Sunday, 21 December 2014

Farewell, Cookie the Cat - we're missing you already

Let me in at once, damn you!
One set of neighbours moved out last week. They were probably in their mid-thirties when they arrived eight or nine years ago. Frosty pair of blighters - we never got on, and I'm not going to pretend we're in the least sorry to see them go. To give you an idea of how close we were, we only found out they were selling their place when a "For Sale" sign went up this summer, we only knew they were actually moving out when parking suspension notices were posted a few day before they left, and we don't have a clue where they've gone. We only know that they're to be replaced with a French couple because somebody else told us. (Thanks, guys  - right neighbourly of you!) They gave birth to a boy a year and a bit after they arrived, and he seemed a nice kid - lots of personality and a fine singing voice: we genuinely wish him well. Three years ago (approximately) they bought a cat, a female Bengal - an exotic, expensive, leopard-like breed I'd never previously encountered. I adored her.

I'm not really a cat person. We have one - a handsome 12-year old tabby called Ziggy - but he and I aren't exactly best mates. He'll sit on me when it's cold, and he'll shout at me when it's one minute past feeding time, and I'll give him a perfunctory stroke and say nice things when he's curled up in front of the sitting-room radiator (where he spends about half his time) - but, when it comes to forming a close bond, he doesn't give me much to work with. In fact, he often flinches if I walk by, as if I'm given to lashing out at him, when I've never laid an unfriendly hand (or foot) on him. My wife reckons this is partly because, when he arrived as a tiny kitten, I tried to play with him as if he was a puppy, and this freaked him out. Still, he gets on a treat with my wife and son, who chose him, and he's definitely their pet rather than mine. (Interestingly - well it interested me - when I talked to the owner of Ziggy's mother, he said he and their cat hadn't formed a bond either, although it got on fine with his wife and two sons. Odd.)

Anyhow, back to our neighbour's cat. From the moment she barged her way into our house through the cat flap and bellowed at us (hell of a loud voice) I knew this was a cat I could do business with - she wasn't much friendlier than Ziggy, but she made up for it in impertinentence, boisterousness, wiliness, fearlessness, coquettishness and oodles of chutzpah. Her exuberance reminded me of Jesse the Cowgirl from Toy Story 2, and the permanently split lip she managed to acquire somewhere along the way leant her a distinctly Pirate Queen aspect - all she needed was an eye-patch and a cutlass.

We tried to exclude her to start with, but her sheer persistence just wore us down. And if we made an attempt to dissuade her from spending time with us, Ziggy made it clear from the start that she was very much NOT WELCOME in his domain: in the early days he'd wait till she was in range before launching a furious assault, which inevitably ended with her bulleting out of the cat flap and skedaddling at pace over the fence into her own garden. At night, we'd often hear them squawling and brawling downstairs, followed by a clatter as she exited.

But she eventually wore Ziggy down as well, and his assaults lost their ferocity, partly because she seemed to enjoy the whole process. She'd sneak in, sidle up to where he was sleeping, crane her neck and give him a gentle peck on the nose. He'd wake up, blink, stretch, and stare at her for a bit. Then she'd suddenly give him a sideways swipe with her left paw right in the chops and it was seconds out, round one. Then, after some cartoonish head-over-heels rough-housing, she'd lie on her back and look sweetly up at him, eyes wide, in an obvious display of submission. He'd sit on his haunches, smugly masculine - then she'd land another haymaker, and it was seconds out, round two. And so it would continue until she'd saunter off, or they'd both settle down for a kip in different parts of the room (she'd figured out where the hot-water pipes ran behind our walls).

Getting ready to rumble
Cookie would disappear for days on end, before strolling back in, showing deference by rubbing herself against my legs on her way past. If Ziggy was asleep upstairs, she'd pop up there and start the biffing routine once more.

Eventually our neighbour knocked at our door, using her son as a sort of human shield, and informed me that Cookie was spending far too much time with us - after all, it was their cat, and they hardly got to see her. Fair enough, although it was a shame to break up what I suppose passes for a friendship in the feline world (I once watched as Ziggy taught Cookie how to torture a mouse - a truly heartwarming display). For the best part of a year we did our best to keep her out, and she'd come and shout as us through the windows at the front and back of the house (see photo above)  - a performance which, genuinely, brought tears to my eyes.  What was annoying about all this was that we knew she regularly visited other houses in our street (the neighbour woman admitted as much when she knocked on the door a few weeks' ago to inform my wife that Cookie was perched precariously on our bedroom windowsill) and the one thing we could honestly say was that we never gave her any food or enticed her in any way. But I guess it was the thought of their cat spending so much time with the ghastly Grønmarks that really got up their noses.

