Kittens, people like. And puppies. Even fully grown dogs, with their imploring eyes. Goldfish are acceptable when one’s offspring is clamouring for a pet;
cheap and replaceable, should you find one belly-up in the tank.
Mangy. There’s a word people often use in my vicinity. The cheek! Also sneaky. Merely because I am stealthy and don’t make a fuss. Show me a human who
can climb to the top of a tree, along branches thin as tripwire, unnoticed by bird or beast? And no, I am not immune to the inherent musical ability of the humble blackbird.
But a cat’s got to eat.
I come from a long line of strays. I have also been saddled with a paucity of attractive features; I have coarse ginger hair, a criminally short tail and one remaining eye (one of the few fights I lost but there were three of them, enormous Toms, living in carb-saturated style behind the Italian in Croydon). I
put up a good fight. Just not good enough. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, given my pedigree and my appearance (I’m never going to be one of those cats
you see in an ad. for cat food), I had resigned myself to the precarious and solitary life of a stray and, as is my wont, had made the best of it.
I was caught last January. Nearly a year ago now. One stupid mistake and you find yourself in a cage in a cold, concrete room full of cages. In each, patheticlooking specimens and I include myself in that description, having glimpsed my reflection in the window of the van before the door slid shut and the catcher – an overgrown man with a meaty odour – drove off with no recourse to speed limit or even basic driving etiquette.
At the pound, I resigned myself to my fate. Allowed myself a moment of….yes, alright, I admit it.….self-pity. I knew nobody was coming for me. Nobody would choose me. Why would they when there were five fluffy, wide-eyed kittens in the cage next door. Glossy black with normal-length tails. Even the brute in charge was in thrall to them, passing a ball of wool through the bars of their cage so they could play while awaiting their new owner who would doubtless be the first person to darken the door of this God-forsaken shack.
That night, a meteor shower. I watched it through a window above my cage. Despite the filth of the glass, the light of the stars, arcing across the sky like wonder itself, filtered into the room, cast curves of silvery white against the damp, grey walls of my prison. My end-of-days.
‘You should make a wish,’ said a pristine-looking labrodoodle whose owner, I imagined, was posting increasingly frantic photographs of him on Facebook,
accompanied by urgent requests for Sharing.
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Why not?’ The labrodoodle – an alliterative Lucy – shrugged in a most uncanine-like manner. She was one of those indulged animals who expected good things to happen to me because good things had happened to her. You could tell by the sheen and cut of her coat. She was no stranger to Doggy Dos.
I made a wish.
Yes, it was out of character. I’m not one of those cats who believe in the whole nine-lives ideology, certainly not. But those stars, shooting across the sky like that, with their sudden, inexplicable beauty. They had instilled something in me. Something like hope.
The labradoddle’s owner took us both home the next morning. Even now, sitting on my cushion beside the sturdy warmth of the Aga, I cannot tell you why. He hugged the dog and then glanced at me. I held his gaze which is my kind’s equivalent to a firm handshake and something my mother – a stickler for manners – encouraged. He nodded, as if I had said something he agreed with – then told the overgrown man with the meaty odour that he would take me too.
‘He probably has rabies or something,’ the man said.
Nobody could call me mangy now. In fact, I’m developing something of a paunch. Lucy teases me when she’s feeling brave. I don’t mind, truth be told. Why would I? I have seen wonder at first hand. Seen it with my one good eye. It came for me as surely as my mother’s tongue, the day she pushed me out into