“She’s back. Oh, hello, catty – what’s that she’s got in her mouth oh my God, oh my God…”
Over the past nine months we had got so accustomed to our cat’s inability to catch her own toys or tail, let alone another animal, that I admit we had become complacent. Every day she would return through her catflap – bap-Bam-bm – just the same as always… which made it a surprise when she brought a mouse in with her on Saturday.
The animal was – luckily, or worryingly, depending on your part in this drama – still alive and largely unhurt. When she dropped it at the bottom of the stairs, it ran behind a balled-up pair of gloves to hide from her gaze; but in its panic, it had no idea I was stooping over it.
I scooped up the tiny creature (which barely struggled), strode past K. – her head in her hands – and released the petrified animal outside the back of our garden, where it scurried off into a communal hedge. Meanwhile, the cat continued to stare and occasionally paw at objects at the bottom of the stairs, stopping occasionally to sniff. We played with her, to keep her happy, reward her for this horrid act, lest she do it again.
A combination of freak conditions. The cat has learned how to scratch her collar until her bell leans inaudibly on her shoulder. The weather had reached its coldest, driving desperate prey closer to the house. She got lucky. She didn’t even kill it; probably brought it in out of confusion as much as to show off. We hadn’t played with her much recently, and maybe the instinct to chase had built up in her tiny cat heart, until such a disaster was inevitable….
Look, this behaviour came from a cat frightened by blackbirds, by pigeons, by towels and washing-up bowls, by every other cat in the neighbourhood. But, worse, it came from a cat which we had largely come to imagine as our four-footed human-ish pal. With accompanying human-ish sensibilities and human-ish humaneness. Now, we have to readjust how we see her: yes, she can be our pal; yes, she seeks out our company, and even came to find me when I was doubled up in sprained-ankle agony having fallen down three steps of the stairs; but she’s an animal, and one step away from a wild one.
We play with her more often; K. tries to do so at least once a day, preferably before we let her out. We invent stories of her passing some cheese wrapped up in a tenner to the mouse (“Thanks, Brian: I’ve got extra play sessions out of that one. I owe you!”) We imagine it as a statistical anomaly, a freak event, a terrible mistake made out of her depth. And, most importantly, when the catflap flaps – bap-Bam-bm – we pay her a lot more attention.