Monday, 5 September 2016


              Cats' eyes: prepare to be hypnotised to perform random acts of kindness.

THERE are three cats sitting on my doorstep when I stumble down to breakfast during one of the last days of summer. 

They are peering into the kitchen, making cat noises and looking lost.

I stop and stare at them. They stare right back. Strange, I think. Very strange. I don't have three cats. In fact, I don't even have one cat.

Yet here they are.
       'Who owns the cats?' I ask nobody in particular.

       'Yeah, forgot to tell you about that. They were doing a three-for-two at the local cat shop.' The middle child is deadpan.

"You can't come of us has a cat allergy."
Hilarious. I look at them a bit more closely. I recognise two: they belong to a neighbour. The third is a huge tabby. No collar. I'm not sure I've seen it before.

       'I'll have some breakfast. Maybe they'll just go away.'

       'Maybe they'd like some breakfast too.'
       'Maybe they'd like to catch their own. Like one of those smaller, recent visitors to our garden. The one that rhymes with cat.'
       'You're so mean, Mum.'

After my oatmeal, I go to inspect the doorstep. The neighbour's cats are gone. The tabby is still there. I open the door slightly and he (I've decided it looks like a he) sticks his nose in.

       'Sorry, you can't come in. One of us has a cat allergy. And you'll have to move, because I need to hang out the washing.'

       'Mum, who are you talking to?'
       'Er, the cat.'

I manage to get past him, but as soon as I step into the garden, he starts to rub up against my legs. I almost fall over. Clearly, this is a domestic cat. He's also a persistent one.

But most importantly, he's also lame. He's walking with a limp.

Of course! I mentally smack my forehead. The tabby is stuck in my high-walled, tree-lined back garden. He obviously got hurt and now can't get home. I finish the laundry, carefully scoop him up and bring him out to the front garden.
       'There you go. So, er, off you go home now.' I make an expansive arm gesture. The cat looks around and then looks at me. Like I've just killed his mother.

I go back into the kitchen and stutter to a halt.

Confused, I close the door. Ten minutes later, I open the front door again. The cat is nowhere to be seen. I walk out and hunker down to look under the car.

Not there either. He's obviously on his way home, I think. I congratulate myself. I've never had anything to do with cats, but it's such a good feeling knowing I've helped one in distress.

I go back to the kitchen and stutter to a halt. The tabby is sitting on the doorstep again.
       'Well you're obviously capable of jumping walls!'
       'You talking to the cat again, Mum?'
       'Look up the website for the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, will you?'

As the middle child searches for the site, I try to ignore the piteous noises coming from the cat. I phone my mother.
       'Whatever you do, don't feed it. It'll expect you to feed it forever,' she says.
       'Right, thanks.' I put down the phone and meet his green eyes. They're hypnotic. In a minute it'll have me thinking that he lives here, and the person with the cat allergy will just have to move out.

They can be lactose intolerant.
       'Oh this is ridiculous, he's clearly starving.' Although he doesn't look starving. He actually looks quite well fed. A minor detail. I pour him a saucer of milk and put it outside the door. The cat gets stuck in.
       'Never give stray cats milk. They can be lactose intolerant,' says the middle child.
       'What?? Where did you hear that?'
       'It's on this website.'
       'Oh God, what have I done? I've probably killed the cat.'

She scrolls down.
       'No, that won't kill it, you're fine.'

Whew! And while I'm at it, since when are cats lactose intolerant? That's like saying Santa Claus is lactose intolerant. Everyone knows the man loves milk!
       'You should leave out a saucer of water.'
       'Right.' To make up for the dairy mistake, I pour a whole container of water. The cat looks unimpressed.

Later that evening, I smuggle out some more food to him. Proper cat food this time.
       'What'll you do if he's still there in the morning, Mum?'
I sigh.
       'I'll have to bring him to the local vet. He'll be able to see if he's chipped.'

The night is warm and soon the cat disappears to do whatever cats do at night. 
When I come down the following morning, there's no sign of him.
I refill the container with fresh water.

Just in case.


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