Pals. Sort of. 
Anyway, she's gone, never to return. Ziggy still looks behind him warily whenever he starts eating - she used to appear from nowhere and give him indigestion by staring at him fixedly with her big, mad eyes until he'd finished. And we're no longer surprised by her suddenly strolling out from under our bed in the middle of the night, or by finding her fast asleep in our son's bedroom at the top of the house when he's away at college, or by coming across her furtively edging towards Ziggy's plate of half-eaten food in the kitchen, or by those rare occasions - usually when our neighbours had guests in - when she'd slink into our sitting-room and settle down to doze in one of our laps.

Although Cookie didn't actually spend that much time with us - as I said, days would pass without a sighting - the house feels strangely empty without her. Wherever she's gone, we hope she finds another friend to fight with, and neighbours who will find her as entertaining and as adorable as we did. Terrific animal.


  1. A lovely post. I was once much taken by a large ginger who owned one of my neighbours. The beast would spend his days lounging around in my flat then, with no obvious signal, would suddenly get up, let himself out and wait by the side of the road in precisely the spot my neighbour would park when she arrived home.I saw him do this, day after day, always in a different place.

    She was unpredictable in her timing, which could vary by an hour, and parking was a catch as catch can residents' affair. How Tom knew when and where she would appear, I never have had a clue.

    I still miss him,.

    1. Thank you, GCooper. Unfortunately, Cookie would often sneak upstairs and gaze out of our bedroom window, waiting for her family to return - then, despite having been spotted by them, wouldn't bother running next door to greet them. I suspect this annoyed them.

      Our cat hasn't displayed any eldritch abilities. He has learned to recognise the sound of our car, but I'm not sure that's quite as impressive as Tom's predictive powers.

  2. Utterly charming post, Scott.

    This is the sort of writing that I used to enjoy from Hunter Davies when he wrote the Father's Day column in Punch. Better, if anything.

    Thank you.

    1. Thanks very much, Colin - much appreciated. Odd to think that Hunter Thompson, who I've always vaguely thought of as a contemporary, is now 78!

  3. A trick of the mind provided you with the late Thompson instead of the, it is to be hoped, extant Davies, Scott.

    I liked Hunter S.Thompson's subgenre style of journalism and its then novel avoidance of fairness and balance.

    1. Woops! yes, indeed - although, spookily, the late Hunter S. Thompson was born the year after fellow-journalist Davies. I enjoyed Thompson's early stuff, but then he became tiresome, perhaps as a result of his daily alcohol and drugs regime:

      3:00 p.m. rise

      3:05 Chivas Regal with the morning papers, Dunhills

      3:45 cocaine

      3:50 another glass of Chivas, Dunhill

      4:05 first cup of coffee, Dunhill

      4:15 cocaine

      4:16 orange juice, Dunhill

      4:30 cocaine

      4:54 cocaine

      5:05 cocaine

      5:11 coffee, Dunhills

      5:30 more ice in the Chivas

      5:45 cocaine, etc., etc.

      6:00 grass to take the edge off the day

      7:05 Woody Creek Tavern for lunch-Heineken, two margaritas, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of fried onion rings, carrot cake, ice cream, a bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, cocaine, and for the ride home, a snow cone (a glass of shredded ice over which is poured three or four jig­gers of Chivas.)

      9:00 starts snorting cocaine seriously

      10:00 drops acid

      11:00 Chartreuse, cocaine, grass

      11:30 cocaine, etc, etc.

      12:00 midnight, Hunter S. Thompson is ready to write

      12:05-6:00 a.m. Chartreuse, cocaine, grass, Chivas, coffee, Heineken, clove cigarettes, grapefruit, Dunhills, orange juice, gin, continuous pornographic movies.

      6:00 the hot tub-champagne, Dove Bars, fettuccine Alfredo

      8:00 Halcyon

      8:20 sleep