The thing is…

A black cat came to the back door. A young cat, small and thin and nervous. Usually I shoo local cats away, to prevent them shitting in the herbaceous borders or pouncing on the resident sparrows, but this time I didn’t. It was an unfamiliar cat and somehow seemed lost and slightly distressed, and I would never turn away any animal in need – except perhaps an Ophiophagus hannah (king cobra: they slowly crush you before eating you whole, head first) or a Homo sapien (human being: they slowly crush you before losing interest and spitting you out, head last).

I coaxed him into the house with a saucer of double cream. The way to the heart of Felis catus is via his belly. You will notice I have just switched pronouns from “it” to “he/him/his”; this isn’t because I know, or care about, the cat’s gender, merely a touch of the unconscious narrative bias ingrained into geezers of my generation plus this particular cat’s very evident stereotypical ‘male’ behaviour traits like fearfulness, suspicion and reluctance to get close.

He lapped up every last smidgeon of the cream, swishing his tail and glancing around anxiously as his rough tongue almost removed the pattern from the Colclough bone china saucer. When there was absolutely nothing left he looked up at me and voiced a winning, croaky miaow before scarpering sharpish out of the back door, through the garden, over the rear wall and off to whatever feline imperatives and escapades awaited. Oh how I envied him: I lived like that right through my 20s and 30s, a feral, unattached, free-range wild rover relying on the kindness of strangers…

The exact same time the following day – 7pm just as we were having our evening meal – he appeared at the open back door again, yellow eyes cautiously studying us across the threshold. At the kitchen table, Malc was tucking into a piece of grilled fresh salmon while I, not being a fish-eater (Ych a fi, that’s like eating king cobra!), was pushing some over-dry and under-soaked tabbouleh around a (Colclough bone china) bowl.

Serves two

80g (3oz) bulgar wheat
3 tomatoes
1 onion
½ small cucumber
handful of pitted black olives
bunch of fresh parsley
bunch of fresh mint
2 lemons
50ml (3tbsp) olive oil
Salt and black pepper

1 Put the bulgar in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 10 minutes or so until the water’s absorbed and the wheat’s soft
2 Transfer to a larger bowl
3 Add the diced/sliced/chopped tomatoes, onion, cucumber and olives
4 Add the finely chopped parsley and mint
5 Grate in the rind of the lemons and then squeeze in all the juice
6 Add the olive oil, stir well to amalgamate, season to taste

So refreshing! So clean! And when all else fails you can always use it to grout the outhouse! One thing’s certain: it wasn’t the tabbouleh that Pixie was interested in (yes, I was already beginning to allocate Caradog a range of random, spontaneous, anthropomorphic and ever-changing pet-names). A cat, the carnivore’s carnivore, much prefers a fish supper. So Malc, kindness personified as ever, put down some salmon for Greedy Guts and it was duly devoured with the pernickety relish of…umm…a cat. And then he slinked away into the still-warm, sweet-smelling, softly-falling dusk of the silenced city.

Lo and behold, the next evening (yesterday) it happened again. On the menu this time was more salmon followed by more double cream, duly dispatched by Billy Boston with ferocious yet elegant ravenousness. An audible purr gently vibrated his scrawny body; he was a contented cat, the cat that got the cream. This can’t go on: the little demon’s eating us out of house and home!

From talking to neighbours I gather that a number of homeless cats are roaming through the district, looking for food and shelter. Obviously, they have been dumped and abandoned by owners from outside Splott; vile idiots who inhabit a self-ratifying micro-bubble internet echo-chamber of other credulous cretins regurgitating any old batty, badly-informed conspiracy theory – in this case, the demonstrably untrue idea that cats transmit COVID-19 to humans. Here, then, is one more completely unexpected consequence of the pandemic: caterwauling clowders of displaced, orphaned, refugee cats.

Should Puss turn up again this evening he will find that the luxury banquet is over. Malc popped out to the Co-op and got a tin of their own-brand cat food (Premium Tuna Chunks in Jelly) and Mister Munchkin is going to have to like it or lump it. It’s for his own good. Well, you know what they say, spare the rod…