Lesson 2/3 Never buy a kitten in a hurry
In a moment of weakness I was persuaded to have our first cat.There had been a notice in the local vets saying “Good home wanted for mature cat”. My daughter saw it and started campaigning. I was in bed suffering from some malady and I gave in.
He was the most beautifully marked tabby and he chatted. If you spoke to him, he would miaow back. He was a bold cat, who devoted much of his time to defending his territory. Whenever he sniffed invasion by another neighbourhood cat, he would pursue the offender to exact revenge. I once had to cough up for the victim’s resulting vet bill.
When he died suddenly, our distress was such that we decided we needed a kitten immediately to fill the cat-shaped gap in our life. That’s how I learnt that it’s a very bad idea to look for instant replacements
The rescue organisations said it was not “kitten season”! I never knew kittens arrived in seasons, but I was not going to be defeated. I phoned round all the pet shops in the area until I tracked down a solitary kitten, then I did exactly what they always warn you against. I bought a kitten from a scruffy back-street source, and never saw its mother.
He started off as a cute, cuddly little thing. But as he grew he began to show worrying traits. For a start, he growled. Trying to remove any scrap of food from him was a perilous exercise. He would growl fiercely and, if you persisted, he would go for you, claws and teeth bared.
It was a bit like living with a smallish jaguar.
To attract attention he would yowl at amazing volume. There was no cat flap, so to get in or out he made a huge row. He didn’t believe in waiting patiently. To make sure we heard him if we were in bed, he discovered how to climb up onto the garage roof and perch himself on the corner below our window. In order to stop him disturbing the entire neighbourhood we would have to sprint downstairs to let him in.
We took to feeding him last thing at night, to keep him quiet and content till morning. Once, when we were at the pub down the road, a bit later than usual and past his dinnertime, he turned up scratching at the door till somebody opened it for him.
“There’s a cat outside! Does it belong to anyone?”
There he sat on the pavement, waving his tail with displeasure, to the general amusement of all, till we hurriedly finished our drinks.
He loved cars. He would sneak in behind you, given half a chance. The times I drove away to look in the rearview mirror and see him sitting on the shelf in the back window. Whenever our neighbour used to work on his car, our cat would be out there like a shot, sitting on the wing watching his every move. Nobody dared to touch him.
His other favourite entertainment was to sit on our gatepost, pretending he was a nice cat, and when a kindly cat lover stopped to admire him, he would allow them a couple of strokes before slashing out at them with his claws.
“I’m going to have you put down!” I would threaten him, whenever he committed some new atrocity, but he would just retreat upstairs to the bedroom of his protectress. There he would stretch out languorously on her bed, while she leapt to defence.
“He’s my cat! You can’t touch him! He’s my pet!” He would lie there, sucking up to her and purring.
His eventual downfall was his love of dodging cars, to the great alarm of their drivers. As he got older he got slower and he mistimed his final, fatal dash.
And would you believe it? I missed him!
But this time, when I went to the Cats’ Protection League, I requested a mature, affectionate companion animal – one who preferred a comfortable indoor lifestyle.