That Darn Cat!

By Lindsey Mckinnon, Bacup
Boy, did I choose the wrong week to give up glue sniffing… That, as any film aficionados will recall, wasone on the many silly lines from the movie Airplane.
Of course, there is never a good week to give up glue sniffing, or any other addiction, come to that. Life does like to throw a few spanners in the works and nearly always – at the worst time.
In January last year, I did give up an addiction; no not glue sniffing, but smoking. The side effects of smoking are well documented. No one with any sense would still be smoking… right? And yet we still do – or did, in my  case (she adds, smarmily).
The decision happened somewhere over the holiday season; which is a bumper time for entertainers to earn a few extra bucks from the abundance of gigs.

“Janice only realised George was there when she heard the snarls, the squeals and spitting”

It is then, of course, that I got the flu – the second in as many months and in the gigs I did manage to do, I sang like a coughing frog and looked like a wet rag – a sequined and sparkly one, but a wet rag none the less. “Why on earth do I keep getting the flu?” I thought, absently reaching for a cig. I couldn’t light it. I didn’t even want it. It was the ritual habit of smoking that was causing me to want one. I never really enjoyed smoking and over the last five years I have smoked, I still thought of myself as a non-smoker… who just happened to smoke sometimes.
I hated how my skin looked, the dark circles under my eyes, the undeniable detrimental effects it had on my short term and long term health, but most of all I HATED smelling like an ashtray.
I already hadn’t smoked for a week due to the flu, so I decided to use this as my kicking off point.
All was going well in the garden, metaphorically speaking, as far as dealing with going cold turkey; not so well in the garden literally speaking however. My kitten, Gorgeous George, was having a wander around the  neighbour’s garden late one night, when Janice, the said neighbour, let out her German Shepherd for his ablutions. Janice only realised George was there when she heard the snarls, the squeals and spitting, followed by a little black and white bundle of fur shooting six foot into the air (thrown or jumped we shall never know).
Horrified and being the brave soul she is, Janice let out the most blood curdling scream I have ever heard and put herself in the middle of the melee (known as the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ don’t you know) and managed to separate canine from feline. I arrived at the back door to investigate who was being bludgeoned to death – based on the scream I had heard – just in time to see George dart past me and up the lane at somewhere near the speed of  light.

“He had tried to escape his plastic prison by forcing his face through the air vents”

Both Janice and I donned our wellies and trudged up and down the muddy back lane in search of one scared little kitten, but to no avail. Poor Janice was mortified and kept apologising for her dog behaving like a dog  around a cat, and not even noticing that she had scratches and a puncture wound on her arm. I sent her home and continued my search.
I kept returning home to see if he had sneaked in. I sat next to the open door for 10 minutes or so before going out again, torch in hand, into the increasingly cold rain, to go over the same areas I’d already searched numerous times.
A couple of hours and a few grey hairs later, I found poor little George, eyes the size of saucers, hunched under a bush and behind the protective custody of a garden gnome brandishing a fishing rod. “It’s all right, darling,  I’m coming to get you,” I declared, climbing over a garden fence.

The large snarling beige thing that was literally on his tail and heading into the kitchen right after him”

