good news. No longer does she shred the loose covers on the three-piece suite; or use the kitchen wall as a scratching post; or bring a variety of small furry creatures into the house to play with, and then forget to take them back out; or use the stair carpet as a scratching post; or race through the house at breakneck speed, giving the impression of being chased by a pack of wolves; or use me as a scratching post.
Oh, that fatal question: ‘Daddy, can I have a cat?’ Did I really say ‘yes’?