Falling for All the Cats

Sometimes, if I’m being a bit fanciful, I like to think there are little bits of genuine magic here and there in the world. I’m not a witch or a believer in much of anything, it’s not anything like that. It’s just, sometimes, something will seem so unworldly or amazing that one can at least dream that it might be supernatural.


Cats are one such thing.

For a solid fifty-seven years of my life, cats meant not a jot to me. They sidled around the periphery of my consciousness, tails raised in the air, and I didn’t trouble them and they didn’t trouble me. Don’t’ get me wrong, I had a couple of run-ins, good and bad, which are recorded elsewhere in these pages. But mostly, by-and-large, our paths didn’t cross and that was fine with both of us.

Until that darned cat had its babies in my garage. That story is well-documented in the aforementioned pages and I’m not going to rehash it now. The point is that the darned cat became a solid part of our lives and, although she now lives in comparative luxury in the garage, and gets fed many times a day, she does not wish to be in the house and she eschews all attempts at petting (unless it’s from Patricia, who has built a remarkable bond with her).

The darned cat, who is called ‘Puddy,’ is the one who has worked this charm, this debatable piece of real magic in the world. Here’s what she’s managed to do. She had made me interested in her but, more than that, she has made me interested in all of the cats everywhere. After nigh on fifty-seven years as a committed dog person, I seem to have veered wildly over to the cat side. What can this be, if not a little cat magic?

I think it’s been going on a while but it really came into my consciousness when I was on holiday in Spain a few weeks ago. Every time an inevitable moggy came lurking around a dinner table, I was all, ‘Oh, look at him! Isn’t he marvellous?’ and getting hissed-at and threatened at every doomed approach I made to them.

Back home and I now see how all the cats of my town engage me similarly, as do all the cats on Facebook and Twitter. A cat from an adjoining neighbourhood has recently wandered off, according to social media updates, and I scour the hedges and peer over the garden walls in the hope of finding him and bringing him safely home.

I mean, who the fuck am I?

Reading back, I find that I’m being just a little bit disingenuous. I’m painting a picture of how I’m simply fascinated with the wide world of cats and that is the beginning and the end of it. But it’s not. Although it is true that the cat universe seems to have sucked me deep inside, there is another aspect to it all.

I am not just fascinated by all the cats; I am fascinated by our own cat.

Like I said, our own adopted neighbourhood cat, who is also adopted by at least two other families in the neighbourhood, won’t let me pet her or even touch her. But, like a teasing first date, she does everything else. She follows me up the road when I walk home from work, she rolls all over my feet and purrs when I’m seating outside. She even inveigles herself in between my shins while I’m trying to fill her bowl with breakfast. She dozes in the sunshine on the front doorstep and perches on the windowsill and watches telly with us. She plays boldly with all her toys, plainly trying to assassinate each and every one, and she skitters away into the hedge whenever the toys do something unexpected or something deemed to be excessive.

And I love having her around. She has brought me out into my back yard as I have never been before, as we sit and watch the deepening gloom together. I love the ‘cattiness’ of her. The unsolvable mixture of endless guile and incredible stupidity. Every ‘catty’ move she makes or behaviour she exhibits warrants a dash to the Internet to see what it means and whether it is ‘Cat Canon’. And, every time, it is. I can confirm, with delight, that our cat is a ‘catty-cat’ with all the catty attributes one could hope for. She yawns, she arches her back, she turns into a zombie when she gets a couple of birds in her sights, she ‘loafs’, she ‘makes biscuits’ in her daytime bed. All of these things are new and endearing to an old dog-person like me.

I still like dogs, sure I do. It’s just that… well… I don’t know.

