All Your Catfood Are Belong To Us
IF YOU put out cat food, it will be eaten by cats. Not necessarily by your cat, but by a cat. And your cat will also eat cat food that has been put out by someone, not necessarily you. The cats of Westbourne Terrace are a clowder with a cooperative, if loose, arrangement regarding matters territorial. There are cats; there is catfood. The former is sufficient for the latter. Walls, doors, fences are immaterial: Westbourne Terrace is a helix of comfortable places to sleep and soft touches who dispense snacks in return for hungry looks from wide-eyed waifs.
This, at least, was the comfortable arrangement BG. We can only speculate about the years Before George because they were also the years BS & G. As long-term readers may remember, George sprang fully-formed from the worried brows of this house's previous owners. And George, unlike the other cats of Westbourne Terrace, does not subscribe to the communal approach, oh, no. What's mine is mine, is more like it, and what's yours is mine, too. This may be due to George's total inability to do cute, wide-eyed, hungry looks. He can manage the wide-eyed bit, and he shifts impatiently from one paw to the other, but cute and waif-like is just not in the remit of a creature that weighs eighteen pounds and looks like a feline Mike Tyson.
Actually, that's not true: Mike Tyson looks like he's been in a fight or two and George doesn't. It was the vet who pointed this out to me, on a visit to sort out an abscess. The abscess was, of course, the result of a fight, and the vet remarked that George looked like a cat who won his fights. How could he tell? I asked. By the ears. No nicks, notches or other serrations.
However, the point of all this is that George doesn't do "sharing". This is his house, that is his bowl of cat food, his comfy bed and we are his indentured servants. Any cat that tries to encroachand this includes Smudge, Fidget, Chloe, Joe, Toby and in addition the ginger one, the tortoise-shell one, the other black one and the fluffy white one whose names we don't knowall of these interlopers get chased off relentlessly. He tolerates Pebble and Storm from next door because they are still tiny kittens and smacking children is bad for a chap's image, after all.
The house on the other side of Pebble and Storm's is also George's house, containing George's dish and several comfy chairs that are George's, too. The elderly couple who live there call him Top Cat, TC for short, have done for years, and were rather surprised to hear that he was going to be put down because no-one else wanted him. They're actually quite fond of him. We found out just how fond last year.
George had to go to the vet. Not because of a fight this time but because the silly bugger had licked off half the fur on his stomach. Grooming is a bit hit-and-miss with George: he hits his front and misses his back, on account of being too big-boned to reach. And he hates being brushed, hates being dosed with flea medicine and hates being taken to the vet. As these are all things I have to do, he basically just hates me. Anyway, when he came in to eat that evening, I locked him in the study to make sure he couldn't escape his doom. The following morning there was a knock on the door and my neighbour was there, asking if I had seen TC. He hadn't turned up for his early breakfast of cooked chicken fillets and the wife was in floods of tears because she was sure something terrible had happened to him. Somewhat taken aback at the thought of anyone being in floods of tears over George, and with so little provocationafter all, sometimes we don't see him for days because of all the time he spends at theirsI took him upstairs to visit the prisoner.
This was the start of much more frequent communication between George's two households, a phenomenon not entirely to George's benefit. "You feed him how often?" It's a relief in a way to know that he has somewhere else to go to when I've been beastly to him, and I've been very beastly lately. Due to George's deficiencies in the grooming area, he needs regular brushing or his fur hardens into clumps and he starts to look like a black furry stegosaurus. These brushing sessions are brief, bloody and noisy: yowl, grrrr, hiss, spit, and that's just me.
So, I was talking to the neighbours about this, and trying to suggest that they take a turn with the brush, too. "After all," I said disingenuously, "He might take it better from you because he hates me."
"Oh, no," came the reply, "He hates us too. He's the most miserable old bugger of a cat we've ever met."
Giulia De Cesare