2021-01-13 Alley 12317
There's a well-known saying that goes, "You don't choose a cat, a cat chooses you." So what should you do, when a persistent pussycat in the neighbourhood decides to adopt you?


For me, it began about 18 months ago, one long, hot summer evening when two huge wanting eyes, accompanied by serenading mews appeared at the kitchen door. It didn't recoil when I approached it. In fact it appeared quite pleased when I began speaking in ridiculously high-pitched baby speak. Nor did it flinch when I softly stroked behind its grey, fluffy ears. Instead it lay on its back and allowed me to feel the softness of its white belly fur and loudly purred in gratitude. In appreciation that my affections were returned, I opened a can of tuna which it hastily scoffed and left.


I didn't think anything of it at the time other than that it was a cosy exchange. A summer memory made and I had performed a good deed.


After a couple of months I bought a pet bed for The Cat to relax in and dedicated bowls for food and water. I would go to work, discover cat hair on my clothes and smile in anticipation of being together in the evenings. Photos of The Cat would appear on my social media. Colleagues at work would notice my online activity and ask, "How's your cat?" I would answer as if The Cat was mine.


A quick internet search for the hashtag #notmycat revealed that I was part of a club. There were other people just like me - people enjoying the benefits of a cat but with none of the responsibilities of an owner. There are beautiful clandestine pictures and vlogs of humans and felines that don't officially belong together.


So is it normal?


"I do feel cats live on their own terms. I don't think they are deliberately deciding, 'I'm going to manipulate this human.' It's much more straightforward," says cat behaviour counsellor Celia Haddon. They find somewhere where they have food and warmth and a friendly human and try to stay there.

“我确实觉得猫有它们自己的生活方式。我不认为他们是故意决定 ‘我要操纵这个人。’的,实际上,猫的想法要简单得多”猫咪行为顾问西莉亚·哈登说。它们会找到一个有食物、温暖和有友好的人类的地方,并试图留在那里。

"The one thing about cats is they're enormously persistent. If you can have an animal that can wait for hours outside a mouse-hole waiting for a mouse, then you've got an animal who can wait at a door, if it wants to move in, for hours too."


Much later, I discovered there is a book about this.


Originally published in 1990, Six Dinner Sid is a children's book that tells the story of a cat called Sid, who lives at number one Aristotle Street. But Sid also lives at all the other houses on the street and eats at all the homes, whose owners all believe Sid belongs to them.


Unlike the real cats described by Celia Haddon, Sid knows very well what he is doing. But his manipulative plans unravel when he gets sick and the neighbours discover they're all being played.


Author Inga Moore tells me it was based on a black cat she knew when she lived in north London.


"I heard someone call him by a name which sounded like Sid," she says. "Sid used to come in through the cat flap and make himself at home at number four where I was living. I think his home was number six. Sid in the book was very much Sid in real life and he was the inspiration for the story, which is of course made up.”


"I have had many cat visitors over the years and I've always enjoyed their company. Apparently they have developed an ability to communicate with human beings in a way. They know how to get what they need from us by wheedling and being charming. It makes us love them and makes them special."


Joanna Lodge from the UK's largest feline welfare charity, Cats Protection, says scientists have speculated that it's cats' eyes, "reminiscent of the large eyes of a baby", that help them to win our hearts.


This would explain a lot: my need to infantilize my speech and my instinct to feed The Cat, gush with love and provide shelter. My maternal instincts came pouring out. But in the months that followed our first meeting, I became ever more aware of a growing sense of guilt. I would look on local websites for lost cats wondering whether I would find an appeal from The Cat's owner, but found nothing.


I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed.


Then my affair came to a sudden end. The Cat vanished.


Then, in the first weeks of the spring lockdown, I had a chance conversation with my neighbour over the garden fence. I casually (though very deliberately) mentioned The Cat and was told the owners had moved. So it did have owners! I probably shouldn't have been surprised.


The Owner replied to my email.


His name was David. He explained that he owned two cats, a brown tabby called Henry, and Eddie, a silver tabby who was "often away for days". They had moved 120 miles away, to Lincolnshire, he wrote. The cats, "love the semi-rural environment, are very happy here and enjoy us now being with them all day," he added. "Naturally we could not bear to part with them."
He suggested that I should get my own cat.

他的名字叫大卫。他解释说他有两只猫,一只叫亨利的棕色虎斑猫和一只叫艾迪的银色虎斑猫,艾迪就是那只经常离家出走好几天的猫。他告诉我,“我们搬到了120英里以外的林肯郡。这些猫喜欢半乡村的环境,他们在这里很开心,他们也很享受我们现在整天待在一起的时光,”他同时补充道,“当然了,我们是舍不得分开他们的。” 他最后建议我应该养一只自己的猫。

"They are pedigree cats of the British Shorthair breed. You should be able to find a breeder and they are as delightful as kittens as you would imagine."
At the time, it was inconceivable to even think about any other cat. Eddie had chosen me.

“它们是纯种的英国短毛猫。你应该能找到一只的,它们就像你想象中的小猫一样可爱。” 在那个时候,想其他任何一只猫对我来说都是不可思议的。是艾迪选择了我。

In a follow-up email to David, I confessed the full extent of my involvement in Eddie's disappearance. I was filled with remorse.


David told me that Eddie's absences had been deeply distressing.
"We did not know if he had been knocked down or stolen, was locked in somewhere or just on the prowl having adventures," he wrote.


I asked David if he was annoyed that I had contacted him to explain what had happened. He replied: "We recognised the pain that you and your family were feeling at having lost a cat that had become very precious to you and felt sympathy rather than annoyance. There was also some relief to finally understand what he had been doing and that he had not been suffering, cold and alone."

我问大卫,他是否会因为我联系他解释事情的经过而生气。他回答说: “我们能感受到你和你的家人对失去一只对你们来说非常珍贵的猫的痛苦,我们感到同情而不是烦恼。而且我也明白了他失踪期间并没有遭受痛苦、寒冷和孤独时,我也松了一口气。”

Her organisation, Cats Protection, provides paper collars that you can attach to a cat if you aren't sure whether it has a home. They have "Do I belong to you?" written on them, and this alxs the owner, if there is one, that someone is concerned.


"There are different responsibilities," Joanna says. "I think one is for the owner to make sure their cat can be identified by microchip. And for anyone who has a cat in the garden, they should try to find out if it's got an owner, or contact us and we can make efforts to find owners." In the latter case, it's a legal responsibility, she says, as it would be if you came across some lost property - you can't just take it for yourself.

“他们有不同的责任,”乔安娜说。“我认为一种方法是让主人确保他们的猫可以被芯片识别。对于那些在花园里养猫的人来说,他们应该试着弄清楚猫是否有主人,或者联系我们,我们可以努力找到主人。” 她说,在后一种情况下,这是一种法律责任,就像你遇到一些丢失的财产一样,你不能随便拿走。

As the days got shorter and this year started drawing to a close, David's words about getting a cat resonated hard. I realised how much I needed the comfort of something purry and furry on my lap to soothe me during a time of such uncertainty.