Monday, 30 July 2012

Atomic kittens

Smudge, Flo, Alby and that other one who used to cower behind the sofa whose name escapes me - four little bundles of joy gone from my life forever, but never to be forgotten.

What the hell am I on about? Well, seeing as you asked so nicely, I'm referring to four vulnerable balls of fluff with legs, claws and fully-functional teeny weeny digestive systems that I found down the side of my bed in April.

Four vulnerable balls of fluff that have grown into proper little animals [specifically: cats] with much bigger digestive systems and insatiable appetites for flies, string and butter, though not necessarily in that order.

Oh, and TVs - little Smudge loved to perch in front of the telly, and especially enjoyed supporting Russia's ill-fated Euro 2012 campaign. He was never a subscriber to the 'group of dearth' school of thought, and how we joshed with him when they failed to progress beyond the group stage.
Yes, four little kittens that I found down the side of my bed. A sarf London stray nicknamed Vera's boyfriend [we got that one wrong], Babs and later Gracie crept in through the cat flap, climbed the stairs and squeezed into what's almost certainly the least attractive and most hygienically questionable part of our home; a place where hairs, dust and microorganisms reign supreme.

There she lay, snuggled between a mattress and a wall atop unidentifiable detritus, shortly to pop out her offspring. You couldn't have wished for a less graceful entry into the world.

Fast forward a few hours and a tired, irritable Charlie gets home from work. It is Friday afternoon. He went out last night and didn't win the annual work ten-pin bowling tournament. He dealt with the disappointment by drinking at least two bottles of Blue Moon. It was one of those nights.

Charlie's housemates are out for the evening. He is relieved - he wants to slob. Wednesday's leftovers are heated up and Charlie sits down on the sofa, meal on lap. He reaches towards the remote control, but before the dulcet tones of Alex Jones invade his ear canals, he pauses - for there is an unexpected high-pitched squeal of juvenile vulnerability.

"Hmm, it must be outside," he tells Ms Jones. The One Show presenter does not reply, for she is at work and has better things to do, like reading the autocue. Little did Charlie know at the time, but he would later make room for Alex Jones as she made her way to a pub toilet in Putney. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the topic of my next blog. Let's just say the next person had to give it a few minutes.

But no, the squeal was coming from upstairs. It was a noise that demanded human intervention. Fortunately for whatever the hell was making the noise, I [farewell third person; hello first person] wasn't a natural history documentary cameraman. No, I wasn't going to stand by and do nothing - I planned to alter the course of nature and bloody well save this desperate animal-in-need. As soon as I had finished my dinner.

God it was nice - peppered mackerel, spinach, rice, a couple of cheeky cardamom pods, parsley and lemon zest.

After gorging on the above I was quite full. The antithesis of feline agility, I lumbered up the stairs precariously and clumsily. Heaven forbid a sleeping kitten, or something, got in my way. Fortunately, nothing of the sort happened and I rushed into my room, out of breath and coated in a glistening light sweat. The setting sun flooded in through the window, highlighting the slowly-descending droplets on my forehead and arms. Apart from the indigestion, panting and fish breath, I looked and smelt every inch the hero.

And then I saw it. A slithery, poo-shaped blob writing around on the floor. It was squealing loudly and harrowingly, its eyes tightly shut while four useless legs reached out in vain for an absent mother. Vera was presiding over it, emanating a sense of pride, guilt and bewilderment. Naturally, I lambasted her on two counts to cover both possible scenarios: 1) Vera, you cannot steal kittens and 2) Why didn't you tell me you were pregnant, you nobhead?

But Vera can't have cat babies, for we are responsible pet owners and saw that her womb was removed. By a vet. Possibly against her [Vera's, not the vet's] will.

Quick, I thought, bloody well do something. This could form the basis of a bloomin' brilliant blog in a few months' time. So I reached into my cupboard for a comedy t-shirt - this one, in case you were wondering - and being careful not to smother the little fellow or wench [I just Googled 'female version of fellow', if you're thinking 'wench' looks a little incongruous. Yes, I've taken the time to entertain and educate you], lifted it onto my bed. I tried to do the whole talk-in-a-cutsie-high-pitched voice thing, but the Blue Moon was still having an effect and I ended up sounding like Frank Butcher's camp, Chingford-based cousin.

I sourced Vera's cage and put the pathetic little kitten inside it. The first phase of Operation Keep Tiny Animal Alive had gone smoothly - it was safe from the fatal potential of falling books, duvets and Vera's mouth. But now what?

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out what it means to me! R-E-S-P-E-C-T!"

