Column: The Cat(s)

It’s Thursday and I’m taking my cat to the vets.

This is the cat I hadn’t realised I was getting. That is, until it was too late. It had crept up on me and I was too invested to protest.

I had actually agreed. I just hadn’t realised it. I had been hoodwinked.

The great deception had come one evening during Location, Location, Location. The programme was about to reach it’s crescendo. Phil was pressuring the couple into making a choice. Would they go for the perfect house, a little over budget, or the compromise, but with some cash to spare? It is the question of our times and I, like the rest of the nation, was hooked. My girlfriend Michaela picked her moment. Her focus was razor sharp that evening. Not on Location, Location, Location, as I had been led to believe, but on me.

I’d heard a muffled question on the periphery of my concentration. It was high pitched, an assertive inflection, something on which my instinct told me I should agree. I ought to be a great boyfriend and lend her my support.

“Great idea, darling” I said, my gaze fixed on the screen.

Sure, I was inattentive. Sure, I trusted my man instinct. But history will teach you that a man’s instinct is his strength. We have proven time and again that we needn’t pay full attention – our gut feeling has been a reliable companion up to now – apart from the odd war or tragedy or injustice. OK, forget that bit. The fact remains; she knew what she was doing and she took advantage.

A few weeks passed, as did my hope that Michaela had forgotten all about it when they arrived, one Friday evening, in a bluster of fur and crying and stink.

Not only did I have this cat thrust upon me, she came with a kitten, too. Two of them. Two more than I’d realised I’d signed up for.

My dining room slowly turned into a cat playground, with climbing frames and polls and things to run along and scratch and rip – which does little to deter them from doing all those things to the carpet, too. That’s a memo they must have missed. And then there’s the public toilet, perched in the corner, that doubles up as a sandpit. Cat litter and faeces hurled across the room as if in protest. I must admit, I considered joining them on their picket line, not least in the mornings when my routine now involves using a plastic shovel to scoop up poo and urine – quite the start to the day, let me tell you.

And now I’m taking the Mum one to the vets. It’s a routine operation, but there is no convincing her as she moans and groans and scratches her carrier.

I drop her off in the waiting room and an overly friendly woman, her neck full of the scars of a recent struggle with an inpatient, informs me that she should be ready to collect by tea time and that I should expect a call. I consider puncturing her good mood by pointing out that she gets beaten up by animals for a living, but I think better of it and turn to leave.

I’m heading for the door and… wait… what is that strange sensation in my stomach? I’m overcome by a churning feeling. I grab a lamppost to steady myself and flick back through what I’ve eaten. No chicken. No takeout. Nothing I could have undercooked.

I take short, sharp in takes of breath as I realise – could it be? It is. It’s anxiety. I’m anxious. I’m anxious about this cat and her operation. Where has this come from?

All I can bring myself to see is this poor, helpless creature – relying on me. She might not want to admit it, and I might not get much affection in return, but our powerful relationship exists on a higher level – a level that is hard to explain unless you have been there. When a living thing is suddenly, completely, utterly dependent on you to feed it, clean it and nurture it, it comes wrapped in a package of love and emotion. It’s a new sort of man instinct, with a feeling so strong you need to hold yourself up on lampposts.

I have a fleeing realisation that I might be a bit broody, but brush past it as quickly as I can. One thing at a time and a cat will do for now.

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By Darryl Morris

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