Hard News by Russell Brown


About a Cat

"Your problem, Colin, is that you think everything is for you," I said, as he nosed around amongst my evaporating single malt collection. "Then again, perhaps, so do we all …"

Colin is not a bad bloke. He's not a bloke at all. He's a cat.

It has been a matter of concern to me that our most active discussions this holiday period have been, whilst immensely informative, quite high-flown; perhaps even intimidating. We needed a blog about a cat to relax everyone and be inclusive.

Enter: Colin, who has made me from a pet curmdgeon to a man who indulges in regular flights of anthropomorphic fancy and speaks to a cat who no more understands English than he does Klingon.

I think he is an unusual cat. He's much better than Kits, the waif whose nearby owners left him with a jumbo bag of kibble and went to Brazil for six weeks. We had to hand Kits back, and so fill the gap in the younger boy's heart, his friend gave him Fluffy. Fluffy was not a cat. He was an elderly guinea pig who I would often find brought indoors, sitting on the lounge floor, quivering and shitting all over the place. You couldn't really anthropomorphise Fluffy. He was just a guinea pig who shat a lot.

Then one morning, he wasn't even that. We came out and his cage had been shifted, perhaps by a dog, and he wasn't in it any more. We never saw him again. We clung to the hope that he'd scampered under the deck, then consoled ourselves that it would have been quick -- the poor little bugger would have died of shock before any foul jaws closed upon him.

But there was wailing in the valley, and we needed another pet. Not a bloody guinea pig, said my darling, and took the boys out to the SPCA, where they picked from a litter the kitten that seemed most active and adventurous.

"What shall we call him?" said the kids as they carried their box of kitten to the car.

"Colin," said my darling, ironically.

"That's a good name!" they chorused.

Colin is a year old now. He has a touch of the orient about him: long, lean, his sleek coat strikingly, symmetrically patterned. He is singular. He does not miaow, although he can. Instead, he utters a little trill -- brriiii! -- when he embarks on a course of action. And he purrs. When he is pleased and excited, his respiration accelerates and his purring goes all jazzy.

He does not sit on laps (Mr Litterick was an exception), but he is always angling to be picked up and raised to human height, where he will nuzzle ecstatically. Otherwise, he will make sweet love to his sleeping blanket. If we let him, he will tiptoe in and sleep on our bed, sometimes stretching out full-length between us to sleep, as if he were one of us. What exactly does he think he is?

He has moved on from the manic kittenishness of his early YouTube adventures (17th most popular English-language video in the Pets and Animals category, he was) but he has a cat friend, a fluffy version of himself, with whom he gallivants in the back yard. (The idea that obtaining a cat will drive all the other neighbourhood cats from your property could not be more wrong.) The fluffy friend returned yesterday from what I presume was a stay in a cattery, and they chased around the back yard until Colin flashed up one of the trees. FF sat at the base as if to say "homie don't play dat" until Colin came down and the chase resumed.

He seems quite clever. He opens doors, and we have to block one door with the laundry basket so he doesn't go walkabout and wake up the kids during the night.

He may not have any bollocks (we tease him about it) but he is clearly the hunter in his head. He has progressed from cat toys and pieces of plastic to the odd living thing. He has killed two birds (common sorts, and non-native), which grossed us out and, I fancy, rather alarmed him too. And I have relieved him of two skinks. If he wants to swallow a live cicada, that's his business.

But mostly, his day is routine. Sleeping, surveying the garden from a series of high points, sleeping, climbing trees, sleeping, eating, sleeping. This is his first summer, but he knows all the shady spots on on the deck.

We love him, and he seems to love us -- although iz not so grate when he shows it by padding into the bedroom and nuzzling our faces at 5am. And now, we're leaving him for a week. I've explained to the younger boy that our housesitter, Paul, who volunteers at the SPCA, is the perfect person to look after him. He won't miss us that much, really, and when we come back, he will be there, urgently gliding around our ankles, angling to be picked up, and purring all jazzy.

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