The hunter

The bird was small, but it was nimble, its spindly little legs proving vastly more useful than they looked. Ralph watched as it hopped from one branch to another, spending scarcely a second on each before moving on. It looked, he thought, not unlike a man dancing across hot coals, though he’d only ever seen one of those on the television.

The bird’s plumage was bright blue with black and yellow inflections, and its voice was high and sharp. Ralph had no idea what kind of bird it was – how could he? What he was all too well aware of was the fact it would make a very tasty dinner (or second dinner if the truth be told, since old Mrs Jessop from next door had put out leftover cottage pie for him not two hours ago. But then he was, as she frequently told him in her funny wobbly, gobbly voice, a growing boy).

Ralph curled his tongue lazily around his lips and sniffed the air with precision. He wasn’t hungry, as such. But he was feeling predatory and fully intended to employ his stalking skills. Slowly and silently he rose to his feet. He crouched low, narrowing his eyes so the little bird came into sharp focus. It was preening now, oblivious to him inching closer. Its vanity, it seemed, would be its downfall. Not that Ralph cared.

Sitting back on his haunches Ralph prepared to launch. The pads of his paws rested lightly on the ground; though lazy, he was nonetheless a skilled hunter. As he sprang up onto his hind legs he sensed a movement behind him and, all of a sudden, was spinning through the air in the firm hands of Thomas, his owner’s five year old son. “Whoosh, kitty, whoosh,” Thomas shouted as he tore through the garden, holding the cat awkwardly in his grubby little hands.

Behind them, oblivious, the little bird sat on his branch and continued to preen.

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Charlie

When I walked through the front door tonight I heard the funny clunk-whirring noise of the cat feeder (which my flat mate reckons is really a dog feeder, given its propensity to deposit such enormous servings of food into the dish twice daily that it could feed the entire neighbourhood’s population of felines in addition to our own precious moggy, Charlie).

Shortly after the feeder finished dispensing its gargantuan haul a familiar mew rang out from the kitchen. Right on cue, Charlie appeared in the doorway, his expectant face looking up at me, asking for I-know-not-what with his characteristically plaintive little cry. Of course I pandered to him, stroked his little tabby chin and fussed over him intently until his cries had subsided. This cat, you see, has got us wrapped entirely around his little paws – and he knows it.

From the moment Charlie came into our lives last year we were besotted. Just a tiny (but boisterous) kitten when we got him, we’ve watched him grow into the handsome (if somewhat spoiled – but we’ve nobody to blame but ourselves for his upbringing) chap he is today. Since parting ways with his manhood (my boyfriend says we have emasculated him, but what were we to do – let him fight to the death with the local tom cats? I don’t think so – he’s far too good to meet that kind of end) and venturing into the great outdoors he’s taken to the life of a domestic cat like, well, a domestic cat. He wants for nothing and is treated like a king – and why not? He is the apple of our eyes, and at the end of a long day in the office there is nothing nicer than cuddling up on the sofa – stroking cats has health benefits, don’t you know?

So anyway, back to tonight. After fussing over Charlie he followed me into my room, jumped up onto my bed and settled down onto my knee. Five minutes later he stood up, regarded me with distaste, turned on his heel and – without so much as a backward glance – left.

Here lies the crux of tonight’s post.

Before you assign me to the crazy cat lady bin, allow me to explain. My aim was never to wax lyrical about the wonders of my pet in particular (though I appreciate I’ve inadvertently done a fine job of that), but rather to extol the virtues of all cats when compared to dogs. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are amazing in their own floppy, cutesy, poochy way. It’s hard not to melt when they look up at you with those big brown eyes, tongue lolling to one side of their mouth as they attempt to coerce you into venturing outside for a freezing walk in the park.

But, crucially, the one thing cats have which dogs just don’t is independence – by the bucket load. Whereas dogs can’t be left for too long by themselves without turning into emotional wrecks, cats just come and go as they please. Whereas dogs love their owners unconditionally and would selflessly (or stupidly) throw themselves in the path of an oncoming truck to save their owners’ lives, cats would just as likely turn the other cheek and walk on by.

When a cat invests time in its owner they feel pathetically grateful, and rightly so – there are a million and one other things kitty could be doing besides deigning to be manhandled by a human. Dogs, on the other hand, can never get enough attention. They are like hyperactive children with attention deficit disorder. Why have a pet that invokes such feelings of guilt? Why not have a pet that’s content whether you’re there or not, just so long as there’s food and water and a nice comfy sofa to sleep on?

Perhaps I’m painting a bad picture of cats with this post. I’m sure they do love their owners unconditionally underneath it all, but what I love about them is their surliness, their unpredictability and staunch refusal to do what is asked of them. They will love you, but they’ll do it on their own terms. And I don’t know why, but I just find that pretty cool.

Something tells me I won’t feel the same if I ever have teenagers…

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Our little Prince!