MY LIFE WITH STALIN
AN EVERYDAY TALE OF ONE BLOKE AND HIS CAT
PART 4: SETTLING IN
People often tell me that bringing up a child is hard. I wouldn’t know about that. But having a cat? Well, that really is fraught with the pressures of responsibility. Kids just tend to sort themselves out after a while, but cats are always in need of attention!
I learnt that the hard way, of course. When Stalin and his little brother Lenin first arrived at the house, I was absolutely certain that it would just be a matter of opening the flap on their handy plastic carrier case, and it would be ‘happy days’ from then on. Obviously, I didn’t know that much about cats then.
When we first got them, Lenin and Stalin were probably all of six months old. Having spent eight weeks in the pen at Cat Protection, they were the last pair of 30 moggies saved in one of those nightmare house clearances that you hear so much about. You know the kind: little old lady who never goes out living knee-deep in cats until she pops her clogs. Not really the ideal environment for bringing up a pair of well-balanced kittens.
Cat Protection had warned us that it might take a little while for them to adjust to their new surroundings, that we should leave them in one place for the first day and then, gradually, introduce them to the house, room by room! After all, it was a big move for the fellas. As a product of a dysfunctional upbringing, it was no wonder that when we first acquired them they were looking as disoriented as a pair of Man United fans trying to find Old Trafford without a remote control.
Of course, I listened intently to the wise words of the lady from Cat Protection, nodding loads in all the right places and saying ‘Uh-huh’ a lot, but realistically I had absolutely no intention of putting their advice into action. We’d adopted a couple of deprived ghetto mousers for chrissakes, and now we’d brought them to a nice middle class home – surely they’d just won the lottery of life. We’d be playing rough and tumble within minutes, best of pals by EastEnders! What on earth could go wrong?
Hmmm! From the second they were out of the carrier, the two cats made a slippery dash across the clean tiled kitchen floor and, without a second glance, squeezed themselves under the fridge and refused to come out for the best part of that first week. Spurning the warm, padded tartan basket that we’d bought as a welcome present, there seemed only one place that these cats liked to hide more than under the fridge – and that was on top of it! As it was one of those seven-foot-high, fridge-freezer combo units, it was damn hard to get anywhere near them too, unless you wanted to drive them to a suicide dive into the laundry basket (which, of course, was always a favoured hiding place for them in the early days. Lost a cat? Look between the crumpled Fred Perry shirt and the damp towel).
I tried every trick in the book to get them out. I tried calling them in soft, relaxing tones. I wafted succulent chunks of tuna steak under their noses. I played soothing music to them. Hell, I even tried spinning a few Northern Soul floorshakers, but not even Tobi Legend’s ‘Time Will Pass You By’, followed by the mellow funky sounds of Don Thomas’s ‘Come On Train’ would entice them out (it would work for me!).
What did The Evil Woman Who Hates Cats make of all this? Well, she didn’t seem to take that much notice, as she was far more concerned about where the litter tray was going sit. “They’re cats,” she insisted, “they can look after themselves.” She was right, of course. They came out in their own sweet time, tentatively creeping through the house, exploring every nook and cranny – but I still believe that the extra personal attention they received in those early formative days helped them to become the friendliest cats you could ever meet. And if it didn’t, then it certainly gave them a solid grounding in the classics of Northern Soul!?!
NEXT MONTH: Letting the cats outside for the first time!
© Words copyright Chris Hunt 2007