Once upon a time, a man found a dented oil lamp in a junk shop. He polished it up, and upon the appearance of the inevitable genie, he wished to be a pussy magnet. (He was an unsubtle individual.)
This was not what he had in mind, but it served him right.
A cat or two can come in handy in a house with no central heating, particularly in January. Strategically arranged, they can be used to prevent frostbite, keep chilly draughts out and warm the bed up before you retire of an evening, thereby mitigating to some extent that getting-into-a-pond feeling. (I must get an electric blanket this winter. It’s that or a flannelette nightie with Wee Willie Winkie hat, and self respect demands that I draw the line somewhere. Financial constraints demand that I draw it well before turning the convector heaters on.)
It is possible, however, to become over-infested with felines. Currently we have two and a half, which is half a cat more than we bargained for, and the courtyard outside has become cat central, a complicated parallel universe replete with complicated political alliances, scandalous dalliances and occasional brief outbreaks of blitzkreig.
Current top cat and despotic tyrant is Thing With Nuts, a whole tom resident at an unknown location outside the courtyard, who conducts regular pillaging raids during which he carries off maidens, scoffs everyone’s dinner and terrorises the residents. The Genghis Khan of the cat world, a kind of one-moggy barbarian horde.
Thing With Nuts is occasionally seen off following guerilla action by Little Fatty, a long term resident and neutered female who takes no shit from anyone. Always assuming she can be bothered – most of the time she’s hors de combat as a result of being full of expensive vet-recommended cat food and asleep on the bed with all paws in the air.
This means that Eric, neutered male and complete pansy, generally takes the full brunt of the pillaging horde and consequently sports a nervous demeanor and permanent scratching to the nose and ears. This is part of an ongoing power struggle which has seen Eric deposed from his position of foremost feline (gained by length of residence and held purely by absence of serious challengers, it has to be said) and exiled to Under The Twingo. Very humiliating.
A recent newcomer to feline political life is Psycho Bob, who turned up last autumn as a kitten courtesy of our vodka-swilling Polish neighbour. He promptly disappeared in December, but shot out onto the scene again in April, much bigger and fluffier, and determined not to go anywhere near the tiny holiday apartment in which he had been held prisoner all winter. Following his self-imposed homelessness he is currently trying to move in with Eric and Little Fatty, who are proving ambivalent but can clearly see the advantages inherent in forming an alliance in the face of repeated incursions by Thing With Nuts.
The delicate manoeuverings involved in sorting out an acceptable pecking order within the household involve the rest of us in ridiculous shenanigans in a bid to keep the peace. Eric, keen to retain the top cat position in his own domain if nowhere else, considers it his right to have first choice of food bowl. And the bowl he chooses is …… whichever one Psycho Bob has gone for. Hissing and cuffing round the ears ensues. Psycho Bob retires to the futon while Eric prowls up and down in a huff. Little Fatty – who personally doesn’t care as long as she gets breakfast – defers to Eric as is her habit, and backs him up on the grounds that uppity newcomers could become a problem later on. Meanwhile, person in dressing gown rearranges food bowls, pours oil on ruffled fur and generally acts as cats’ bitch. There are times when you wonder who it is that pays the mortgage round here. The solution, arrived at by trial and error over a period of weeks, is to place the bowls such that no cat’s line of vision intersects with any other cat’s location, something which requires complicated geometrical calculation, taking into account variables such as which way round each cat might be facing at any given time.
Having negotiated breakfast the rest of the day is straightforward, since all cats are either asleep, out marauding, or eating at their second (and in some cases third) homes. But bedtime brings the challenge of rounding up the residents and getting them into the house. The alternative is going to bed and leaving the catflap on in-only then having to get up at three in the morning to evict opportunist interlopers who decide to check out the food bowls and then try to batter the door down in a bit to get out again. Last time this happened, JC went downstairs to boot the culprit, only to be faced with a feral demon which squirmed from his grasp and waded in with all claws blazing. He ended up flinging the balcony doors open and drop-kicking the thing over the railing, oblivious to the fact that he was stark naked and dripping with blood. The following morning revealed a laceration the length of his forearm and a bitten hand already verging on gangrenous.
Still, we have a less pressing problem than our other neighbours, whose black and ginger Shameless Hussy found herself in a delicate condition following a brief liaison with Thing With Nuts, who had caddishly seduced her and then cast her aside, leaving her with three telltale tabby kittens. Shameless Hussy is now booked in for a visit to the vet, since next door already have two teenagers, two dogs and Elderly Cat With One Eye to deal with, and can do without a permanent population of illegitimate youngsters rampaging around the premises.