As I arose to flick on the kettle my thoughts were on a large influx of family members, an odd allergic reaction, and the horrible but inescapable reality that it was probably time I went bra shopping.
I wasn’t thinking about the cat.
I don’t think about cats the same way I don’t eat olives – they’re just not for me, and if they’re kept away from my food then we shouldn’t have any problems. It’s a stance that comes with no malice, like changing the radio station every time Ed Sheeran’s voice starts, or never intentionally using emoticons. Each to their own.
There are cat people, there are dog people, and there are people that are still holding out for the arrival of unicorns. But for some of us, all animals merely prompt an ambivalent shrug.
My father turned that ambivalence into an art form. He literally only ever called the family pets by names like ‘New Dog’, ‘Small Dog’ and ‘Grey Dog’, yet he methodically walked them around the block every day, and was somehow exclusively in charge of picking up every single piece of shit those canines brought forth into the world. Like a faecal midwife, he’d trail after them, while avoiding actually patting them
at all costs.
I inherited this disinterest.
As I brewed my tea, the cat wove between my legs, before offering a plaintive meow.
I replied with a distracted, and yes, maybe haughty: “Hello George Michael”, before returning to sit at the table with my steaming brew.
|Cat is also called George Michael.|
My oldest sister Mrs Ryan had gone in a slightly different direction. There was a point in time when she owned a bird, a mouse, two cats, two dogs, three guinea pigs, and a stout pony called Bob. When you have that many pets all at once, it’s perhaps entirely inevitable that one of them will end up being called George Michael.
George Michael was unimpressed that I had failed to acknowledge him as the most magnificent and important occupant of the room. But it’s easy to ignore a being’s outrage when you’re ignoring the being altogether.
In my peripheral vision I saw the cat amble in my direction, but his casual strides in no way prepared me for his sudden dancer’s leap directly on to my cup of tea.
I screeched in horror, cured of my ambivalence as the hot liquid was hurled across my body, and my keyboard.
|Cat is a villainous upender of tea.|
Despite my indifference to the animal kingdom, I have always been able to appreciate from afar. I like dogs minus the smell, fish without all the tank cleaning, and chickens because they’re delicious. But cats… I always thought the key to cats, the most redeeming quality was that they shared my mutual shrug of meh. They cared as little for me as I did for them, and that was something I could always respect – on some level, it was like we understood each other.
But now, as sure as the ‘page down’ button on my keyboard no longer works, as true as the tea-soaked trousers I had to change out of, as clear as the smirk that cat gave me while it sauntered away… George Michael and I are no longer be friends.
* = After fierce negotiation, George Michael and I very briefly put aside our differences for the purposes of the photo shoot that accompanies this post.