This little furball was my first cat. I had lived with others, but he was the first one that was truly my own. Ferocious, huh?
He was called Moby and he was challenged: he had a twitchy leg from birth, which was resolved but might have meant he would possibly be difficult to home or may not have even been given the chance if I hadn‘t taken him. He became allergic to fleas, or flea poo, but also allergic to the available flea prevention treatments (yep, really), which meant he shed his fur in patches, so his beauty was somewhat impaired. But he was adorable, whatever.
He liked to play with water: a big bowl filled with soapy suds (also liked the bubbles) and a bobbing plastic bottle top or two would keep him amused for ages as a kitten. I have to confess, having realised this, I bought him a set of rubber ducks, which he happily played with….
He was intended to be an indoor cat. I had no experience of this, but had been told it was perfectly reasonable. Within a short time it became clear that, for Moby, it was not acceptable at all, and he needed outdoor access. Given the layout of my home, it didn’t seem it would be possible to do this safely.
Some background here, which you need for later. I lived in the top half of a Victorian house which had been divided in two. For those who don’t know UK architecture, this means large-ish rooms (by UK standards, probably nobody else’s!) and high ceilings (again, probably same caveat!), plus two extra floor levels, making the building overall much taller than a modern house. I had no way to let him out other than onto the street, which I didn’t want to do, and no obvious place for a cat flap.
I started taking him out the front and around the side of the house, through the garden of the downstairs flat and into mine whenever I could. It was OK, but less than ideal. Then one day whilst gardening with him watching, my sister suggested I go inside and call him from the house, which I did. Moby looked up, did the planning and the maths (you can see your cat doing this, right?) and worked out his route from the back garden to the kitchen window. Brilliant! Except I couldn’t leave the window open for him all day, could I? So my wonderful, wonderful dad with his equally wonderful trusty assistant (mum) arrived one weekend with a couple of bits of wood and a bag of tools. When they left I had a rebuilt kitchen window with a one-of-a-kind ‘floating’ cat flap entry. Floating because dad also had to build a landing pad and attach it to the outside wall at the corner to access the cat flap.
(cue Mission Impossible music….)
So, the route was – jump onto wall dividing my garden from my neighbour next door. Follow wall until you come to neighbour’s conservatory. Hop onto this and climb to the top and back. Jump onto neighbour’s roof at the two-storey level and climb to the top and back. Now jump over where the roofs meet (it has upright tiles with a patterned top so is irregular and can‘t just be climbed over) and scramble down a few feet, across a few feet, and hop onto a lower narrow window ledge. Now execute a precise jump onto a 15 x 15” platform which looks like it is floating in mid-air, making sure you don‘t overshoot or you are flying across the garden path, about 40 feet in the air and no hope of a safe landing. Make a sharp left turn and through the cat flap. You are now on the kitchen worktop and know that this is only allowed for entry and exit purposes. No wandering off track or meandering about. Head in a straight line and jump down immediately please. It was pretty impressive, and it worked well and made him a happy cat.
Unfortunately though Moby loved to hunt. So now imagine him scaling the above obstacles to entry with a mouse in his mouth. Umpteen times. The mice were always unharmed, so our mouse-catching skills got pretty good too. Maybe he just thought we needed the training….
One day I nearly lost my sense of humour over his predatory habits. Getting up to go to work I walked into the living room and switched the TV on to check the news. I seemed to have gained an ornament overnight. Eyeing me from the top of the TV was an undamaged very large, very grumpy blackbird. Probably about half the size of Moby. How on earth had he managed that route with that bird in tow?
Have you every tried to catch a blackbird? Or shepherd it off the premises via the window? Oh, and guess what, high ceilings are really, really useful for birds trying to evade ‘capture’…
Have you ever had to tell your boss that the reason you are late for work is that you were trying to catch a blackbird in your living room? It’s a difficult sell, I can tell you!