Why had Aretha Franklin lyrics popped into my head, all of a sudden? Perhaps it was the panic. I was frantically trying to remember a sequence of letters beginning with R. "Re, re, re…" I said out loud, adopting a change of tack. Realising I sounded like an excitable dog who's spotted the postman's arrival, I stopped; after all, it was hardly the time. Then from nowhere it popped into my head: the RSPCA. Of course!

The RSPCA isn't that keen on people looking to get rid of unwanted kittens, which explains why I was greeted with a pre-recorded message when selecting the relevant option. I phoned back - I'd only gone and found a squirrel with a broken leg, as luck would have it, which granted me the freedom to select option 9 and speak to a real lady.

"And how's the squirrel doing?"

"Yeah, about that - I've actually found a kitten."

"Right, is it with its mother?"


"Do you know where its mother is?"

"No. Please tell me what to do."

"Make sure it's safe and wait for the mother to return. She won't be far away. If she's not back within two hours, call us straight back."

"Will do; thanks."

And so began phase two - opening the cage door, putting it on the floor, and waiting. No, hang on - putting the cage on the floor, then opening the door and waiting. But as I reached for the cage, something caught my eye. There was a little round ball, approximately three times the size of the encaged kitten, tucked in the little slither of space parallel to my bed. On closer inspection, the ball had 12 little legs and fur. As far as furry little balls go [careful now], it seemed happy enough. Yes, the protagonist of this furry, slithery story had three brothers and/or sisters. And as things stood, the litter was camped out in my room indefinitely. It was a rubbish situation, and I was feeling pretty down in the dumps about it. But there was no time to waste. I'll stop now.

By this point, I was conscious that Gardeners' World would soon be starting. I picked up the kitten - who was comically nestled between homo erectus and homo sapien on my t-shirt - and reunited it with its siblings. The ball became a little bit bigger and a little bit happier, and I was presented with a two-hour window in which to watch Monty Don put up his beanpoles.

It transpired that my brother, whom I happen to live with, wasn't out for the evening after all. No, he had rushed back from the pub to watch Gardeners' World too, and who could blame him? As the first beanpole was expertly positioned, Tom opened the door and let out a breathless cry of "Has it started yet?!"

"Yes Tom, yes it has, but it's early days."

Ten minutes quickly passed - this was the kind of escapism I needed. But it was time to let the cat out of the bag. The paws had gone on long enough.

"Oh yeah," I said, "there's something I need to tell you."


"Yeah, I found a load of kittens down the side of my bed."

"Oh right? How did they get there?"

I brought him bang up to date, and we decided that Monty Don should take a back seat. Sure, he can stay on in the background, but this required a brother-to-brother conversation - something a few notches up from the usual grumblings and pleasantries.

"We should do something."

"Yes, we should."

And with that brief exchange we were out of the door and knocking on our neighbours' doors, such is the power of brotherly problem-solving intuition. Feeling like a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses, we were greeted with unanimous confusion and suspicion by our SE17 comrades. The typical exchange went as follows:

"Hi there, I am Charlie and I am your neighbour. Do you have a pregnant cat?"

"Um, no."

"Ah right. Well, I've found a litter of kittens in my house you see, so we're trying to find the owner of whoever the mum is.

"How strange. But like I said, I don't have a cat. In fact, I hate cats."

"Oh, that's unfortunate. By the way, this drive of yours is looking a bit tatty, have you thought about…?"

Door slams shut.

After dejectedly returning home, we crept up the stairs and poked our heads around my bedroom door, closely tailed by young Vera, who was finding the whole episode terribly exciting.
Hurrah! The mum cat was there, being all mum-like and feeding the little ones. After more poor attempts at speaking in a high-pitched voice, the strategic placing of some blankets we didn't mind sacrificing to cat piss, and some Whiskas Jelly Fisherman's Choice, the bond between cat and man, and man's brother, and man and man's brother's cat, was established.

From this day forward, it was to be labour of love caring and providing for a feline family headed by two females - Vera's boyfriend aka Babs aka Gracie, and 'Aunty' Vera. Had the Daily Mail got hold of the story, there would have been uproar. The plague of same-sex couples bringing up kids has spread to the domesticated animal world, and that bloody Olympics Opening Ceremony is to blame.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is the story of how I became a father, of sorts. To be honest, any narrative would tail off [I thank you] from here on in. To summarise, the kittens grew to become bigger kittens and we sold them 10 weeks later for a healthy profit. Only joking, we gave them away to nice non-Londoners with gardens and rat infestations.

What have we learned from this little story? To remember to invest in one of those magnetic cat flaps. Oh, and to not forget about cat number one. The following morning, no doubt feeling unloved and vying for our attention, Vera popped in with two dead pigeons in a catastrophically-misjudged attempt to impress us. As punishment, we fed her moths for a week. That'll learn her.

1 comment:

  1. Smudge is really enjoying the equestrian events in the Olympics.