Jaffa’s book of plots and plans

Jaffa liked to let you know who was boss. It was him. Always.

My previous post mentioned a scar on my left hand caused by Jaffa. A lesson my 9 year old self has never forgotten.

The lesson….

Never put a hat on a cat’s head.

Never do this…

 

Or this…..

Jaffa was always more of a New York Jets fan

Jaffa did nothing at the time of these pictures other than store them in his infinite recall lobe. He later jotted them down in his Book of plots and plans. Unfortunately, I was to feature in this book on more than one occasion.

A while after these pictures were taken, and unsuspecting child version of me tried to go to bed one night. At the time I had bunk beds and used to sleep in the top bunk. This particular night, I had a guest awaiting me on my bed. Jaffa. Looking sleepy and cute.

I picked him up to move him to the bottom bunk. Whilst holding him in one hand and trying to negotiate the bunk bed ladder in slippers, I lost my footing and slipped.

I steadied my fall by grabbing hold of the bed, and Jaffa steadied his fall by grabbing hold of my hand… with his claws.

For a second, there we were.  I was hanging from the bed, and Jaffa was hanging from my hand.

Some might think this was purely an accident, but an extract from Jaffa’s Book of Plots and Plans tells a very different story………..

Reason for plot

The indignity suffered from being made to pose for photographs in a variety of hats.

Plan

Grease each rung of bunk bed ladder with a can of acme axle grease. Wait patiently on bed for target to arrive. Look sleepy and cute. Wait for target to move me to bottom bunk, and slip on greasy rung. Break own fall by using target. In the event of plan failure, do not panic as the risk of injury to self  is minimal. Will always land on feet, and have 9 lives intact.

Plan B if the above fails

Place banana skin outside target’s bedroom door, shut off electricity supply and mieow loudly at 3am.

Jaffa's book of plots and plans

Jaffa liked to let you know who was boss. It was him. Always.

Jaffa! The indisputable leader of the gang. He’s the boss, he’s a pip, he’s the championship. He’s the most tip top, Top Cat.

 

Jaffa. My first proper pet.

The reason I fell in love with cats.

The reason I have a 2 inch scar on my left hand.

The reason I still step over the last but one stair at the top of the staircase years after his passing.

Jaffa was kind of a big deal around our street. There is no doubt he ruled it. And ruled it well. There was no crime, there was no nonsense. Jaffa had it all under quiet control.

In order to become Top Cat of the street, Jaffa first had to topple it’s current ruler. Simon.

Simon the cat. An ageing, rough, raggedy grey cat who had ruled our street for years and lived opposite our house. We had all lived under his dictatorship for far too long. Too scared to walk down the lane by Simon’s house, things needed to change. People needed to feel safe.

At the time, Jaffa was the new kid on the block. With a heart full of courage and a head full of brains he challenged Simon to a bare claw street fight one night. If Jaffa won, Simon was to hand control of the street over to him.

They met that night .

They hissed and spat with arched backs as they moved sideways past each other.

Each waiting for the other to make his move.

After a succession of  lightening quick paw jabs, the ears went down and the claws came out. There was a pounce, and suddenly they had wrapped their paws around each other and sunk their claws and teeth into each other.

They  rolled around the street oerning and kicking each other fiercely with their back paws…..In the Feline World Wrestling Federation* (FWWF), this finishing move  is known as the  ‘cottontail kick‘ due to it’s striking similarity to a bunny hop.

Yowling and wailing under a moonlit night, only one of them would emerge victorious.

That night…..Young fought Old, and Good fought Bad… But Pride fought Pride.

That night, a new Top Cat was crowned. Jaffa emerged the victor. True to his word, Simon handed over control of the street. Albeit with some reluctance, he knew he was beaten.

Ginger and grey fur littered the street from the night before,  whilst a triumphant Jaffa surveyed his new territory.

Things would be different now.

*Ever so slightly made this bit up

No destitute cat ever refused admission

My last post mentioned that a cat owner’s home without a cat is just a house.

When my little cat Sox passed away, for a short time my parent’s house became just that. A house barren of cats. The cat community had other plans though, and it seems my parent’s house soon became the local branch of feline Dr. Barnados.

I had been used to this growing up. But nowadays, despite not actually owning a cat themselves, my parent’s still have to take a trip down the pet food aisle when they go shopping to feed the many waifs and strays that frequent their house.

To my knowledge no destitute cat has, or ever will be refused admission.

As cat philanthropy is rife in our family, it seems only natural that my house has also become the feline Dr. Barnados in my local area.

I live with my two cats Minnie and Cochen…They are the only two of permanent residency. The only two on the electoral roll and census.

Alongside them though, there are a number of cats who drop in and out of my cat halfway house.

They are….

