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On the whole, Hubby and I have a very democratic relationship. Important issues are discussed thoroughly, and we make sure we’re on the same page before taking a leap into the unknown.
Our big decisions – buying houses, new cars, bringing children into the world, changing jobs, planning our wedding – were tackled with admirable harmony. We haven’t always agreed on everything (because that would be weird and creepy) but we’ve had lively discussions and reached sensible compromises.
Except one memorable time… I took off for an impromptu visit to my mother’s, and came home with, not one, but TWO kittens.
To this day, I’m not really sure how it happened. We just went to visit Mum’s friend, to drink tea and pet the kittens. Then it transpired that they were looking for a home. Then I discovered that they were utterly adorable. I considered taking just one, but only for a few minutes. I couldn’t choose ONE and leave the other one! How would it feel?? And after all, having two cats was no harder than having one, right?
One was fluffy, like a baby raccoon. The other was long, orange and stripy, like a sock puppet tiger. I HAD to have both.
I’d had two cats long before, when I was a teenager, although we adopted them when they were already quite elderly cats. Badger was a skinny seal-point Siamese, and Stoat was a portly blue-point. Very silly names, but they were rapturously welcomed into our household. We’d never had pets before, despite frequent nagging from me. My parents had said they might consider it one day, if I ever managed to keep a plant alive for more than a month.
I didn’t even know I was a cat person until I had cats. And then it seemed ridiculously obvious. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more likely it seemed that I actually was a cat in human form. I like to eat, sleep, stay scrupulously clean. I love being warm, and hate getting wet. I love attention and petting…until I suddenly don’t – then I bite, viciously and with no warning (and no particular remorse).
I loved Badger and Stoat fiercely with my whole heart and soul, and when they died 3 years apart – one of bowel cancer, the other of renal failure – I grieved heavily, and never really stopped. When my daughter borrowed ‘Goodbye Mog’ by Judith Kerr from the library recently, my heart sank into my boots. It sounds ludicrous but I knew that, 25 years after Stoat’s death, I was not capable of reading a children’s story about a cat dying without completely falling to pieces.
I mourned them and missed them every day, even as I went off to university; even as I met my future husband and started building a life with him. Life didn’t feel quite complete without a cat.
Anyway. Wind forward a few years, and I’m getting out of the car with a cardboard box full of kittens, two small litter trays and a few tins of whiskas. The look on Hubby’s face.
This was my first really serious transgression. I was sent to the dog-house. I tried to justify myself. I said it would be good practice for having kids. I said they’d be no problem.
He reminded me we lived in a rented flat where pets were strictly forbidden.
I remembered that, actually, Hubby didn’t like animals. Any animals. But especially not cats.
Oops. Things were frosty for a while. I assured him that they were my babies – Clovis (fluffy one) and Hobbes (stripy one) – and I promised Hubby that they’d be no problem, and his life wouldn’t change a bit.
So I was inwardly cringing when Hobbes had diarrhoea for 3 days; they were both spayed and yowled NON-STOP for 3 days and nights; Clovis worked out how to sit on the (very high) window sill while we were at work, and was spotted by another resident, who complained bitterly; both kittens were sick frequently – usually under Hubby’s chair so HE would be the one to discover it with his sock feet… Oh, the list went on.
We moved to our first house soon after the kittens’ arrival, but I think Hobbes found the whole house-moving thing traumatic. We all did. She developed a love of dark, hidden places and would often eschew the litter tray for other, more surprising places.
Once, after a long hard day of painting ceilings and stripping wallpaper, we fell into bed, exhausted and closed our eyes. I took a deep breath in…and my eyes flew open. There was a terrible smell in the bedroom.
“I can smell poo,” I said, sniffing urgently.
Hubby groaned and smelled the air obediently. “Nope, can’t smell anything.”
Now, my superpower is my sense of smell. I wasn’t taking that as an answer.
I started tiptoeing around the room, looking under wardrobes, chests of drawers, the bed … I even flung the wardrobe doors open. After all, Hobbes was found behaving suspiciously in our bedroom a few hours previously. What if she’d left us a 'present' in there??
Hubby pulled the duvet covers over his face and left me to it. My search began to flag. And admittedly the smell had faded somewhat. I got back in to bed and pulled the duvet over me – whereupon the most noxious, evil smell assaulted my senses. I leapt out of bed shouting, “HOW can you not smell that??”
Like a sniffer dog, I began systematically nosing the duvet cover – it was ghastly! And as I worked my way towards Hubby’s side of the bed, it got progressively more unbearable. Eventually, I discovered the culprit INSIDE THE DUVET COVER, right by Hubby’s FACE.
Turned out, Hobbes had crept inside the duvet cover, got tangled, panicked, done her stuff… on Hubby’s side… and then bolted out of the room. I remember laughing till I couldn’t breathe, and tears were pouring down my face. He wasn’t quite as amused.
We put the whole job lot – covers, duvet and all - in the wheelie bin, found a couple of blankets, and shivered through the rest of the night.
I guess Hubby is a patient man. He has accepted these incidents and countless others as part of the tapestry of our daily lives. He knows our lives are richer for having our beautiful cats.
I think he even understands my belief that we don’t choose our children, or our animals – they choose us.
I feel honoured that they have privileged us with their presence for 15 years, and they’re still going strong.
Not bad for a woman who can’t keep a plant alive for longer than a month.