Being a new cat lover is an interesting place to be in my life. A surreal place, for someone who grew up only with dogs. A place that, at one point – a point which has stretched on and on for most of my adult life, it has to be said – I didn’t think I would ever be. Being a new cat lover brings a wide range of challenges, but it also brings joy, inspiration and feelings of contentment (like the first time I picked a cat up and it didn’t appear noticeably threatened, for example). When I’m not clearing up cat sick, the contentment bit tends to be much higher, it’s true.
Bizarrely, my new found love – what started as a new found ability to tolerate cats in the same space as me – began one day when I almost tripped and fell down the stairs in my girlfriend’s house. Seeking sunshine, the younger of the two cats had cunningly decided to wedge herself against one of the steps at the top, hidden in such a way that I only noticed her in that terrible moment when forced to make a choice: either sacrifice the cat’s life for the sake of my own, or shift my bodyweight and miss the animal entirely. Surprised to find myself doing the latter, I stopped there, on the stairs, where the cats had made an obvious attempt on my life, and looked at them both. They looked back up at me, sprawled out and reckless and, it has to be said, not seeming particularly bothered in any way at all. Sitting down on the stairs, I pondered what to do with these strange new feelings I was having. A cat had almost caused me to fall to my doom, and there I was, not hating this cat, more curious than irritated…not resenting its freedom and incredible ability to make a full afternoon out of doing absolutely nothing.
“I think I might be a new cat lover,” I said to the cats. “I’m not sure if I’m ready or not, but I promise you I’ll try.”
This initial foray into cat appreciation was to be short-lived, of course. After a second and more crude attempt on my life later that same afternoon – this time resulting in a near-fatal bum-slide that had me acknowledging half the stairs with my ancient relic of a tail-bone – I was in a decidedly foul mood. I was in a stinker. The kind like when you’ve just picked up a pack of biscuits in the supermarket, and you drop them, smashing about half of them, and then feel obliged to buy the pack, because an assistant was watching you at the time. But it was then that a second event occurred which would have me questioning, once again, the place in my consciousness where the feline ones reside.
The cats were following me, meandering around my legs, mewing – this wasn’t me-owing, this was mewing – making it clear that they wanted something from me. Exclusively from me! From me? Yes. It was unmistakable. Not being any kind of expert, and concerned that I was reading more into this than was realistic, I asked Jen for her expert advice. Watching this display as I attempted to get a glass and fill it up with water, Jen confirmed what I’d been thinking: the cats wanted food from me. Not her, but me. The cats had chosen me as their one and only leader (for the day).
Now this was a revelation. I had gone from genuinely disliking cats to being their leader of the day! And while there were other more enthusiastic leaders around in plentiful supply, too!
Upon feeding the cats, however, any kind of bond between us seemed to vanish. I was clearly no longer their leader. Only bothered about the new slop I’d so kindly bequeathed them, the cats went back to their usual business and sauntered off in search of their new leader. I didn’t see them again for the rest of that day. Once again, I pondered how I had been used and thrown-away. Just another gullible human, tricked into doing the only thing the cats considered him good for.
It was to be several full days until the final episode in this catalogue of cat escapades happened, changing forever my viewpoint of the furry sack-like shape-changing critters.
We wanted to go to bed, but we couldn’t. Well, I couldn’t. Because beneath the bed was the older of the two cats. Clever, devious and conniving – it might seem like overkill to use such a spread of similar words, but I tell you it isn’t – the cat villain had planted herself beneath the bed in an impossible-to-get-to place. Again. And once I had seen her, there was no way I could simply get into bed and drift off to sleep, pretend like this had never happened. Anyone who has slept in the same house as a cat for any amount of time will understand why: either that cat is going to end up with its bum in your face at 5am, or they’re going to be scratching at the door to get out at around 3am, and the only way that’s going to happen is if you get up and physically let them out (call me sick, but at that point, a cat’s anus in the face almost seems preferable). After a quick consultation with Jen about this, which saw Jen amused and me less amused (by far), it was decided that it was my task to evacuate the cat from her den. I searched about the room and soon discovered a broom which was, by chance, broken and could have its head easily detached, making for a prime poking tool. This was to be my weapon of choice for coercing the feline from out, under the bed.
Obviously I couldn’t get her out though. For ten minutes I tried my best, jabbing at her and trying to swipe beneath her furry, sack-like body. But every time I was foiled. Either she got the best of my good nature by mewing and crying out in mock pain and anguish, or she swiped the broom handle with considerable force, attaching her claws to it and engaging me in a battle of mini tug-of-war that I would be foolish to try and win.
I went to bed in a vile rage, concerned for my imminent sleep’s welfare. I don’t think Jen got much sleep that night either.
Then something truly inexplicable happened. I awoke the following morning, only to find myself…having slept all the way through the night! Confused and scared for my life, I ferreted about for a few awful minutes, attempting to uncover the truth of my reality: was I awake? Was this some cruel dream? I looked under the bed and saw that the cat was no longer there. She must have escaped the room on her own sometime during the night. Elated, I got up and went downstairs. I felt like a new me. It felt like the start of an incredible new chapter where I could co-exist peacefully with cats.
Downstairs. Where I found the cats had been sick at various times during the night. One of them, all the way down the long, thin fridge, in an impressive cascade of bright yellow and brown muck. Lovely.
Despite the horrible sight – presumably a catty protest about the limited choice of slop available to them, contrasted with the stupendous choice which us humans so enjoyed – I smiled as I walked into the living room and saw the cats sitting there. I realised, then, that I had been fighting a losing battle all along. The cats weren’t my enemies, we were just from different worlds, is all. It was time to start new. Providing the cats didn’t keep on sabotaging my new open-minded approach to their existence by throwing-up all the way down the fridge, things would be good.