Fatty Ginger*

Fatty Ginger* sleeps outside my back door. He is always gone by morning at the twist of the back door key, without so much as a kiss on the cheek, or a thank you.

Roger*

Roger* is constantly fighting his demons due to a small tail complex. I try not to mention it in front of him, and I never answer him honestly to the “Does my tail look small in this?” question.

Pete*

Pete* next door, I think has ADHD and is incapable of jumping on a windowsill without falling off it. I think Pete* might also think he is a pixie, as he has taken to sleeping right at the bottom of the garden beneath the tree. Pete* always has a look of absolute surprise on his face whenever he is disturbed.

Don*

Don* “The Don” is the size of a German Shepherd.  When I say German Shepherd, I mean he’s the size of an actual human shepherd from Germany, not the dog. Don’s* favourite pastime is to play garden Mexican stand off with me…. He wins.

Meryl*

Meryl* is BFF to Minnie. Meryl* is fairly problem free, but does hang around an awful lot. Way too much in fact. I think she might struggle with social boundaries, so I may need to ring her parents and ask if they can sit her down and have a word with her.

Previously there has also been….

Polly the 1st, (you can read about her herewho’s blood was laced with droplets of Lucifers and who’s main aim in life was to rain evil on mine, and Polly the 2nd*.

Polly the 1st’s successor. Slightly less evil but far more cunning.

Polly the 2nd* knew my movements more than your average stalker would. One time just as I was leaving for work I remembered I’d left my lunch in the kitchen. As I opened the kitchen door, I found Polly the 2nd* breaking in to my house through the window. I have little doubt, she had been performing a stakeout and had downed her binoculars thinking the coast was clear… She made a hasty retreat that day and was gone before her crowbar hit the floor, but I knew she’d be back.

Would I stop any of them helping themselves to my garden? My home?…. and I’m sure at times the contents of my fridge, my cupboards and my purse?… Of course not, because no destitute cat is ever refused admission.

*Names changed to protect true identity…. and because I don’t know their actual names so made these ones up

A family of cat philanthropists

From tattered Medieval rags, Tudor ruffs and codpieces, to Victorian corsets and parasols, the kindred blood of my ancestors all have one common trend…..  Beside them is a cat… Probably secretly planning their demise.

A lot of behavioural footprints left by parents are filled with the steps of their children.

Children who see their parents smoke are more likely to smoke themselves. Fact.

Children who see their parents acting as cat philanthropists are more likely to become cat philanthropists themselves. Also fact.

I’m a cat philanthropist, and you can blame my parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents for it…..

There is a saying that a home without a cat is just a house.

I don’t believe this to be true. I’ve been in plenty of cat free homes and they feel just as homely as those with cats.

The only difference is, in a cat free home, the wafer thin ham in the fridge is for human consumption, and there is no ’emergency’ tin of tuna in the cupboard.

I do believe though that a cat lovers home without a cat is just a house. My parents home, the home where I spent my childhood is testament to that. My first cat was called Jaffa. He was the first family pet if you ignore Adam & the Ants, the collection of goldfish won at a fairground… They weren’t really pets and Adam ate all the Ants after a few days anyway, so basically it was just Adam the goldfish. Not much fun.

Jaffa was a beefy ginger tom.  Strong, obstinate, belligerent, cantankerous and intimidating…. All the qualities of a good cat. Quite late in Jaffa’s life, not long after his retirement, after he’d hung up the chain of his professional duties as Mayor of the cat council on our street, we had an addition to the family. Sox. My Sox.

The story of how Sox came to live with us is a remarkable example of fate working at it’s best. Sox was mine. And I was hers. I loved Jaffa whole heartedly, but Sox was the first cat I formed a profound beautiful bond with. No better illustrated than what happened the day she passed away.

Jaffa had taught me the basics of understanding the complexities of the feline mind, but Sox polished my skills to a level of expertise.

I always got the impression that Jaffa just tolerated my brother and I most of the time because we just happened to be already living in the house before his arrival.  He could see my parents were quite fond of us, so trying to rid them of us was probably quite futile.

Sox on the other hand was genuinely affectionate. A lady. We could sense each other’s mood  instantly. We knew when a tickle under the chin or a rub against the legs would make it all better,  or whether to stay the hell out of each other’s way.  I could tell from her meiow, her brrrt and her purr exactly what she wanted and needed, and she could tell from my tone exactly what I wanted and needed.

Some advice… never laugh at a cat. Cats have the amazing ability of knowing exactly when you are talking about them and in what context. It’s usually when they are fake sleeping. One ear is tilted in your direction, one of their eyes is ever so slightly open and the tail is delicately swishing at the tip. Classic neuron receptor pose.

