Tuesday 22 October 2019

Puss in cahoots

Declan Cashin

WE ALL know what it's like when a friend starts seeing someone and they keep dropping the name of their new paramour into conversation at every possible opportunity. For instance, say your friend is going out with someone named John. You might say something like, "Ow, I really must get this ingrown toe nail seen to", and your googly-eyed friend will pipe in with, "You know who else has toes? John".

Or you could remark that a dinner table has fine, sturdy legs, prompting your lovestruck pal to swoon and say, "You know who else has fine, sturdy legs?" Hmm, would it be John by any chance?

Well, this name-dropping phenomenon has inveigled its way into my life of late, but there's a twist in the 'tail': the object of my friend's devotion is his new pet cat.

Now, before you contact the ISPCA or notify Jerry Springer, my friend isn't some weird cat fetish freak. He's just a guy who loves caring for his pet -- a smitten- kitten if you will.

The little moggy turned up with an injured paw in his back garden and, being the huge softie he is, my friend took it in and nursed it back to health. That was a few months ago, and since then, the kitten has become a permanent fixture in the house, but so much so that I'm beginning to worry.

I should state my prejudices from the start: I hate cats. I think they are vicious and evil. I don't trust them. They look like they are always just one purr away from scratching your eyeballs out. Remember Michelle Pfeiffer's transformation into Catwoman in Batman Returns? All those cats nibbling at her character's body, chewing on her fingertips as she lay on the snowy street? I shudder just thinking about it.

By extension, whenever I think of 'cat lovers' or 'cat people', I can't help but picture that crazy old woman in The Simpsons with cats hanging out of her hair who spouts nonsensical gibberish and tosses the animals at innocent bystanders.

But that's just me. Evidently there are many cat lovers out there, and my friend has joined their ranks. So we'll all be in the pub and my friend will suddenly break into an adorable story about how his pet played with a ball, or how she loves this piece of music, or why she was in the bad books for some feline misdemeanour.

His eyes light up when you ask about her. He has pictures of her on his phone. When he was in New York over Christmas, he brought back special cat grass from a holistic pet store that apparently has all these vitamins that cats need. He also bought a shampoo to clean her with and a grooming kit to help trim her nails. The cat even has her own Bebo page (Favourite Food: "Felix Kitten Pouches are bleedin' massive!").

At first I was understanding and quietly supportive, but, being a true, loyal and honest friend, I've felt it was my duty of late to start mocking him mercilessly. I invoke the ultimate cat owner stereotype -- old spinster -- and just let rip. All from a place of love, you understand.

But it seems the more I make fun, the more devoted he becomes. This moggy has dug her claws in, so to speak, and she's not going anywhere.

All of which means that this animal and I are going to have to come to some sort of accommodation. I'll be polite to her when I visit his place. I'll make conversation and show a modicum of interest in developments in her life, all while smiling politely.

In return, I expect for her to respect my boundaries and not give me those regular evil stares I pick up from cats, the kind that I interpret as saying, "Just wait until you're asleep and defenceless. Then you'll feel my feline wrath".

So I'm going to give her a chance, at least until my friend crosses to the dark side entirely and begins toting her around in some kind of shoulder bag and starts buying her designer coats and booties. Now that would be 'pussing' it too far.

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