‘Aliens on Your sofa’

drawing of two catsToday, we’re off to the Vet’s and it’s the turn of Ms Muppet and General Montgomery.  If you’ve seen that three page treatise on how to give a cat a pill, you may be wondering why there isn’t one about getting cats into carriers.  Well that’s because the process is so deeply traumatic that it can’t be reported without reopening deep psychological wounds.  And we’re not talking about the cats here you understand.

Anyway, today is the day and, aiming for nonchalance, I set out the two carriers in a separate room.  These are minutely explored, inspected and then inhabited by every cat except my two targets so that guerrilla tactics have finally to be employed. Nabbing Ms Muppet, who is essentially a two-cat-cat-in-a-one-cat-pack, I go for the cooperative approach, pointing her at the entrance to the carrier and shoving gently from behind. So she does what cats uniquely do under those circumstances and morphs into a star shape, grabs the sides of the carrier and hangs there like a gigantic Garfield. I regroup.  Pulling backwards, I haul cat and carrier across the room, narrowly avoiding a backward somersault into the litter trays. Ms Muppet lets go to huff off into a corner and sits with her face up against the wall. I sneak up, apply an arm lock and propel her bum first into the box.  Door shut, cat contained, job done.  Now for the General. Again, I try dignity first, making the suggestion that he takes his seat in the carrier.  Not a hope.  Propulsion then.  He assumes the position and, I swear, exposes an array of seven inch claws at all points, including his tail, simultaneously elongating his jaw and giving me a look that speaks of biomechanical devices lurking beneath fur that now hints at scales and body armour.  This is no longer a cat; this is the nightmare product of an Alien-Borg union and I am neither Ripley nor Picard.

Gardening gloves.

I take hold of the front end of the cat; the back end whips around, executes an extraordinarily balletic movement and Miladdo is over my shoulder and abseiling down the back of the computer. I take the carrier to the cat and sneak up from behind, manoeuvring the now winged and primeval monster into it backwards.  Cat concertinas and exits via my scalp and I am reminded of an occasion long ago when, cleaning out the habitats of our pet rats, one ran up my arm and stood yelling on top of my head just as the power suddenly went off and cut the lights.  There is something quite bizarre about standing in the dark with a shrieking rodent on your head and I subsequently employed it as a chat-up line but without much success, it has to be said.

Back on planet earth, my target is sitting attending to his personal force field and so I pounce – the carrier goes over his head and I worm the door underneath in the tried and tested method for nabbing spiders. Victory, we can leave! – although after all these shenanigans, a bit of a lie down wouldn’t go amiss. I lug them to the car and heave the carriers onto the seats. Block and tackle would be handy. Then comes the racket.

Strapped in and underway, these two set about building a rising cacophony of protest which can only end one way – poo in the blanket. The aroma gathers strength as we negotiate the Saturday traffic and I consider opening the windows to see if sharing it will improve our progress. It certainly gets us plenty of clearance in the waiting room and we’re into the consulting room rather quickly. The vet wrinkles his nose and looks over his glasses at me.

‘He’s a bit loose.’

‘So would you be if you’d been hanging upside down from the roof of your transport and trying to saw your way out with your teeth!’

He flares his nostrils like a horse and seems to conduct a search of his internal diagnostic catalogue for roof-dangling induced squit. He must come up short because he harrumphs, loads a syringe, and inoculates the squitter before you can say offensiveyellowdiarrhoea. We escape, load up, head home minus one offensive blanket, and twenty minutes later I discharge two thoroughly offended felines onto the driveway.  Cat treats restore dispositions and my two aliens decamp to the sofa. I locate the savlon and consider tranquiliser darts for next year.

From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.


‘Cat Nav’ flash fiction on EDF

“Now you’ll stay in at night,” Joe told Houdini, the big, orange, cantankerous-looking tabby he was trying to stuff into a carrier. Not flippin’ likely, said Houdini, although of course he didn’t because he was a cat …

On Every Day Fiction today.

Aliens on your Sofa

cats on a chairThe Aliens on your Sofa

Vet’s day today and, to echo a friend, it’s not all about Vietnam; these vets are the brave souls willing to take up the challenge of delivering vaccines to the nation’s ungrateful pets and this week it’s the turn of Ms Massive and Mr FancyPants.

Aka Muppet and Monty; this tale is from happier times – here

‘When Glorious Eyes Close’

cats in a boxUp on  Hazard Cat now. And you thought I just wrote about psychopaths – pah!

I’m updating this post because, actually, the story is pretty much fact rather than fiction. I have kept cats for many years and once had 13 Persians, part Persians, and odd mogs at the same time. Many were related as I bred Persians – at least that was the idea, although Eric the Ever Ready, a beat up wonky eared tom who camped outside my house, had other ideas. Of all of those, the only two who showed any real bond was a mother and daughter who were inseparable and, when the daughter died following a series of seizures, Cassie looked for her on their favourite chair night after night for months. She never sat on that chair again.

Monty and Muppet were not related. Monty is a double pedigree chinchilla/devon rex cross with elegance running through his bones. He struts and poses, patrols his territory; and beats into submission any other male cat he sees. So dominant, in fact that his brother left home and found himself another family down the road where he still lives, perfectly happily, and doted upon in his one-cat household.

Muppet was a stray or an abandoned victim. Found by a neighbour in the bushes, she was broken and paralysed, skinny and lost. Gradually, movement in her hind limbs returned but the tail, hanging limply, was set for amputation and only avoided this due to bits of it dropping off on the morning of each scheduled appointment for surgery. She was left with a palm tree plume that she held stiffly in the air and with which she swore eloquently at any slight admonition.

She and Monty became best mates. So unlikely a pairing was hard to imagine. Monty, master of his universe and holding the rest in fearful submission; Muppet, a skinny pixie who went on to become a two-cat-cat in a one-cat-pack. They crammed themselves into boxes and baskets that really only held one. He came to her rescue when she got into occasional spats. They groomed each other, purred, and held each other in platonic embraces.

When she became ill, Monty really did not know what to do. Perhaps she smelled different; I’m not one for anthropomorphism so I don’t believe he ‘knew’.  Whatever the reason, he kept his distance as she went slowly down hill and was pretty much absent during the day or so before she died. When she had gone though, he howled and howled, and searched and searched. He had never sat on my lap but now he came up, stood on my chest and howled into my face. I was supposed to put it right. I should find her and bring her back. It was utterly heart breaking.

A year or so on, he has recovered, although at almost 16, he is an old boy and thinner. The stress of losing Muppet may have accelerated that. He sits with me much more but I feel as though I am second best. Not quite up to scratch, but good enough. Latterly, one of my other cats, a pretty little lass called Chaka who has always been rather insular and flighty, has persuaded him to be her best friend and now occupies the space on the sofa that Muppet once had. She is tiny. He has accepted her. But she isn’t Muppet and I think he knows that.

‘Glorious Eyes’ came out of that episode and is a bit of a proxy catharsis for a cat who can’t know what that is. Animals are extraordinary if you can only stand and watch.