Don’t be fooled, as to the untrained eye, this looks like a normal sleeping cat. Behind the scenes though, there is a hive of activity. Their brain is processing everything you are saying and filtering anything they can use at any given date in the future into a long-term memory bank. It’s the part of a cats brain called the “Infinite recall lobe”.

Think twice before you regale the amusing story of when the cat stretched and fell off the back of the chair.. If it’s in earshot, it will know you’ve told. By earshot, I mean if your cat is within a ten mile radius of you, it will know you’ve told.

This is why a content purring cat will suddenly lunge at your unsuspecting hand as if someone has just screamed “Chaaaaarge” in it’s ear.. She’s just remembered that November last year you stepped on her tail accidentally when you went to the toilet in the middle of the night. She saw it as no accident.

A cat wouldn’t tell you if your skirt was tucked in your knickers, or you had toilet paper stuck to your shoe, but would surprise you with a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine when you’ve had a bad day.

A cat won’t text or return your calls for weeks, but will then turn up at your house unannounced for a coffee and a gossip….. and not mention the 17 missed calls and 36 texts she’s ignored of yours.

A cat keeps you guessing.

A cat is the best pet in the world.

Beyonce Knowles tribute act!

All the single Kittys, all the single Kittys…

Now put your paws up…

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh….

Top 10 things to do when you’re bored

1. Give yourself a makeover…..

2. Pretend to be a giant (a healthy eating one)…….

3. Pretend your cat has a go go gadget paw (and fights crime with it)…..

4. Find food products on/or in cars…….

Baguette spotted in a car in Normandy

Potatoes found on a car in Bath. Potato!

5. Glue a Hannah Montana cut-out to the hands of a sleeping 35 year old man……

6. Perfect the art of a strong handshake by practising on your cat…..

7. Go on a day trip with a deer……

8. Become a master of disguise…….

9. Pretend your cat is Marlon Brando in the Godfather…….

10. Browse the internet whilst enjoying a drink that sums up who you are…..

My cat is in love with my vet, and so am I

 

When my little kitten was 6 months old she got ill. One day she was full of life, the next day she was sullen. She wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t play, she wouldn’t move. She sat on my kitchen table for 2 days and groaned whenever I smoothed her.

I thought she was dying. How unfair. I’d fallen madly in love with her only a few months earlier and now couldn’t imagine, and didn’t want to imagine life without her.

Cochen was a 30th birthday present from a friend. I hadn’t had the luxury of preparation before she came to live with me. I hadn’t had time to have ‘the big sister chat‘ with Minnie. I’d gone to bed 29, owner of one cat, and woken up 30, owner of two. How the hell did that happen?…. and how the hell was I 30 already!

We all presumed Cochen was a boy because she was ginger, until I took her to the vets for her jabs who confirmed the new man of the house was now the youngest lady of the house.

When I told my niece who was 5 at the time,  she simply said

“Aw, Cochen was a boy but he changed his mind, he’s a little girl now”

The innocence of children eh….

So, Cochen got ill. I stayed up all night with her, I fed her biscuits from my hand,  I dripped water into her mouth, I bought bubbles with catnip in them in the hope she’d find the kitten inside her again. I prayed and I cried. Nothing.

I Googled her symptoms.. (Big mistake – The internet confirmed, as it does when you look up any mild ailment – imminent death!).

On a rainy cold December 23rd I took her to the vets. Usually I don’t mind going to the vets as my vet is hot! He’s Italian and beautiful and buys semi-skimmed milk. I know this because I once stalked saw him in Tesco.

I was scared this time. I was scared that my Christmas memory 2008 would be me walking the streets sobbing with an empty cage. An empty food bowl in the kitchen, little cat toys gathering dust in the corner and a solitary, suspiciously fish-shaped present left unopened under the tree.

The vet called me in. I explained how my little cat had become so helpless she wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t play, she wouldn’t jump. She wouldn’t do anything. It was like she’d broken. I’d broken my cat.

“Letta me take a look at her” (Remember he’s Italian)

He opened the cage and Cochen bounced out like she’d seen an old friend. She leapt into his arms, purred around his feet, rolled over when he smoothed her and left me feeling like an absolute fool.

It was a harsh lesson in cat owning. The lesson being you don’t. They are in charge, they are in control. Always. You are merely a foot soldier in their grand plans for world domination.

 

I found myself apologising to the vet and explaining that she really hadn’t been like that for the last 2 days and I thought she was going to die. He turned to me and said

(Remember he’s Italian) “It’sa fine. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I think I cannota be bothered today. Maybe she justa felt like that huh?”

Oh. I see.  So it transpired after professional veterinary diagnosis that my cat had been suffering from a bad mood… For 2 days.

Either that or she had completely faked the illness so she could attempt to win the heart of the hot vet. It worked. He didn’t give me a second glance whilst cradling her in his arms.

