You know those quick fire quizzes – the ones where you’re supposed to instinctively pick your favourite of two things, like… tea/coffee Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin, beer/cider, salt/pepper, sweet/savoury, Beatles/Stones etc.? They’re fun aren’t they? I think they’re supposed to reveal stuff about your personality type or something. The quiz master/mistress says, “Cat/dog?” (Cat/dog is always on the list of pairs), I say, “Cat.” Every time. “Cat.”
That said, I rarely describe myself as ‘a cat person’. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure I understand what it means when people do – or when people, generally, identify themselves according to the animals they live with or do or do not like. But what I do understand is this. I am scared of dogs and – as much as I love rabbits, I doubt I’ll ever have one. Dogs – the big ugly ones? With the teeth and the jaws and the muscley shoulders and the creepy evil smiley faces? Well, I’m mostly afraid they’ll eat me. The other, ‘normal’ ones – I just think they smell a bit funny and are unpredictable and jumpy. They make me feel uneasy. Don’t trust them. The pretty ones, the ones who look silly or have human haircuts – I can get along with. But I get along with them best at a fair distance. I like rabbits, but I mostly like to look at them in books or on the television or in the pet shop. I’ve never held or even touched a rabbit and I wonder, in the back of my mind, whether, if presented with one, I might not be a bit nervous and/or frightened.
Cats on the other hand… Cats I feel comfortable with. Mostly. I have met a few cats that I absolutely did not feel comfortable with – but there are good guys and dicks in the animal kingdom just as there are in people world. What I’m saying, is – on the whole, if I had to share my house with a furry creature, I’d most like that creature to be a cat.
Until the age of about 15 I shared my house with a cat called Soapy. Soapy Cat. To this day, no one has been able to give me a proper reason as to why she was called that. Growing up, people would ask me all the time, “And why is your cat called Soapy?” and I used to lie and tell a stupid story about bubble bath to get them to stop looking to me for all the fucking answers. Anyway – one day, poor Soapy Cat went to the vet and never came back. The story, as my father likes to tell it, is that my mother ‘killed the cat’. Of course, she did no such thing.
In 2005, a big fat grey cat with a funny nose and a crooked tail came to live in mine and Garry’s house. She belonged to a rock starlette who, due to rock starlette commitments, was leaving Glasgow for the glitz of LA. We were pleased to offer a home to Smokey. Smokey Cat. I was relieved that, unlike ‘Soapy’, this name was fairly self explanatory.
After a few days of testing out the comfiness of every item of furniture in every room of our house, Smokey Cat settled in and quickly became the third member of the Maclennan family and best pal to both me and Garry. We didn’t mind that she left little tiny balls of hardened poop all over the house. We didn’t mind that she stomped on our heads in the night or that she clawed away at the wicker base of our vintage ottoman. We didn’t even mind that she commandeered all the best chairs in the house or that she had a penchant for puking on the hall carpet. She was our favourite and we loved her.
When Smokey Cat got sick and the vet told us she had a big, nasty cancerous lump on her back, we were devastated and very, very sad – but we were prepared to say our goodbyes and let Smokey Cat wiggle off to the big litter box in the sky if we had to. However, we should have known that this moggy – with her rock’n’roll back story and her hard ass adventures fighting foxes and such, wouldn’t give in that easily. The cat doctors cut a big chunk of her body away, stitched her up like a furry pillow case then stuck a plastic cone on her head and sent her home. Smokey Cat healed beautifully and promptly developed a ne’er wavering addiction to Dreamies. A few months later, she was bundled into her carry case and safely made the long journey with us from Glasgow to London. I reckon she heard we were going to a place called Fish Island and decided, that no matter what, she was not missing out on that. But anyway, the stupid lump started to grow back – even bigger than before – and by Christmas, our wee cat pal was really, really ill.
What should have been the first day of our Christmas holidays turned out to be the last day we’d have with our favourite feline companion. We spent it walking her round the garden on her lead, feeding her treats and tickling her wee head. After we said our goodbyes at the cat doctor, we ran (literally, ran) to the nearest pub, drank 3 double gins in the space of about 30 minutes then came back home and danced in the living room to Smokey Put The Sweat on Me by Kris Kristofferson.
They say that cats help relax humans. That they are a calming force in a household. I believe this to be true and can confirm that since our London Basement became a cat-free zone, it hasn’t felt quite right. It doesn’t seem quite like home – and I feel like a crazy person. A crazy cat lady with no cat is no kind of proper lady at all.