Let me start off with the disclaimer that I love animals, I absolutely love them. Apart from insects and aggressive things with more limbs than me.
I used to be quite the animal tamer, with my first experience of animal ownership being a hamster named Cookie which my parent brought for me when I was about 4 or 5. That hamster was an absolute Houdini, managing to repeatedly escape from its barred confines. I remember Cookie had managed to evade us for almost a week, and with the scurrying noise from behind the fitted kitchen stations starting to drive The Mothership insane something had to be done. I worked with my Dad over a number of nights, always just before bedtime, trying to construct the perfect hamster trap. We had 2 failures, each morning coming down to discover a little trail of nibbled carrot leading away from the trap towards the kitchen, until finally we felt we had come up with the perfect hamster trap.
We built up a set of ‘stairs’ using an assortment of books, the stairs eventually getting high enough to level off with the top of a small red plastic bucket. Around the base of the stairs we scattered a small amount of carrot (Cookie’s Achilles heal), and ascending up the stairs we placed a little carrot on each book step as an irresistible ‘come hither’ lure. We balanced one of my wooden rulers from school on the topmost book as a bridge between the books and the bin, and at the end of the ruler, hanging over the abyss of the bin, we placed a mother-load amount of carrot. I insisted on putting a few generous handfuls of newspaper to cushion the hamsters fall.
We went up to bed and settled down for the night. I remember being unable to sleep, torn with pride with my hamster for managing to evade us for so long and hope that the little sod would finally be caught so I could hold his fat, warm little body in my hands again (possibly the driving reason fueling for his passionate need to escape).
A few hours passed, the moon and stars slowly moved across the sky, until finally we heard a clunky, loud little BUMP from downstairs, and the clatter of wood on plastic. From my parents bedroom I heard a muttered, “Finally.” I wanted to get up and go check on Cookie, but my Dad heard me move and told me to wait until morning as the hamster wasn’t going anywhere, so I tormented him with scenarios of Cookie having broken a leg in his fall, or something going wrong and the hamster falling outside the bucket, with Cookie lying on the floor painfully pinned in place under the wooden ruler. My Dad realised sleep would be a stranger until I had the assurance my hamster was alright, so he led me downstairs and we clicked on the kitchen light and were greeted with the sight of a furious fat and furry hamster glaring up at up from a nest of carrot and newspaper in the red plastic bin. My Dad was obviously thrilled our trap had worked, and decided we would leave Cookie where he was as punishment until the morning.
That hamster was the beginning of a succession of pets, from a Tom cat called Buster who was a real life Greebo but who fled the house the day my newborn brother was brought home from the hospital; a playful Alsatian puppy which lasted all of 2-hours with us until it pooed on my baby brother (much to my thrilled delight) and was promptly sent back with the kind family who had delivered it; a goldfish or 3; more hamsters, each more nefarious than the last; my beloved bunny rabbit Hazel who viewed me as her adopted Mummy but who disappeared in the night, no doubt lured away by a strapping young Buck in the fields behind our house; my Dad briefly raised pigs, but I wouldn’t exactly call them pets as they were raised with more of an end-product approach than pet, although the runt of the litter had a hard time surviving, and another piglet was sat on my his ginormous Mum and we nursed them at home for a short period; and then we had Pebbles, a female cat who mysteriously turned up at our door and, after my brother slipped her a saucer of milk, decided to stay. We didn’t know much about her, and therefore didn’t get her ‘seen to’ in the way that cautious, proactive cat owners do, and so after she ‘got to know’ some of the local Toms she presented us with a litter of kittens that we loved, adored and had to give away; and my final pet was the sociopath Rosella Parakeet called Joey (he arrived already named), biter of fingers, tormenter of cats, lover of peacocks (long story) and overall mentalist who cherished me with the same burning zeal that crazy devotees give to their object of adoration. Joey lasted over 17-years and the only reason he and I parted is because I was coming to the USA for an extended period of time, and my Mum wouldn’t be able to take care of him while I was gone as birds feet give her the heebiejeebies.
