I’m accidentally a cat person. I find dogs annoying and I don’t really like tiny animals or huge animals. So I go for cats, by default. They are pretty much all that is left. Also, and most importantly, they can tidy up after themselves, and I appreciate that in a pet. Given that baby no. 3 is likely to arrive any day now, I thought I would spare one last thought for my cat who is, basically, about to be forgotten all over again.
Cat and I met around 12 years ago, at a cat shelter. I had decided on the spur of the moment to get a pet. I convinced my brother, who was also not busy, and was also a flatmate at the time, to come with me and help me to find “an enormous, grey, long-haired cat.” Preferably a full-grown neutered male, who would do nothing but sleep on the back of the sofa all day, and eyeball us malevolently from time to time. That’s what I look for in a pet. Lazy, self-righteous, monochrome and fuzzy with buckets of disdain.
When we arrived at the shelter, there were many cats, but they all ignored us completely. All but one. This strange, half-sized fuzz ball that began to run towards us the moment she saw us… and then stopped halfway, and did the world’s biggest cat-stretch.
All thoughts of a big, boofy grey male forgotten, I signed the things and paid the money and took home that small, tortoiseshell-tabby bundle of fuzz. The shelter said she was about 2 years old, small for her age, and had no record of her name. That suited me, I already knew I wanted to call her Matrix. Not because of the movie, which I hadn’t seen, but because of some weird nerd humour which made better sense at the time. (No, I lie, it was always a terrible idea.)
Matrix settled in pretty fast. In hindsight, she took to me faster than I took to her. I think in all relationships you need boundaries. Matrix did not hold this same belief.
She kicked off her first day with showing me affection by washing behind my ears. While I was still asleep. This is a whole lot less pleasant than you can ever imagine.
As if the early-morning confusion of what exactly was going on wasn’t enough, it also meant that for the morning, if not the whole day, my hair was glued upwards and outwards in the most chaotic spiky tufts. That smelled of fish. Which is something of a surprise really, because getting her to eat anything was an absolute trial.
She completely refused to eat canned cat food. To this day, she still will not touch it. She would only tolerate dried food, or tinned tuna. It took me 3 years to figure out that she would eat tuna, because I am not very bright, and also because she is lousy at semaphore.
Meanwhile, I would put out bowls of canned food that she would ignore. I would put out dried food that she would sometimes eat. But she seemed to spend much more of her time licking the walls of the house.
She was otherwise healthy, so I let it go.
I decided to try to be friends with her. I would pat her, but she would just bite me, so I let it go.
I brought home cat toys, but she ignored most of them, or just clawed my hand when I tried to engage her interest, so I stopped. But one day I found a sort of glove that had strings on the fingers with little toys on the ends, that you could wear and wiggle your fingers and make the fuzzy toy things bounce about.
Which would have been brilliant, if she wasn’t such a violent, evil-minded killer.
She has had her slow days too though. At one house I lived in, the simplest way for her to get in and out without human assistance, was via a small window in the kitchen.
One time she came in, just after someone had spilled cooking oil all over the bench. So instead of a graceful leap from window to bench to floor, she leapt in the window, skidded with surprise across the bench, and landed in an awkward heap on the floor.
She shook her head a little and looked around. When she realised she was right beside her food bowl, she didn’t even bother standing up. Just lifted her head and then dropped it right into the bowl and started eating, while still lying in a heap on the floor.
Sadly for my cat, though, she is getting older. She is not as cute as she used to be. She still appears to be cute and fuzzy from a distance, but the closer she gets, the more haggard you can see that she is.
She is also going deaf, so her sweet little mewling has become a sort of plaintive banshee cry that can stop your blood cold at 2am. Which is her preferred time for conversation.
In spite of all this, I do still think of her, well, not fondly, that’s too strong a word… but perhaps, as a pet that I… well, a cat that I know. She’ll always be that insane, sketchy yet hyperactive cat that I… clean up after and receive scars from. Bless her fuzzy little psychotic tendencies.
OK that’s done, now I can go back to ignoring her in favour of the kids again.