We left it too late to have pets in our family.
I have made this decision.
Just too late.
Derek only arrived two years ago, and the children were utterly unprepared for the rigours of pet ownership.
We always had pets as I was growing up, consequently, unless the animal was particularly cute or particularly stupid, you learned to just deal with what your pets did, because, much like soap operas and arm chairs, they are always there.
I think it is good for children to be around animals from birth (the birth of the child, not the animal). It toughens up their immune systems, it teaches them to care for something that isn’t them (and believe me, that’s one tough ask – Lord of the Flies is not fiction as far as I’m concerned), and it stops them shrieking every time the animal does something, anything at all that isn’t lie around or eat.
Nothing surprises a life time animal owner.
My children love Derek with a passion they usually only reserve only for small moulded bits of plastic in the shape of obscure Japanese anime figures and chocolate buttons, but they don’t half wail if something slightly out of the ordinary occurs. They are just not immune yet to the idiocy of felines. And as Derek is a particularly idiotic feline it means extra waily waily with a side order of argh!
Take today, for example.
As my good friend Saj knows, I do not have a recognisable beauty routine. Getting dressed in the morning takes me approximately fifteen minutes including washing, brushing and other sanitary arrangements best not discussed in open forum.
When I am in the midst of this however, I do not like to be disturbed. It is what I laughingly refer to as my ‘me’ time.
Today I was interrupted twice.
Both times because of Derek.
I had sent the children out to fettle the garden in preparation for trying to put up the giant and scary paddling pool that Uncle Robber sent us two years ago and which we’ve never dared put up before.
Fettling involves removing cat pooh from the lawn.
Derek, as you know, does not know she is a cat. Abandoned at a young age in a ditch, she never had a chance to learn how to be a proper cat from her mother.
This is because she is a norphan from the storm.
You may remember that we had various issues with her using the litter tray but not burying her pooh. She knows she should dig, but she doesn’t know why, or where. She digs furiously and diligently around the pooh, under the pooh, three miles away from the pooh, all the time, hurling litter like confetti at a particularly joyous wedding.
The pooh remains in pristine condition, shining like a burnished conker in the sun.
Prior to moving to this house, Derek would not pooh outdoors under any circumstances at all.
She feared the outdoors, because it was where she became a norphan and had to live in a ditch eating paper.
She is now all countryside a go go, though, and has spent a happy few months chasing squirrels till they bark, licking mice and wandering about in the rain wondering where everyone else has gone (she also does not know that she is not supposed to like the rain).
As a consequence of this new found love of the outdoors she has taken to shitting on the lawn. She feels no need for privacy, in fact, probably feels safer with an audience, and will squat down and curl one out wherever and whenever she pleases.
It is good because we don’t have to clean out the litter tray. It is bad because she is a prolific poo machine, and the lawn has to be de turded in order to make it safe and savoury.
If the children have annoyed me, they get this duty.
Hence this morning’s wandering around replete with carrier bags and shit shovels.
I know I am a mean parent.
But I do not want to discuss the ins and outs of Mine Craft with two warring sides at eight thirty on a Wednesday morning, and that’s what happens when they persist.
I left them to it, on their turd treasure hunt, and shot upstairs to get dressed.
No sooner was I naked than Tallulah came screaming upstairs to tell me that Derek had gone up a tree and was stuck.
I pointed out that cats do go up trees. It is what cats do. It was unlikely that Derek was, in fact, stuck. She was probably just being a bit of an arse.
Tallulah looked woeful and said: ‘Yes, but…’ a few times until I stood at the top of the stairs in all my naked glory shouting: ‘What do you want me to do about it? Can I get dressed first?’
She trailed off down stairs.
I had just wrestled into bra and pants when there was another thudding on the stairs.
Tilly rushed in, shouting: ‘Derek! Derek! Derek is stuck in a tree!’
I confirmed that I had heard this rumour only moments before.
She said: ‘What shall we do?’
I said: ‘I shall continue to get dressed. Derek will get down from the tree.’
She said: ‘But what if she doesn’t? She was really scared, and a big grey cat chased her up there.’
I got her to point out the tree from the landing window.
It was twenty foot high and as thin as a whip.
Derek was wobbling about in the top branches.
I am five foot three. At this point I was still only wearing pants and bra.
I looked at the tree. I looked down at myself. I looked at Tilly.
I said: ‘And…again…what can I do?’
She said: ‘But Derek! Derek is crying!’
And her lip wobbled.
And a small chorus piped up from the bottom of the stairs:
‘Yes! Derek is crying! And she can’t get down.’
And then all waily waily broke loose.
And again I said:
‘But the tree is 20 feet tall. I am five foot three. I am in pants. Even if I were not in pants. Even if I were in my best tree climbing clothes and had a ladder to hand, the tree is still whip thin. I am not whip thin. What do you want me to do?’
‘Cats climb trees. It is what they do. They can climb up them. They can climb down them.’
Snorting, heaving, gulping.
More waily waily.
I got cross. Which is, I am aware, not the kind, parenty thing to do. On the other hand I was standing on the landing in my pants, watching an idiot cat waving about in the branches of a very tall tree, wailing and wailing, and watching three children wailing about on the stairs.
Patience was in short supply.
I said: ‘I am not bloody well calling the fire brigade on behalf of an idiot cat. People might burn to death because of that cat, and it’s all because she’s a bloody idiot!’
The children wailed some more.
‘If she’s still up there in three hours, I will think about what to do next. Now bugger off and let me put some clothes on.’
They buggered off.
I put some clothes on.
As I was getting dressed, I watched Derek swaying about in the top of the tree, the children all spread under it, without a blanket to catch her in, exhorting her to come down.
Five minutes later she skittered down the tree, and lay at the bottom looking like an angry mountain lion, with the expression of a cat who knows they’ve been caught out in humiliating circumstances.
The children were most pleased.
Nobody said anything to me as I came downstairs.
The cat wouldn’t look me in the eye either.