Sunday 30 September 2007

A Cat Dictionary: Some Random Selections

The noise that accompanies the eradication – or attempted eradication - of an ear mite.

The ancient and mysterious social law that governs the cat universe and allows cold-blooded killing machines to live in relative harmony, frequently under the same roof. When is it considered good form to steal an older moggy’s favourite spot on a favourite chair? What exactly makes it ok to virtually insert your nose into a fellow cat’s rear end one day, and it a passing sniff an outright offence less than twenty four hours’ later? In a hungry gaggle of six of Norfolk’s most duplicitous, randomly thrown-together pusses, who decides who gets priority at the dinner table, and how? If you’ve sprayed a microscopic bit of piss on a curtain, why does that make you “well hard” in the environs of that room, but only “a bit of a big girl” as soon as you step over the carpet divider? How does a cat implicitly understand what a “garden” is, and where it begins and ends? Humans remain in the dark about all this, but Catiquette provides the answers.

The peculiar, tickly sensation experienced whilst swallowing a particularly meaty and recalcitrant bluebottle.

The bits of jellified catmeat that escape from the bowl and weld themselves to hardwood floors and kickboards – sometimes even if you don’t have kickboards.

A perfectly-placed mouse, held between the teeth in a perfectly horizontal manner (preferably with a slight downward droop at each end), so as to make the creature’s captor look particularly dashing. Out-of-vogue variations include “The Zapata Mousetache”, “Sidebirds”, and the rare-but-always-impressive “Handlebat”.

Feeling a bit low? Looking back wistfully to that time all those years ago, when you still had testicles, and you could actually remember who your parents were? Why not stretch your claws, find some mummyfur, and get stuck in? Pretty much any soft, non-shiny, recently laundered surface will do, but slightly damp towels and sheepskin are considered the ultimate delicacies of the mummyfur genre.

The act of pushing one’s cold wet nose into one’s owner’s hand or knuckle. Largely thought of as a gesture of affection, but sometimes given a bad press, owing to its alternative nickname, “Losing The Snot”.

Essentially a larger version of the nuggin, involving the full upper-head area. Usually employed at times when jellied meat is in the immediate vicinity (see Little Cat Diaries, 16.08.07).

A particularly furious, zen kind of padding session, often, but not always, involving a far-off, determined look in the eye and immense wear and tear on soft human body parts. Also known as: “Marching” or “Cooking The Dough”.

The mystic force that, without the need for discussion or consensus, will cause numerous cats in the same room all to clean their most hard-to-get regions at exactly the same time.

Also known as a “half-whisker” – frequently displayed by feral cats who have been caught in traps by unfeeling farmers and cat rescue officers or in the clutches of bigger, scarier ferals (“I was just a twhisker away from twatting that big-tailed ginger plonker”). Sometimes, Twiskers grow back, Sometimes they don’t. Professors of Catology remain in the dark as to exactly why this is. Often mistakenly thought of as a sign of masculinity or “streetness”, the Twisker ultimately signifies little aside from bad balance and potential undermog status.

Sunday 16 September 2007

Cat Stereotypes: The Nobleman (with a nod to my childhood cat, Monty)

Picture the scenario: You have never much cared for cats (far-fetched, I know, but stay with me). You view them as terminally selfish creatures, always ripping the furniture with their claws and making those horrible, foraging noises while they industro-clean their rear ends. Maybe you prefer a less willful sort of family pet - a pre-trained red setter, perhaps, or a porcelain horse. As a rule, anything feline barely comes under the category of wallpaper in your universe, but one day, you're at a party, or a barbecue, and a flash of fur surprises you, capturing your imagination and respect. It's such an alarming sensation, this sudden feeling of seeing whiskers and not wanting to reach for a squirt gun, and you can't quite put your finger on what has inspired it. Perhaps it's a certain quiet, watchful dignity, a new kind of independence that you hadn't suspected a cat could possess... a more self-assured posture. Chances are, you've just been hit right between the eyes by the irresistible aura of The Nobleman.