Now, all things having come to pass, I am with The Hublet and his home comes with the family cat, a gorgeous furball called Sasami, but I’ve realised that I just don’t understand cats. This cat is a complete ninja assassin, and a huge amount of furry wildlife have met their doom between her paws, and unfortunately cats do so seem to delight in bringing home their trophies as a gift to their owners.
So the other evening The Hublet and I are watching a film, and I hear Sasami’s jaunty little collar bell (in a vain effort to give Jacksonville’s wildlife a sporting chance) jingling its way into the room and the soft thump of something being thrown down. I get up and check on her, and sure enough my suspicions were correct as a small, cute and absolutely still mouse is on the floor. Now, I’ve been researching into what to do when cats bring gifts home and the common consensus is that you shouldn’t make too much of a fuss as cats aren’t like dogs, if you tell a cat off it won’t make puppy eyes at you, as they don’t seem to be able to differentiate between angry scolding and enthusiastic praise, and will simply hear excited noises and presume you’ve eagerly received their gift, so while The Hublet is off retrieving the dustpan and brush, I follow the popular advice and stroke her on the head once, thank her for the mouse, then proceed to ignore her.
The Hublet returns and disappears off down the garden to hide the mouse somewhere out of the reach of all nocturnal predators.
Within 30-minutes of The Hublet and I settling back down to enjoy our film I again hear the jaunty jingle of an approaching bell, and before I can react Sasami comes into the room, makes a beeline for me and jumps up on the couch while dropping a new mouse next to me, then sits back and actually manages to look proud of herself, almost as if she’s saying, “Now I know how much you liked the last one, and I don’t mean to spoil you, but you have been very good lately.”
The Hublet moves faster than an oiled snake on a slip’n’slide, faster than the Millenium Falcon evading the Star Destroyer Avenger, and the mouse is whisked out of the house before I can draw in my first gasp of yelling air.
So I’m back to square one when it comes to training our kitty to kill all she wants, but to not bring gifts home.
Today I finish up the morning chores and sit down at the computer, and before too long the kitty slinks into the room. She wants attention, but I’m busy and don’t have the time for her. I hear a scrabbling noise, and can feel her jump up onto the back of my chair. She then makes her way from behind me to the arm rest, and tries to get my attention without looking as if she’s trying to get my attention in that annoyingly jerky way cats have. This fails, so she steps onto the desk and proceeds to sit right in front of me, blocking my view of the screen, but all the while completely ignoring me as if she simply decided to have a rest while walking around the room.
I try to wait her out, but cats have the patience of glaciers, and so I grab a blanket from the floor, bunch it onto my lap and motion for her to step down from the desk and into the nest, which she does so but her entire body language communicating to me that she’s only doing so as a favour to me and not because she actually wants to. She then makes herself comfortable and sits still for a few minutes, but then suddenly seems annoyed that my hands aren’t worshiping her fur, and she begins to lean her body forwards to intercept my hands as they type on the keyboard, grab my cup or write in my notepad, so I free a hand up and put it on exclusive Kitty Duty, stroking her head, ears, chin and neck in the way that I know she enjoys.
The Purring begins.
However, after a while the purring ends as Sasami realises that only one hand is being utilised on her, and she tries to grab my attention again. At this point we’re either going to reach a compromise or she’s going to get tipped off of my lap.
I decide to try new tactics, and while making a fuss over her and stroking her, I sneak up the corners of the blanket she’s lying on and wrap her inside of it, like some sort of furry sausage roll. She blinks at me for a few seconds, almost as if weighing up if this is worth drawing blood over or not, but then decides the toasty heat that’s suddenly enveloping her is a good thing after all, and so she settles down and actually falls asleep, and so I can get some work done.
The problem I now have is that all this photo taking has waken the beast once more, and I suspect she’s about to review her previous blood-letting stance.