I have a black cat. No, I don’t have a broomstick or a cauldron and I don’t have eye of newt in my kitchen cupboard. Although, there’s something quite suspect in a tinfoil covered cup in the fridge. I acquired this black cat in the way that many cat-owners acquire their cats; she turned up one day and basically refused to leave. I first encountered the black cat during a hot summer night a few years ago. Panicked screams alerted me to the occurrence of something dreadful and I ran into my girls’ room to find this unknown cat halfway through a very small, partly opened window and my two sleepy daughters, who had been unable to determine quite what devilish creature had been invading their peaceful sleeping space, sitting up and pointing at the billowing curtains from which the hairy little head protruded. I pushed the cat back through the window and heard a thud as she landed on the extension roof, followed by some claws-on-tile noises as she tried not to fall straight off. I immediately felt guilty, but in my defence, I was keen to stop the shouting before it disturbed the neighbours.
The following morning, the girls were pleased to have an interesting anecdote to tell their school friends and my guilt over the cat-shoving incident had increased; I like cats and don’t, as a rule, push them out of windows if I can help it. The cat, however, had either decided to forgive me or had concluded that I owed her some kind of remuneration for her pain and indignity. She was waiting outside the front door when we opened it to head for school and she slipped past me with no trouble since I wasn’t expecting to have to do any cat-blocking. The girls chased her upstairs and threw her out. End of story, I thought. What a fool!
Over the next few days, I became adept at opening the door enough to check for cats without it being open enough to allow a cat inside. When we had to leave the house we perfected a squatting, knock-kneed walk that would allow us to create a wall of legs that would repel the black cat until we were out enough to close the door. Secretly, I was beginning to really like this persistent little creature who seemed to have endorsed our good character with her continued attentions. It was then that I made my fatal mistake: I fed her.
She looked reasonably healthy. She wore a collar and was clean, but I was aware that a lady who lived in a house adjoining my garden had been the owner of a large, indeterminate number of adopted stray cats and had very recently died. I suspected that this might be a forgotten little orphan, unnoticed by the people who had come to collect her menagerie. With this in mind, I decided to give her some fish. I opened a tin and put it down by the side of my house and made a friend for life.
It is important that you understand the context in which I decided to feed this stray cat; my husband dislikes cats and had made it very clear that he could not have one in the house due to
a. this strong dislike (we’ll call it hatred, shall we) and
b. his allergies.
He does have allergies, so I had to accept this disappointing ban on cats. However, as I said, this was a hot summer. We took to leaving the back door open to let in some air and of course, this also admitted the cat. When my husband was at work, the cat had the run of the house but she preferred to sit on my or my son’s knees from where it was quite easy to grab her and throw her out when my husband’s car pulled onto the drive. By now, we had taken to buying cat food and hiding it in my sons’ room. Yes, I know. Mature!
The weather began to turn cold and we were now the cat’s family. Everyone, that is, except my allergic husband. We started to let the cat sleep in the boys’ room at night. Our secret cat. We broached the subject with my husband. “This cat won’t leave us alone,” I told him. ~Maybe we should just let it live here. The children love it!” “No!” he replied. “If it just comes in the house it will set off my allergic reaction!” “That’s funny,” I told him “because it’s been in the house most of the time for weeks.” He reconsidered.
From then on, the cat stayed with us. Instead of throwing her out when we heard the car, we simply got on with life. My son named her ‘Cat’ (Capital C, of course) and she took a shine to my husband and began to desert my knee for his. His mysterious allergy didn’t surface and he became very fond of Cat, using her as an excuse for not doing things such as getting his own drinks: “Can’t move. Cat’s asleep on my knee!” Hmmm. I wonder if he could become just as fond of a little kitten friend for Cat. We could call it Mouse.