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It’s a cat’s life

May 2, 2019

I’m feeling guilty.

When I decided to start blogging again, I wrote down a whole list of topics that I could write about. The boat. My script. Definitely not Brexit. The cats. The car. No more trains.

So today I sat down to write about the cats, thinking “I must have done a load on Sprocket, so these two deserve a bit of screen time”. And then I looked through my entire site and couldn’t find one mention of the furry little bugger. After seventeen years of faithful fluffiness, the Greatest Cat in the World got less mention than Greater Anglia. I am ashamed.

Sprocket left us to go play in the great litter box in the sky last September. We were heartbroken. He was our family, our constant, the one thing that was always there – usually right under our feet.  Ben went out one night to buy a sink and came back with a kitten. At just eight weeks old he was tiny and terrified, and absolutely useless at holding water. We adored him from that first evening, and he became the perfect boat cat. Occasionally he would leap off the deck in the wrong direction and end up in the water; sometimes he didn’t come back when he was called, and on more than one occasion we thoroughly disowned him when he brought live and shrieking baby moorhens home in front of horrified children. But other than these teeny tiny flaws, he was just the best. Always up for a snuggle, especially if you didn’t want one. Brilliant at diverting your attention away from a book or the TV. He had the loudest snore I’ve ever heard emanate from an animal, and in his prime weighed in at over seven kilos. He is missed.

Which is why, approximately three days after he died, I was champing at the bit to go and get another kitten. I couldn’t stand the sight of the space where the cat bowl used to be, and it felt plain wrong to enter the boat without issuing a non-sensical greeting and hearing the thud of little paws racing towards me. A week later we had met and fallen in love with two gorgeous little cats, a brother and sister whom we named Rivet and Ratchet, to continue the mechanical theme.

But what we’d forgotten in our grief-ridden haste was that we were replacing an old, slow, boat-savvy cat with two balls of fluff that had never seen the great outdoors, were barely toilet trained, and moved at approximately ninety-five miles an hour.  They eat like horses and steal anything shiny or fluffy (upon moving the sofa last week we found a magpie-den of Christmas baubles, Rizla packets, bits of string and feathers, all carefully curated by Ratchet). They climb behind the lining and send ornaments flying. Rivet regularly poos on the floor of the back cabin or the saloon, usually in full sight of his pristinely clean and empty litter tray. They’re a friggin’ menace.

Most people by now know my stance on kids. A bit like veganism, it’s fine for other people to do it, but there’s only so many Insta pics of a cauliflower steak that I can admire. I’m pretty satisfied with my level of responsibility – a leaky old boat and an ageing husband (both in need of maintenance) – and prefer to spend my hard-earned cash in nice restaurants and time thinking about pretty shoes than on baby clothes that never get worn and worrying about catchment areas.

Why, then, did we buy two kittens? I’m now constantly buying stuff that doesn’t get used (two cute collars that they freaked out at, food of the wrong shape that doesn’t get touched, the litter tray) and worrying about what brand of worming tablet to use.

To me, now, a catchment area is the 50 square feet directly outside the boat where Ratchet is decimating the local fieldmouse population. I’m googling heights and weights of healthy cats, wondering if Rivet is underweight, overly-long, if his head has stopped growing prematurely and whether his tail should be wagging quite like that. Within two hours of bringing them home they vanished entirely, only to be found at midnight, by me in tears, curled up in a drawer under the bed. We haven’t slept through the night in months, and now the sun comes up earlier the cats find 5am the ideal time to pounce on the bed, play with the noisy toys in the bath, and knock glasses of water over (we now use sippy cups, after two dawn soakings).

In short, kittens are hard work! For beings that sleep for fifteen hours a day, they seem to spend the majority of the remaining 24 hours making a mess and being very loud. But also impossibly adorable and cute, which I guess (begrudgingly) is the same as kids, to a greater or lesser extent.

So, in apology to Sprocket, who never got his name in print, but lingers long in our affectionate memory, this is my humble ode to the joy that is cats, with their toe beans and their warm bellies, their chirrups and their snores, their thunder paws down the deck and their ability to stop whatever it is you are doing to go “awwww, you’re so KER-YOOT” at least seventeen times a day.

I am looking forward to the day that Rivet learns where his poo should go, when I get eight hours sleep in a single stretch, and when I can safely leave a half-eaten sandwich on the table without finding bits of it down the sofa three hours later. But equally, I don’t want those years to rush past too quickly. I need at least seventeen years of cat snuggles to pass before a) going through the heartbreak of saying goodbye, and b) forgetting the hard work that is kitten poo and mice carcasses, and having the urge to do it all again.

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