“Maggie, love, that cat of yours has just been sick again.”
I hurried out of the kitchen, where I’d been about to make a pot of tea to find Carl, my latest boyfriend, sprawled across the sofa watching Silent Witness, inches away from a ream of cat vomit.
“Poor Kylie,” I soothed, as my adorable silver tabby peered sheepishly from behind the sofa. “Still got a dicky tummy then?”
“I expect it was all that milk she pigged out on,” grunted Carl unsympathetically.
“Milk? What do you mean? Have you been giving her milk from the fridge?”
“Why not? It’s what cats drink, isn’t it?”
“I’ve told you before not to give her milk. She can’t digest cow’s milk properly.”
But as I proceeded to clean the mess from the carpet Carl’s only remark was, “It’s your cat, so I’m not responsible for what goes in and what comes out of it.”
I hated it when he said that. Kylie was a person. A wonderful feline person. Some people connect with animals and some don’t. Carl, unfortunately, was one of the latter.
A week later, Kylie disappeared. I was heartbroken.
“I expect she got run over,” Carl remarked, then more tenderly, “Don’t cry, Maggie. You can always get another cat, you know.”
“I could never replace Kylie,” I howled.
“No. You’re right,” he said quickly. “Best not to try.” I detected a note of relief in his voice, a certain lack of compassion and it crossed my mind that Kylie had moved out because Carl had moved in. After a month had passed, I suggested getting another cat.
“No. Look what happened when you lost Kylie. You went to pieces, didn’t you? If you get another cat, who’s to say the same thing won’t happen? Cats get run over all the time round here. It isn’t safe.” His voice became more conciliatory. “I’m only thinking of you, Mags. I would hate to see you upset all over again.”
I considered this. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps I should wait. And then a funny thing happened. (Although Carl did not think so). A cat found me. He was a stray, a thin black waif who mewed pitifully outside the front door one chilly autumn afternoon.
“Don’t encourage him,” warned Carl when I put down a plate of leftover chicken from the Sunday roast. “It isn’t fair.”
“To you - or the cat?” There was an unexpected edge to my voice which Carl seized on. “The cat, of course. You shouldn’t let it think you are going to look after it when you can’t.”
My feline visitor was persistent, however. He appeared every morning for the next week, and although I longed to let him come inside and snuggle up on my warm lap, I didn’t want an argument with Carl.
However, when the cat turned up on the doorstep one morning while I was off work getting over the flu, I invited Johnny Depp (he had to have a name) in to keep me company. I stroked his soft fur and he purred like a lion. We curled up on the sofa together and that was how Carl discovered us when he returned home from work.
“Maggie, how could you!”
And after a blazing row, Carl slept on the sofa that night and I slept peacefully in the bedroom with Johnny D.
Carl left for work early the next morning, without even asking if I felt any better. Why was he being so unreasonable and childish? Surely he wasn’t jealous of a cat? I opened a small tin of tuna and put it in a bowl for Johnny D.
Carl was still furious and when he returned we had another argument about the cat. “I’m telling you, Maggie, get rid of it. Now.”
“I’m warning you. The cat goes or I go.”
After Carl moved out, Johnny D was even more affectionate, weaving in and out of my legs, until I scooped him up into my arms. Cuddling him, I realised my relationship with Carl had always lacked affection and questioned how much he really cared about my needs. Then I wondered what had become of Kylie and I burst into tears. Johnny gave me a bewildered stare and I continued to stroke his now soggy head. “You would have liked Kylie,” I sobbed pitifully.
And then another funny thing happened. Within days of Carl leaving, Kylie returned. She just popped through the cat flap one Saturday evening, and sauntered up to her bowl as if nothing had happened. Until Johnny Depp appeared, at which point she glared at him and gave a warning hiss. Unlike Carl, however, Johnny knew his place in the feline hierarchy and, as the newcomer, sat at an unthreatening distance and looked away submissively. He had no wish to fight, after his stroke of luck in finding such a loving and comfortable home. And unlike Carl, he was happy to share his home.
I sometimes wonder why humans don’t learn from cat behaviour. There wouldn’t be nearly as many wars, that’s for certain.
Time has moved on and we’re one big happy family now. Me, Kylie and her six kittens (wherever she went when she moved out, she obviously made some new male friends!) and Johnny Depp, who has assumed the role of foster-dad. Oh, and I nearly forgot Tyrone, my new boyfriend. He’s a cat psychologist. I think we have a great future together. Don’t you?
About the author: Jane’s recent book, Coming Home, is available from Amazon and she is donating all her royalties to the charity Cats Protection.