Sunday, December 14, 2014

Arguments With My Cat …

OK, I’ll admit right from the start that the cat involved in this tale isn’t actually mine. I’m currently house- and cat-sitting while the owner’s out of the country. Not, I sometimes think, that merely living in the same house as a cat should imply ownership on part of said human in relation to said feline.

In fact it’s far more likely that the cat views the humans it deigns to share space with as ‘staff’. We mistakenly view them as our ‘pets’ or -- worse than that -- as a working animal whose purpose in life is to keep the interior of the house free from small furry pests of any description.

This theory was put to the test by the slight ‘difference of opinion’ I had with the cat-with-whom-I-share-space recently.

With the Holiday Season imminent, I’ve been trying to get a little gift buying done and, as is always the way at Christmas, some of those gifts are of an edible nature. Foolishly, perhaps, considering the house I’m sitting is in a rural location, I’d stacked my To Be Wrapped pile in a corner of my bedroom.

Two-thirty a.m.

Scutter, scutter, scutter.

I turn light on. Look at TBW pile of gifts. Why is one of them knocked sideways on the floor…?

Me: (in slightly dopey state) “Hmm, probably nothing, and it’s two-thirty in the morning, for heaven’s sake. What am I going to do about it at this time? Try to ignore it, that’s what.”

I straighten up pile and turn light out.

Three a.m.

Scutter, scutter, scutter.

I turn light on again. Small dark furry projectile launches from TBW pile through minute gap in skirting board.

Me: “Right, that’s it. Where’s the cat?”

The cat, naturally, is curled up downstairs protecting the sitting room from the effects of log-burning stove by lying in front of stove and attempting to sop up all heat output before it reaches room.

Me: “Come with me. I have a job for you.”

Cat: “Eh? Do you have any idea what time it is?”

I put anything edible out of TBW pile into rodent-proof places, like the fridge, and carry slightly offended cat upstairs. She graciously accedes to stay on the end of the bed while I get back into it and turn light out.

Three-thirty a.m.

Scutter, scutter, scutter.

I turn light on. Cat, miraculously, is still on end of bed. Mouse is back on TBW pile, which clearly retains enough smell of chocolate to still be interesting. I wake up cat and point her at mouse. She catches sight of it and snaps out of her usual state of indifference to launch herself off bed and pursue mouse.

Mouse scarpers through same minute gap in skirting board as previously. Cat sits down a foot away and stares at hole with an intensity which suggests a finely honed hunter/killer instinct.

And, I have to say, this is not the first time I’ve cat-sat for this particular feline, and she’s pretty sharp when it comes to reducing the local population of fur, with the occasional sideline into feather. Pens, yoghurt pots and laser points also cower at her approach. It’s what cats do.

Or so I thought…

Foolishly believing the situation is in the hands (claws) of an expert, I turn light out.

Four a.m.

Scutter, scutter, scutter.

I turn light on, recalling as I do so that although I’ve moved any edible gifts, I may have left a packet of mints in a bag on the other side of the room. I get out of bed. The cat has disappeared. I open the top of the bag and, sure enough, the mint packet is now slightly chewed and surrounded by scraps of ripped paper packaging. I close the bag.

Me: “Hang on, where’s the mouse?”

I open the bag again. This time, small furry projectile catapults out of bag and disappears across floor at warp speed to disappear through gap in skirting again.

Me: "More to the point, where's the cat?"

I go back downstairs to find cat has returned to the vital job of absorbing heat from wood-burning stove. I resort to good old-fashioned mousetrap, baited with peanut butter, which I leave six inches from gap in skirting and turn light out.

Four-twenty a.m.


I turn light on. Mousetrap has done its stuff.

Unfortunately, mouse is not dead.

I go back downstairs to fetch cat, who is bordering on grumpy by this time. That makes two of us. I carry her upstairs and plonk her down in front of mouse in trap.

Me: “Cat, mouse. Mouse, cat.”

Cat: (prods at still-wriggling mouse with desultory paw) “Yeah, it’s a mouse. And your point is?”

Me:  “You’re a cat. You kill mice. OK, killer, do your duty.”

Cat: “Ah, no mate. I don’t do yer Dispatch Only, see? I do yer Catch and Dispatch, but Dispatch Only? At this time of night? Nah, it’s against regulations. Not without a risk assessment and forms in triplicate. No can do.”

Me: “Oh, for heaven’s sake…”

I carry mouse, still in trap, plus cat, downstairs and open back door, release mouse and drop cat next to it.

Me: “OK, now it needs both Catching AND Dispatching. Get on with it.”

Cat: “Hell’s teeth, are you nuts? It’s freezing out here.”

At which point she shoots back inside and I am left to deal with mouse, which I do, and come back in to find cat is back in front of wood-burner.

Cat: “We will never speak of this again.”

Me: “Traitor…”

So, the moral of this one is, never try to win an argument with a cat -- your own or that to which you are only temporarily indentured. You’ll end up doing the job yourself anyway.

This week’s Word of the Week is felicide, meaning the killing of a cat. I wonder why there should be a special word for that? But to balance the scales there’s also felicificative, meaning a tendency to make happy, possibly even as the result of being owned by a cat.


  1. Great column, Zoë! Being owned by two cats (currently) and an uncountable number in the past, my sympathies abound. The only solace is that I've out-survived all of them (but the last two, so far...)

    As much as I love cats, though, I must admit that one of the most emotionally devastating events for me was holding the head of our 11-ish-year old labrador while the vet put him to sleep (his back hips had gotten so bad that he could no longer stand). The love shown from his eyes still bright, and then everything melted into that unmistakable limpness of death. Holding him and burying him were one of the hardest things I've ever done, and over 15 years later, thinking about it still brings me to the brink of tears.

    1. Everett, that to me is the only real downside to our animals buddies, that they don't hang around as long as we do. It's never long enough.

    2. Hi EvKa. I so understand about the terrible pain of losing a beloved pet. But the joy they provide while they're with us means we're always prepared to take the chance of heartbreak.

    3. Too true, Lisa. And the longest lived animals -- elephants, jellyfish, whales, eels, ocean quahog and Galapagos Giant Tortoises, are not exactly cuddly as pets ...

  2. I love Simon's Cat. Reminds of the ones I had until I became highly allergic and had to give them away. Hard day, very hard.

    Besides, now I have to chase after the mice on my own, when I hear "scutter, scutter, scutter" in the rafters.

    1. Hey Jeff. I love the Simon's Cat cartoons, too. Right from the first time I saw 'Wake Up and Feed Me'

      And if you're quick enough to catch mice I'm truly impressed. Those little furry suckers are FAST!

  3. Zoe, I love this. you write better dialog for the cat than many writers can produce for their main characters!!!

    1. LOL, thanks, Annamaria. To me, she IS a main character :)

  4. Dare I say.. what a cat-astrophe ;)

    1. Arf, arf. Damn, now why didn't *I* think of that pun? Nicely done sir/madam. Nicely done.

  5. I have 11 of the little feline darlings and I am trained to do their bidding. They have a very strong union and I worry for myself should I cross the line of expectations.

    1. A very strong union, not to mention very sharp claws ... :)