What is it about cats? A cat is a model of poise and elegance of movement and a cat that is lucky enough to live her life well presents an enviable balance of sloth, found comfort, and limited adventure. More, though, even if a cat doesn’t share human emotions, it has a great talent for presenting as very sad when it is in sad circumstances, very pissed-off when we feel it has reason to be so, and, crucially, very happy when it is in an apparently happy place. The struggle to keep one’s cat in a constant happy place perhaps reflects our own failed struggle to keep ourselves in that same happy place. If we can’t always manage it for ourselves, we can at least try hard to do it for the cat.

And so, though the cat is clearly self-centred and evidently manipulative, we can take pleasure from giving pussy the quality of life we cannot give to ourselves and thus live a little vicariously through her.

I have to go. One of the neighbours who also feeds our cat is gone away for the weekend so a little extra kibble is required by our beautiful outside lodger. I don’t want to keep her waiting by the bowl. Why should I?

If she’s happy, I’m a little happier myself.


marty47 said...

I'm in same boat Ken, we took in Steve a well marked 'Tuxie'as a passing guest 8 years ago, after having a brush with a disgruntled sport supporter which left his right leg/shoulder shattered,it became permanent,surgery followed ,one happy cat now. Ali a little kitten ,some 'do gooders' trapped her mother, left her alone, with double pnuemonia & both eyes badly infected, bad prognosis, but a year on ,neutered & bad eye removed, she rules the menagerie, of Stevie & Harry the Springer. Cats were never an interest to me til Steve, but they have fascinating personalities. Steve personifies cool, nothing fazes him, things are done at his own pace. Ali is frenetic, she follows me most places,sits at washing machine waiting to claw the tumbling load thru the glass 'porthole', then on to fireplace, trying to grab the coals I drop when lighting,the jamjar lid football begins, a future star. Cats havea secret way of mesmerising humans, all the time retaining a degree of the enegmatic about themaelves, Hope you're keeping well Ken

Ken Armstrong said...

Glad to know it's not just me, G. All good here, mate. :)

Jim Murdoch said...

As I’ve mentioned before I grew up around cats. My mother took in strays and they stayed until they died or, in the case of Biggie, until she died. Mum was not very creative when it came to giving cats names. Black cats were Blackie or Sooty; white cats, Snowy; black and white cats, Minstrel. They were all different. Tom was fearless—he’d take on any dog that ventured into his domain—whereas Tigger lived his entire life in our back garden and was scared of his shadow. Our neighbour’s cat—our time-share cat—is called Spock (well-named too) and he’s different again. I don’t know if next door bought him but I suspect he was a stray they adopted only to realise down the line they weren’t the only ones. He turns up anything from not at all to ten times a day and expects fed every time he does and mostly that’s what happens. Sometimes he stays and naps, sometimes he heads straight to the back door and won’t even let me open it properly before he’s trying to squeeze himself through the gap. But he fascinates me no end. It’s his unpredictability. He started curling up outside Carrie’s office so I began putting a pillow there which he took to for ten minutes and then refused to go anywhere near. The Amazon box had its day too. The chair in the kitchen is still a bit of a favourite but recently he’s been kipping in front of the bookcase on the landing outside my office. If he wants out he’ll sashay into the living room and sit in the window or just look at us—Well? What’re you doing just sitting there?—or mewl forlornly from the hall or down the stairs. My daughter came over on Friday and we did Christmas finally and I was telling her about the cat and how he wasn’t very affectionate—and he isn’t—but then what happened an hour after she left? The cat came in, ate like it was going out of fashion and then bolted up the stairs with me to the living room and crawled all over Carrie and me looking for more to eat. I mean we knew that’s what he was after—we’re no dummies—but we can’t say the faux-affection wasn’t nice. So what if he had ulterior motives. I do wish Spock would purr more. I say “more” because Carrie says she’s felt him purr but I’d like to hear him. Never known a cat that didn’t purr before. Very odd. But apparently a thing.

Ken Armstrong said...

Hi Jim, I think we could have the basis of a little Cat Appreciation Society here. I love hearing about Spock's preferences and foibles. It helps me know that our own Puddy is not alone in being a bit eccentric. :)