The things you do for love……..

Playing hide & seek with your cats

Right Minnie, Cochen,

I’m going to close my eyes and count to ten, you go and hide……

Off you go…

One……. Two……… Three…….

Hhmmm.....

Four…. Don’t hide in the fridge like last time….. Five…….

Bugger!

Six…….. Seven……. Eight……. I can hear you in the bathroom….

Bugger!

Nine…… Ten…... Coming ready or not…….

Purrfect!

Where on earth could Cochen be!????…..

Not so purrfect

Oh… um… found you Minnie.

Kill all the rats you want, if you can catch them. But remember it’s a sin to kill a robin

If you are thinking this title looks vaguely familiar, then you’ve probably read the book To Kill A Mockingbird.

When talking to Scout, Atticus Finch says

‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’

I had a similar conversation with my two cats over Christmas, when I came home from work and found a dead robin on my kitchen floor.

I love robins. I believe in the spiritual meaning for sighting a robin. I’ve experienced it first-hand. I believe that seeing a robin indicates someone who has passed, and who loves you, is around you.

I know that sharing my house with felines means that I will come home to the occasional rodent or aviary murder scene, and I accept that. It’s their instinct. It’s inborn in them, and I understand that it’s their way of showing me their affection. Allowing me to share in the rewards of their hunt. I acknowledge that these are presents for me, their way of saying they love me, but I wish they would say it with flowers, or wine…. Preferably wine.

I’ve become quite accustomed to chasing rats, mice, birds, shrews and the occasional slow worm around the kitchen with my homemade catching kit. (A pair of gloves, a cardboard tube, a shoebox with holes in just incase I have to nurse anything back to full health, and a gallon of disinfectant to clean up afterwards).

Over time, I’ve become quite adept at it. That wasn’t always the case though, at first I was afraid. I was petrified. Kept thinking I will never rest until this rats outside…..

I won’t deny, the day I came home and found the robin, I was livid. Now, the general rule is you cannot shout at or punish your cat for bringing animals home to you. It confuses them. It puts them off balance. Upsets their status quo. It would be like chastising a child for bringing you a mud pie they’ve made from the garden. You appreciate the sentiment behind the gesture, but you really wish they wouldn’t.

I felt the need to set some ground rules though, so after delicately setting the robin in it’s final resting place,  the forest behind my house, I set about having ‘the chat’ with my cats.

Wild eyed Cochen!

Minnie doing her 'I am what I am' routine

I found them both upstairs, fast asleep in the spare room, clearly tired from their latest killing spree. In a soft voice, and with a smile on my face, I started the conversation..

‘Which one of you did it?‘… They both looked at me with their kitten cat eyes (the feline equivalent of puppy dog eyes).

Actually it doesn’t matter which one of you it was, you can both hear this. Now listen up, and listen good. Real good. (I’m not sure why I turned slightly American at this point, and even the cats were looking at me with a ‘why are you talking like that?‘ look, but I went with it!).

I don’t ever want a repeat of what I’ve come home to tonight. I don’t ever want to find a robin in the house again. They are beautiful little birds and you should leave them well alone. Do you both understand? Although I’d prefer it if you took up a less violent hobby… maybe knitting or scrapbook making perhaps?,  I know you know no better. Thank you for my gift, but it really wasn’t necessary and from now on, no more robins. OK?

Now, lets have a cwtch* and we’ll say no more about it. All I ask is that you listen to what I’ve said.

*Cwtch – the welsh for hug, cuddle etc


With that, I smoothed them until they were both purring machines and went back downstairs.

For the sake of the local wildlife, I kept them in that night. Cochen, my little ginger cat was in the mother of all bad moods because of this. Every time I attempted to walk from one room to another, she would pounce at my ankles and wrap herself around them kicking with her back paws… Looking into her wild eyes, our minds met telepathically… ‘It was you wasn’t it?’..

I’m sure the cat next door was trying to kill me

I’m an animal lover.

I’m a cat lover especially.

But I find it difficult to love any animal straight from the cavern of hell!

The cat in this video is called Polly, but the cat in this video is the Prince of Darkness masquerading as a feline, and it lived next door to me for years.

Please excuse my potty mouth at the end of the video, but try and remember this cat must have been carved from dust from the Devil’s furnace!

All of the following statements are true….

  • I once came home from work and found Polly’s fur in my fridge
  • Polly used to sit on my garden fence and hiss at me for hours
  • Polly once let me smooth her and then nearly ripped my arm off
  • Polly once stole my car and took it for a joyride

OK, I had no proof for the last one other than the strong smell of catnip in the car, a fish bone and an empty milk carton on the backseat, but I know it was her!

Polly no longer lives next door, and in a peculiar almost Stockholm syndrome way, I miss her!

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