I remember when one of our cats went missing. A morning spent wandering the forest roads around our home (in the foothills of the Dandenongs, on the outskirts of Melbourne), clanging a cat-food tin with a fork and forlornly calling her name.
“Na-ancy. Na-aancy?” Followed by peals of that chirrupy, teeth-sucking noise I’ve always used to beckon cats - one they generally ignore, or sneer at.
Then I doorstepped the neighbours, in case any had seen her.
The man who answered the third door offered me a warning.
“Yeah, mate, you want to be careful. People are a bit funny about cats around here. We used to have one. Once a neighbour left a note in our mailbox saying the next time he saw it on his property, he’d shoot it.”
Seems very, um, harsh.
“Well, you know people. A bit funny. About cats.”
The grin on his face was hard to read.
A recent study for journal Biological Conversation suggests these bastards are slaughtering a million birds a day across Australia.
She turned up that night, to our relief and her brother’s chagrin (it’s a love-hate thing, with Sid and Nancy), and we’ve redoubled our (futile) efforts to keep them within our property boundary ever since.
It’s hardly surprising people can be a bit funny about cats. A recent study for journal Biological Conversation suggests these bastards are slaughtering a million birds a day across Australia. The extinctions of up to nine bird species have been linked to cats, plus the endangerment of 33 more.
They’re weapons of mass destruction, the bane of the environment, all-round bad eggs.
Sure, it’s feral cats (over 6 million out there, covering 99.8 per cent of the land) that are doing the most damage, but people like me, their domesticated cousins’ servile enablers, are part of the problem, too.
How do we live with ourselves?
When we got Sid and Nancy, nearly three years ago, we knew we were basically being selfish and irresponsible, but vowed to do the right thing every step of the way (apart, of course, from the ultimate right thing - the not having a cat thing - which stopped being an option once we set eyes on the adorable little fiends), to ensure this pair did as little damage as possible.
They were neutered, as kittens, by the rescue people we got them from, before we took them in. Our plan was that they’d be indoor cats. That lasted a year. Then Sid wriggled through my legs while I was taking out the rubbish one evening, got his first sniff of the outside world, and it was all over.
They’re only meant to be out during daylight, but sloppy catflap management allows them to break curfew on occasion.
They have to wear jingly collars, which really pisses them off. This should give the local fauna an edge over these sleek, sadistic killing machines, but Nancy still brings a mouse or a rat home every couple of months. I feel a pang of guilt if it’s a mouse, and a little surge of triumph if it’s a rat, because I’m shallow and have watched a lot of cartoons. There’s no fun in cleaning up either.
No birds so far, though the vigil that Nancy sometimes keeps, sitting curled up on the bird-table in the front yard, presumably in the hope that her tortoise-shell coat offers camouflage and some avian doofus will eventually land on her nose, is touching in its optimism.
(Sid is too sluggish and dazed to be a hunter. Which is in keeping with research that suggests up to half of domesticated cats are non-predatory).
Not much in life is funnier than watching a cat attempt to retain its dignity while a clothes-horse collapses beneath it, or when it’s just misjudged the direction of a stretch and fallen off the bed.
Apart from the old wildlife devastation, there’s quite a lot of other stuff that’s a drag about living with cats.
The fur, the allergies, the claw-wracked furnishings. That waft of old urine you catch on the curtain in the far corner of the bedroom.
Why would anyone put up with that, let alone the associated guilt of harbouring an environmental terrorist, a homicidal maniac in whiskers?
There’s the comedy. Not much in life is funnier than watching a cat attempt to retain its dignity while a clothes-horse collapses beneath it, or when it’s just misjudged the direction of a stretch and fallen off the bed. (It’s the “nothing to see here, that went exactly as planned,” look on their face that slays you).
Then that innate sensuality they’ve got going on. All the purring, writhing and demands for fondles. These are nature’s hedonists, here to remind us that feelin’ good ain’t no crime.
You’ve got to admire a libertine. The way they saunter around the place like they own it, come and go as they please, climb, stick their nose in or scratch the crap out of anything they fancy - defiant, autonomous, cool.
Plus, displays of affection are so much more, yes, affecting when they’re rare. Give me an amiable nuzzle from a moggy who usually greets me with indifference or scorn over the slobbery attentions of an indiscriminately excitable puppy, every time.
I’m starting to sound like my abuser’s apologist, aren’t I? Maybe all of us cat-owners, lovers and enablers are in the throes of Stockholm syndrome, and this is a cry for help.
Which reminds me: what should you do if your cat’s feeling under the weather?
Why, give your catatonic, of course.
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