Why I still warm to cats, despite the physical scars
I HAVE two permanent scars on my body, both caused by the same cat, both caused on the same night.
The cat, a super-fluffy ginger thing called George, was only a couple of years old at the time.
My then-girlfriend had gone out for the night and my friend was staying over. There may have been some drinking, can't quite remember.
Anyway, we had some catnip in the cupboard and I left the door open and the cat got in and, well, these things write themselves.
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An hour later and this ginger blur was tearing back and forth down the hallway, scrabbling up walls and appearing demonically between curtains, squeaking like a bag of mice in a tumble dryer.
This needed to stop because it was around 3am and the neighbours were an angry pair.
So I set a trap involving a cardboard box and some lace ribbon and bagged myself a cat. I thought a few hours outside might cool him off.
But in my arms he was a cement mixer, rolling and churning and desperate to get free. I tried to hold him and he snapped his head round, eyes wide, staring at me.
I made it to the front door when he lunged forward and sank his teeth into my lower lip. In pain, I dropped him, but he got a claw in my wrist on the way down, dragging a deep slice out of me. I'd never seen so much blood.
It was an uncharacteristic episode for the guy but I guess a pound of catnip will do that for you. Normally, he's the kind of cat you only see as a pair of gleaming green eyes, either under things or behind them. Most of the time he just vibrates with fear.
I can't take all the credit for this – perhaps we took him from his mum too early – but either way, he's the sort of pet where, if he ever ends up on your lap, you sit completely still, like you've taken on board a loaded bomb, rather than a small animal. If your chair even thinks about creaking, he's gone, just a small puff of ginger fur in the air.
Anyway, he's just one of a string of cats I have known. They have, not entirely by choice, been an ever-present in my life and there is a part of my grouchy, grumbly self which enjoys having them around.
Those times he was prepared to get within a mile of me I felt strangely affected, like we had something and for a moment he was trusting me. I like my scars because of this, even though the pillowcase had to be chucked the following morning.
I mention it because someone I know very well has just donated 30 cat toys to a charity. She made them herself from scraps of material; small packages of catnip, constructed on a sewing machine and tied with festive ribbon.
She did it because she loves cats and wants those without homes to have something they like at Christmas. This kind of selflessness amazes me and makes me want to be a slightly nicer person, which is fairly miraculous in itself.
Without wanting this to be a "think of the animals at Christmas", kind of column, or a "isn't charity nice?" type of thing, I thought rather I would share with you the way a pet can want you and love you and unjudgmentally be OK with you no matter what kind of day you've had.
People get lonely at Christmas and take a philosophical stock of things. Well, if you don't have a pet, think about it. Allergies aside, I think there's a pet for everyone, maybe.
Just lock the catnip up well.