The Nobleman is the cat that cat haters happily co-exist alongside. Wild animals smaller than an average pheasant fear him, other cats desperately want to be him, divorced book group members with hennaed hair desperately want to be with him. A wearer of spiritual breeches, he is an expert hunter, without quite being a serial killer, a steadfast companion, without being a kiss-ass. When he raises his imperial wet nose to nudge your hand, you know you've earned it. Frequently, but not exclusively, lightly-coloured, he tends to be big and lean, with skin that vets come to dread on vaccine days. When you return from a family holiday - no cattery for the Nobleman, who, given a nearby pond and a biscuit dispenser, can take care of himself - he's there waiting faithfully in the window, gazing beatifically out at you, but if it were remotely convenient or appropriate to his kind, he'd be there on the holiday itself, playing lifeguard and cheerfully permitting those closest to him to bury him in sand by day, reading War And Peace next to the woodburner by night. Be that as it may, it's doubtful that, even in the highest of holiday spirits, he'd let you cuddle him, because, as every Nobleman knows, cuddles are just for pussies.

Some have made the mistake of writing off The Nobleman as "snotty" or "aloof", but the chances are these are people whom, due to long-standing personal issues, require a needier cat. Either that, or they're just needy cats with long-standing personal issues themselves. The Nobleman has no truck with grasping, neurotic hands or nervous, skittering claws, but do not let it be said that he does not know how to have a good time. One only has to check out his legendary "mouse keepie-uppies" to see he has a sense of humour. Sometimes, he can overstep the mark, with inappropriate padding sessions and uncontrollable protuberances, but those around him view these lapses in the most positive light. How could you see him as seedy? He's The Nobleman! When the creatively-inclined see him lazily licking a paw, their fingers itch for a nearby brush or pencil. If these aren't around, they'll sometimes grab a bit of coal and get busy with a post-it note. The Nobleman is in Control and we are here to serve him, whether it's as his artists in residence, cooks, photographers or cleaners. We look into his eyes, and we see something just and strong and enduring - something wild yet controlled. If he had a song, it would be "You've Got A Friend' by Carole King or 'Theme From Shaft' by Isaac Hayes. Not that he would really, in the words of Hayes, be "the cat who would risk his neck for his brother cat". After all, even The Nobleman can't transcend the self-absorbed limits of his species. But if he could, he would, and it would be a spectacular, dignified thing to behold.

Thursday 6 September 2007


A NOD AND A WINK TO A SLINK: a rare excursion into verse in tribute to my old cat Daisy, AKA The Slink

Goodbye The Slink
My Friend
I Never Felt I Really Got To Know You
But I've been places you've been
A couple of Nottinghamshire's more picturesque villages, for example
One of which where car burning
Seemed to be a local sport
And that coal shed at my mum and dad's house where you used to hide from Monty
When he was feeling particularly feisty
You sort of perked up in your later years
Particularly when you went deaf
And could no longer hear my dad's heavy feet
Or his shouts of things like
That must have been nice for you
And it proves that, like Tom Petty says
Even The Losers Get Lucky Sometimes
Not that you knew who Tom Petty was
And even if you had
You probably would have been scared of the beard
That he has sported in more recent years
Almost as scared as you were when I took you and Monty for a walk
It was a sunny day
In the time before I'd really noticed that you looked a little like Hitler
And before the website
Which proved that, in the grand scheme of things, you didn't look that much like him after all
You'd been carrying that feather duster around in your mouth
The one that you must have thought was the world's most docile cockatiel
You seemed in a good mood
And I thought it couldn't hurt
A stroll along the lane
Through DH Lawrence country
With two furry pals
All was going well
For about two hundred yards
Until you saw that Norfolk terrier
And decided for some Slinklike reason
To run straight at it
The little fella didn't know what had hit it
But then not many of us ever did

Under The Paw: Confessions Of A Cat Man.

Talk To The Tail: Adventures In Cat Ownership And Beyond.