"You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats." - Colonial proverb
I have a problem. In the same way some women can’t walk past a shoe shop without popping in for a quick look, I can’t walk past a cat without stopping to say hi. In fact, that’s not really covering the problem enough. In the same way some women go out in search of a shiny new pair of shoes, I go out in search of cats. And I find them. Always. Be they under cars or perching on shed roofs, sitting in their garden or wondering down the street I will spot them and pursue. (I have terrible eyesight too so it’s quite remarkable that I can find as many cats as I do.) The poor, long-suffering soul that accompanies me on these walks will stand in the street, looking slightly sheepish and casting desperate looks around to make sure nobody has spotted me. Do I care? Of course not. I’m halfway down the road, skipping like a little girl.
Of course, in most cases the “HI I WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND HIHIHI!!!” approach doesn’t work with cats. Which means that aforementioned skipping down the street is one of the more ‘normal’ outcomes of a walk with Sophie. I can be found prostrate on the floor, peering under cars and blinking at shadows. I will quite happily position myself precariously on a wall and wait there unmoving for 10 minutes until, confused and curious, the cat in question shuffles over to see what’s going on. I have been known to attract the odd stare and the polite smile – I’m aware that I look like a slight mental case, sitting cross-legged on the floor with a raggedy old tom that wants his belly tickled – but I couldn’t care less. In my mind there are few things more rewarding than the purr of a nervous cat and the little tiny headbutt you’ll receive when the stroking stops.
There are two problems with this, however. The first is that once you have gained the trust of a cat, as long as you don’t do anything ridiculous like stand on its tail or question its ability to wash behind its ear properly, you have a bit of a job losing that trust. I don’t care what anyone says, cats remember people. Why wouldn’t they? I remember cats by their faces and cats remember things and situations and people by their smell. It’s what those little pink things above their mouths are for. Yesterday we met a cat who we’d spoken to once before, who took a lot less persuading to come and say hi than the previous time. And then there’s the little grey cat; or Grey as we have so imaginatively called her in rebellion against the fact that her owners call her Smokey. (They don’t like us. We are trying to steal their cats. Which we are not. We have a cat, a perfect one, who would rather eat dust for the rest of his life than have another cat – stolen or otherwise – move in with him) Grey, we have been informed, is quite unfriendly. Something to which we can attest - the first time we were stopped by her family (small, fluffy cat stepped in our paths and I had to speak. Suddenly, two less fluffy cats appeared. Since then we’ve become quite good friends.) she didn’t want anything to do with us. Over time (and in my defence it is one of the easier routes in to town so I’m not going out of my way to- ok, I am...) she’s been more than happy to chat away to us and the last time we visited, as we were turning the corner, she came running down the road chattering like a... very talkative cat. Anyway, I have digressed. The problem with this is that some cats – Grey included – do not like the idea of conversations being ended by humans. It is their job, as the superior member of the discussion, to say goodbye. And when your head is being stroked and your belly scratched, goodbye is not the favoured phrase. Thus, when you have to leave (as you eventually do. Suffering soul is still tapping their foot and we have been sitting here for 2 days) cat comes too. Along the road, around the corner, stops in the middle of the road and sits and watches you go. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to escape from a cat but if you so much as turn your head to check your watch, they will be chasing you along the street. So walks are a never-ending pattern of stopping to talk to cats, saying goodbye, being followed, returning cat to right place, saying goodbye...
The second problem is the fact that people aren’t so fond of strange young women having a good old gossip with their family pet. I can completely understand this – if our cat was the type not to hide under the bed when the doorbell rang, I too would be suspicious of people sitting and chatting to him. But it’s tough, really. I have no choice. Mostly, they speak to me first. Or they position themselves so close to me that it would be absolutely rude to ignore them.
I admit, this is one of the stranger things that I do and I suppose, considering how strange my little head is, it must be quite high on the “abnormal things done by abnormal people called Sophie” scale but it’s also an awesome thing. Where’s the fun in bumping into a person you know on the street and being stuck in a conversation you just don’t want to have? Or ducking into a shop because you know they’re going to waffle on about all the amazing things they’ve done and then look you up and down before concluding that they don’t really need to ask? It’s much better to meet a creature in the street – one who is genuinely happy to see you, even if it is because you’re going to scratch their ears – and not want to hide. Especially when they purr. How many people purr, in a non-creepy way?
Don’t worry. I’ll take my medication later and they’ll send me back to the home at 6 o’clock.