“I’m here George, you’re safe now,” I said, and nearly hurtled head first over three bags of cement and a pile of bricks (he would have to choose the ‘work in progress’ garden to hide in). “You’re okay,” I assured him, while walking the plank that balanced precariously between an un-cemented brick wall and a wooden bench.
Like a cross between Bridget and Indiana Jones in wellies, I ignored the perils and focused on getting to this tiny mite, frozen with cold and shock.
I did briefly wonder how the hell I was going to do the return journey while carrying a frightened kitten. I also gave a silent prayer that they didn’t have a Rottweiler.
Somehow I did manage it though and he was fine until we got close to the neighbours’ house, where, not surprisingly, he darted out from under my coat, through our back door and up to his Fortress of Solitude (that’s the  old garden chair, tented in a pink sheet that his bed nestles beneath).
I needed the solace of a cig… But I resisted. The second test of my determination came when George had to go to the vets to be ‘de-bobbled’.
I know the op is supposed to be stressful, but I thought that was just for the cat. Chasing George around thehouse and then stuffing his squirming body into the borrowed cat box and having to hold him in there before slamming the lid shut was bad enough.
The journey there though, listening to his increasingly fraught cries, as he fought against the confines of the cat box, almost broke my heart. Living 20 miles due north of Oblivion, means that an affordable vet is an hour’s  journey away. A very long hour in this case. By the time we got there, he was once again, wide eyed and huddled in his now familiar ‘I’ve been traumatised’ position. When I bent to pick him up though, the confirmation  that I am the world’s cruellest pet owner was complete. He had tried to escape his plastic prison by forcing his face through the air vents; one of which had been poorly finished and had a sharp edge, giving him a scratched and very bloody nose. I gasped in horror and looked at the nurse who was eyeing me suspiciously.
“He wasn’t like that when he went in the box!” I declared defensively. Bemused, I felt around the inside for the sharp part, that, naturally, I could not find at that moment.
“Hmmm, I’ve never seen that happen before,” she said as she tried to retrieve George from the back of my neck where he was clinging for dear life.
There are times in life where it is pointless to defend yourself without dropping yourself deeper in it. This, I decided, was one of them. The process was not a quick ‘whip in and whip ‘em off ’ job, apparently. Instead I had  to leave George there for eight hours. I could hear the sound of his anguished meowing as the nurse carried him off down the corridor to god knows where, and I headed for the exit in the opposite direction. I felt as though  I were in a scene from Sophie’s Choice.
I could not face the ordeal of torture by cat box on the way home, so I lay his drowsy little body atop the blanket on the back seat, which both of us felt a lot happier about.
Urge for a cig number two. Yet again, I resisted.
Test number three: The rain turned to snow, and, in my inimitable fashion, I took a lessthan elegant sideways dive when heading back to my car one evening. Mostly, it hurt my pride, but a few other bits got pretty hurt in the process, especially my knee. This meant I couldn’t run and play with an increasingly bored kitten, so when he started pawing at the back door to get out, it seemed only fair that he should be allowed to go.
It has taken a long time for George (and me) to be brave enough, after his altercation with the alsatian, to sally forth into the wide blue yonder. Tonight was the night for that to happen, and so with a little (OK, a bloody big truckload of) trepidation, the back door was propped open and out he went.DarnCat
He sat on the doorstep for a long while before venturing to the gate. His bright green eyes kept looking behind to check I was still there and he could dart back in any time he wanted. Eventually, he trotted further out in  search of adventure and plants to chew on. Great, I can do some editing on my book while he’s out, I thought. Approximately ten minutes later I heard a cat scream and knew it was George.
Heart pounding, I half rushed half hobbled to the door, just in time to see a little black and white streak dart though it in an attempt to get away from the large snarling beige thing that was literally on his tail and heading  into the kitchen right after him. Not sure if it was good fortune, good timing, or a combination of the two, but I managed to slam the door on whatever was chasing him, avoiding catching George’s tail while stopping the  monster with a satisfying doii-ooii-ooiiinnng, as his nose hit the door. I never did see if it was a cat or a dog, but it was big and angry and set on its prey.
I never knew having a kitten was so stressful. Boy did I need a smoke then. Had I known the first two months of ceasing smoking was going to be so stressful, I may have chosen a different time to give up.
Truth is, there is never a good time to give up any addiction. There will always be stressful times, both expected and unexpected. There will always be an “I can allow myself this one, considering the circumstances” excuse  that I can use to delay stopping or fall back into old habits.
Yes, my consumption of coffee and cream eggs went through the roof, (why do they have to start selling Easter eggs in January?) but most days I didn’t even think of wanting to smoke.
PS: George healed nicely, thank you – both ends of him. As for his nerve, well, he has now got into the habit of waiting until our neighbour Janice goes out, at which time he sits on her window ledge and watches with a  nonchalant air as Sasha the German Shepherd paws the window in a useless attempt to get at him… that darn cat!