Thursday 16 April 2009
Ills, Pills And Bellyaches
The other day, a man came round to my house to give me a quote for some garden work: the kind of heavy duty stuff that I like to kid myself I'll get around to, either side of some lawn mowing, but invariably eventually realise I'll make just about any excuse not to do (is anyone else addicted to those top fives on Facebook?). James was one of those taciturn-yet-friendly Norfolk men in late middle-age who almost invariably own a dog, so was somewhat perturbed to find a small, demanding grey she-cat repeated hurling herself in front of his feet as he walked up the steep slope of my lawn. I like to think I could see the mental battle behind his eyes between his two selves: "Go on! Stroke her! You know you want to!" "No. Don't be so preposterous! You are a man in his sixties from Norfolk with a German Shepherd and an extensive collection of trowels! Think what this would do to your image!".
As James slowly and carefully studied a rotten reclaimed timber path and Bootsy followed him round like one of the hopeful stars of a Cats With Low Self-Esteem video, I strolled around the garden, picking up litter, some of it dating from as far back as 1981. This is a normal daily activity for me, but probably seems strange to those who don't own a brain-damaged moggy with a cellophane fetish. I've written before about Janet's habit of fishing ancient crisp, bread and sweet wrappers out of the lake at the bottom of my garden and since then little has changed. Sometimes, the litter will get no further than the lawn. Other times, I'll show some guests into my house to find a fluffy black animal spread out on the floor, mewling mournfully at an empty Golden Virginia packet.
Perhaps most worrying of all was the moment four or five weeks ago when I arrived upstairs in the morning (my house is upside down, largely because I'm awkward like that) to empty the dishwasher, and almost stepped on a used condom of what appeared to be impressive vintage. Closer inspection, carried out with the aid of some rubber gloves and a facemask, revealed it to actually be a more innocent item: a wet, tubular bit of plastic of indeterminate heritage. However, I couldn't help viewing it as a warning sign. After all, combine the fact that Janet doesn't seem hugely discerning about what he brings into the house and the mating calls I hear on a Friday night from the park across the other side of the lake, and it is fair to say that it's not impossible that one day the worst could happen: I might step bleary-eyed past the catflap, feel an unpleasant squelchy sensation, and realise that, through no real fault of my own, I have a prophylactic attached to my big toe.
One pattern I can discern in Janet's wombling is that, the greener, soggier and more anonymous the litter, the more it seems to appeal to him. This probably explains how he got struck down with blue-green algae poisoning the week before last. At least, I think it was algae poisoning. The algae in the lake has been doing terrible things to the town's goose and duck population recently, and, though I have no evidence that the stuff can also damage a cat's insides, the vet nor I could not come up with any other reason why a feline waste disposal system such as Janet went four and a half days without eating a morsel of food. By the end of this period, he looked less like a cat and more like something you might recycle and use to buff the outside of your car to a high sheen. Only a ravenous, last minute, tuna-based rally (his, not mine) allowed me to depart on a long-looked-forward-to mini break in Devon.
He's far better now, but he's also recently been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, so it's been a tough couple of months for him, not to mention for my bank account. This week, I've wondered if, the next time I visit the vet, it might not be practical to pack not only my cat, but a toothbrush and pair of pyjama bottoms. The last visit involved a second blood test, and an upping of Janet's pill dosage, which has left him wandering around with a neck that could pass for a trendy experimental feline facial hair experiment - as you can see above, he does still like it scratched, though I now have to pick my moment - and me trying to cleverly insert his pills into the middle of his Felix Salmon pouch meals. Overlooking a couple of encounters with insalubrious indie rock musicians fallen on hard times, the last time I washed my hands this frequently my primary source of income came from sitting in a factory and gluing things.
My pill-secreted-in-meaty-gunk tactic works sometimes. On other occasions, Janet spits it out, and I begin to think fondly of the pea shooter that my old neighbour, Bob, deployed to insert similar medication into his recalcitrant siamese, Boris.
Actually, i've just had a brainwave: maybe next time I'll just put the pill inside an old, empty Hula Hoop packet.