On Tuesday 10th March this year a thin, manky little coal black cat appeared in our hallway. She wandered in, looked around the house, miaowing piteously all the while and finally climbed onto my shoulders and drooled gently down my neck.
I am obliged to point out that this is not good for several reasons. Firstly I am asthmatic, secondly I am allergic to cats, thirdly the merest puncture from a cat’s claw has me up in red wheals that itch like billy-oh for a minimum of two hours. Lastly, but not leastly, I don’t like cats. I am a renowned cat-hater of this Parish. I am a dog person who likes all dogs indiscriminately and harbours lurking misgivings about my friends and family who keep cats for pleasure.
She was, however, clearly half starved so I gave her some scraps and a little warm milk which she devoured in seconds. She then curled up on the sofa and went to sleep. .The next morning she woke up, had more scraps and crapped in Boy the Younger’s bedroom. “Please let us keep her, please, please” wailed The Boys. “No”, I said firmly, “Her owners are probably missing her dreadfully, we are about to move house, she is clearly not house trained and I don’t like cats”. This was not deemed to be a reasonable excuse.
I gave her every opportunity to leave, I left doors open and stared at her is a nasty way. I did all the things one is supposed to do; I asked all the neighbours, I put some posters up and I took her to the vet to see if she had been chipped. She hadn’t and the vet said that she was little more than a kitten, generally healthy and that it was very common for country cats to snuggle down in the back of horse boxes then wake up 50 miles from home, lost and lonely. “Lost. And Lonely” crooned the Vet with glittering eyes. Oh crap.
How prescient. Over the next week, she relentlessly crapped in every corner of the bedroom and began weeing on the beds for good measure. Still, at least I discovered where the launderette is in Market Harborough and the quilts probably needed freshening up anyway. I had earmarked the £25 I eventually spent there for other fripperies like food, but cat wee smells like nothing else on earth and it was marginally cheaper than buying new duvets. All the while I was trying to pack up the extensive contents of my house ready to move. Every time I bent down, she would leap at me and sit on my neck while I tried to work, using needle-like claws as crampons on the Helvellyn of my back, my contorted shoulders providing her very own Striding Edge upon which to torment me.
We moved on 1st April. How apt. Realising that she was clearly not litter trained, I bought a litter tray which is the most revolting object in existence. (remind me to fill you in on the comparative merits of cat litter brands – I know them all). I made absolutely no attempt to keep Smog (oh – didn’t I mention that we’d named her?) but she resolutely refused to leave and to add insult to injury, she was getting rather fat. I’ve never owned a cat so the natural assumption was that I was overfeeding her and Smog was put on A Diet.
The attacks started almost immediately and a few days later, as I was conversing pleasantly with my new neighbour, she said cheerfully “I see your cat’s in the family way!”. “What?!” I spluttered through a mouthful of truly horrid expletives. Surely I must have noticed? Fat tummy, big nipples, huge appetite, sleeping more, reluctance to go out etc etc. No. I had not noticed. I have never had a cat. I do not like cats, particularly teenage, runaway, ASBO, pregnant cats. Her food was reinstated and a moral lecture was administered, with the threat of the Magdalene Laundries left hanging in the air for good measure.
The 26th of April was a Sunday. For the Wartime Housewife, this means as long a sleep as The Boys will allow, followed by coffee in bed whilst listening to The Archers. Smog waddled into the room and sat on my shoulder. She isn’t normally allowed in the bedrooms (not with her record) but I was feeling magnanimous and mellow, so tolerated her warm little body against my ear.
I don’t know what made me look, but suddenly I turned my head and there was a tiny, soggy, black and white ‘thing’ the size of a hamster, lying on my pillow. An ejector seat mysteriously appeared in my bed and I ran round the house calling for hot water, soap and towels but by the time the towels appeared, she had already popped out another one. Another trip to the launderette loomed large.
Over the next two hours, Smog silently presented us with five black and white kittens. I have never seen an animal give birth and other than the immediate eating of the placental sacks, I was rather envious of the ease and natural-ness with which it all occurred. The news spread like wildfire and I had a constant stream of local children filing through my bedroom, examining the kittens while I sat slightly awkwardly in my pyjamas like a rather dishevelled duchess granting audience in my chamber.
Smog was an excellent mother. She and the kittens had a house made out of a cardboard box with a blanket in it and all was well. Until their eyes opened and they started to move. It became a full time job just trying to keep them all in the house as doors were constantly left open and they wandered out into the lane where they were abducted by the hoards of children surrounding the house at all hours. She trained them to use the litter tray but it was always full and stinking and horrible. I loathed them, and at the first opportunity, an advert was drafted, to at least recoup the vast amount of money spent on food, litter and cleaning materials, to say nothing of the increase in the consumption of London Gin.
To cut a long story short, all five kittens were eventually sold. A friend, with more courage than wisdom suggested that Smog had given me the ‘gift of kittens’ as a thank you for taking her in. As soon as they were gone, she settled down, stopped needing the litter tray and became her old cuddly self. She has grown significantly over the last three months, her coat is thick and gleaming, her habits fastidious. And she’s been spayed, thanks to the Cats Protection League.
But she has turned into a killing machine. I kick her outside in the morning and bring her in at night (as naturalists implore us to do) but every afternoon, I find at least two mice outside the dining room window, she frequently takes out wood pigeons and has been witnessed murdering large rabbits in the meadow. If only she’d take the trouble to learn to skin them, it would be a culinary partnership made in heaven and I would love her even more. She went missing for three days last month (on a serial killing rampage no doubt) and I was nearly sick with anxiety.
Now, as I type, she is draped across my shoulders, purring loudly into my ear and gently clawing my back. Strangely, I don’t seem to be as allergic any more.
Smog the Killer Cat