Felix isn’t actually our cat, she lives next door. That’s the theory, anyway. Next door don’t have a cat flap, but they do have two small children and a labrador puppy. And a bowl in the garage with some cat biscuits in it. We have a cat flap, a Rayburn, no children or dogs, and three cats who rarely manage to finish all of their sachets of posh cat food. Should our cats polish off all their cat food, however, we also have my wife, who will ‘take pity’ on ‘poor Felix’, and put a sachet of posh cat food (and maybe some biscuits) down for her. It wouldn’t be quite so bad, except that Felix hisses and spits at any of our cats who might deign to walk past.
Maisie isn’t strictly speaking our cat, either. Maisie’s my daughter’s ex boyfriend’s sister’s cat, whom we’re looking after. We’ve been looking after Maisie for several years now, and Fenny has moved out, and acquired cats of her own. Where Felix is fat, Maisie verges on the morbidly obese. If she didn’t have a head and a tail she’d be like a tortoiseshell ball with paws on the corners. She’s also the archetypal scaredy cat. She likes to hide under things, or behind things, or (impossible for a fat cat) in plain sight. She also tends to crap on the landing if there’s a cat on the stairs. She was the one we took to the vet when they brought in regulations as to how many doses of Frontline you could have on spec (is there a black market in Frontline?). It was a miserable November morning, we caught Maisie (picked up, really), and stuffed her into the ancient wicker cat basket. All well and good. We arrived at the vet’s a couple of minutes before eleven, found somewhere to park, and lugged the cat basket out. Maisie had clearly been watching too many Rambo films. She hurled her full (and not inconsiderable) weight at the grating, snapped the (ancient) leather straps, and legged it. The vet’s receptionists saw what happened and came out to help. Maisie had disappeared into someone’s garden. We climbed over the gate (which was locked) and began trying to find the cat. Meanwhile, some bells began tolling, and everyone else stood still. We spent the two minutes’ silence (and some) climbing into strangers’ gardens in the rain, calling, “Maisie.” If I had added, “Come here, you morbidly obese little bugger,” it wouldn’t have improved the shining hour. We did eventually manage to corner her, and we came away with the Frontline, and the grating tied shut with bandages.
Huw is our cat, named (by Fenny) after Huw Edwards, the newsreader. We got him after Mask died. Mask wasn’t really our cat, either. Mask was originally the neighbour’s cat, called Sooty, when the neighbour lived in East Cornwall. However, after a few years in the warm with the neighbour’s granny, a life of biscuits in the garage seemed less appealing than the cat flap, Rayburn, etc. We did our best to return ‘Sooty’ to the neighbours (once we realised that she hadn’t been dumped here by unscrupulous owners), but ‘Sooty’ had other ideas, and eventually we all gave up, and she became Mask. Mask liked butter (as does Maisie). Huw doesn’t like butter, he likes coffee. Not milky coffee. Ground coffee. It was something we discovered quite by accident. We assumed he was trashing the bin because he’s a little thug. While he is a little thug, it turned out that he only trashed the bin when there was a coffee packet in it. I’ve also found him with his head in my coffee mug, slurping the black sludge from the bottom. His favourite food is cat biscuits that have been shaken in a coffee packet, and even then, he licks the ground coffee before he gets around to the biscuits. Where did we go wrong? Our cat is a drug addict and a thug. His favourite game is jumping other cats. Everyone except Felix, in fact. If there are no other cats available, he’s happy enough to jump the hand that feeds him.
Elvis is the elder statescat. At thirteen he isn’t especially old, but he does seem to have Catzheimer’s, and compared with the others, he’s positively responsible. He doesn’t do drugs or crap on the landing, for a start. He does like butter, though, and meat, and wildlife. We got him from Sennen, originally, when Thompson died, and he grew up surrounded by grannies. There was Charlie, a long haired farm cat, of whom Elvis was in awe, and Mask (as above), who was a cantankerous old scrote among scrotes in the halls of scrotedom. Given the way a boy from Sennen could have gone in the circumstances, his predilection for shagging the loo brush (and my wife’s elbow) could be put down to youthful folly. He grew out of both after (or possibly because of) the snip. Sometimes Huw or Maisie will bring something dead indoors. Huw will even occasionally bring something alive indoors and let it go. Elvis turns up outside the front door on a regular basis, miaowing with his mouth full. Depending on the season, he might have a mouse, or a vole, or a bird. Sometimes he catches rabbits, but he can’t eat a whole one, so unless we see him and shoo him out he’ll leave a semi-rabbit around the house somewhere. If Felix finds it, she eats the second half.
Charlie once managed to get a live woodcock through two cat flaps, a feat that Elvis has also managed. Charlie’s woodcock hid among Fenny’s colouring books. Elvis’s made do with the top of the washing machine, where it was almost as well-concealed as Maisie in plain sight. Elvis has also eaten all the usual avian fauna; wrens, robins, chaffinches, dunnocks, tits, etc. He’s shied away from some of the bigger birds, like jackdaws, crows, magpies, buzzards and herons. Not all of the bigger birds, though. Along with the woodcock, he’s brought in several moorhens and some water rails. Most people have never seen a water rail. They’re moorhen sized birds, grey and brown, with speckles and stripes, and long legs. Some of them have heads and some of them don’t. That’s cats for you.