This is the saga of The Cat; who was Possum, became Henry, then The Cat, returned to Henry, and at last became Possum once again.
It was The Husband’s idea to get a cat. It was a sudden brain fever, I thought. I assumed it would wear off. I quite like being a writer without a cat: I struggle hard to avoid the worst cliches in my writing, and I see no reason why I should succumb to them in real life. Besides which, I’m mildly allergic to cats. Well, allergic to most animals, actually, when they live exclusively in the house.
The fever didn’t wear off. In fact, it burned brighter and brighter- and The Husband wore me down. He was so enthusiastic and pleading and persistent. I found myself agreeing to find him a cat plus accoutrements, thus making myself the stereotypical Writer With Cat. A friend of mine had recently been trying to get rid of some kittens she’d been ‘gifted’ by her affectionate cat, and my sister suggested that she might still be trying to give away the last few kittens. They wouldn’t be more than a couple months old, thus making them still technically kittens, but being a few months old would mean they were litter-trained. I questioned said friend, found that they were still trying to give away the last three kittens, that they were willing to give one to me, and that they were litter-trained, dog-friendly (I have one small dog) and extremely affectionate. They did not eat furniture. They did not run away. They came when called. They preferred cheap dog food! I was eager to have one of these paragons.
The Friend sent photos, which I duly showed to The Husband. He pointed to the last one and said without hesitation: “That one. Get that one. He’s so beautiful! I will call him Henry.”
Fast-forward to the next day. Turns out that paragon kitty is called Possum, and is Friend’s favourite. She expresses hesitation in passing him on, though her children seem glad that it will be Possum to go. I’m disappointed, since The Husband isn’t remotely interested in the other two cats, but assure the Friend that all is well, and that I’ll be able to find Hubby a cat elsewhere if she really doesn’t want to part with Possum. She ums and ahs, and shows me all the cats again. A very long time later, after repeated assurances that I can easily find another kitten for The Husband if it’s at all inconvenient to them all to lose Possum, Possum has been pressed upon me and a sum of money pressed upon them, since I don’t like feeling indebted. The children are excited. The Friend asks if she and the children can come and visit Possum in a few days to assure themselves that he’s getting along okay.
At home, Possum has become Henry, and The Husband seems quite pleased with him. I am finding that, in addition to being a little more allergic to cats than I thought I was, I am decidedly not a cat person. I hate the meeping noises he makes at me for no reason. I hate the way he’s always underfoot. I hate the evil little glare he shoots at me just before he buries his claws in my leg. A sign of affection, apparently. It turns out that I can’t go anywhere without him following me, and that if I shut myself in a room from sheer desperation, he will sit at the door and meep in distress until I come out again. I can’t even go to the toilet in peace, because Henry the cat knows how to open the sliding door to the ensuite! I’m woken in the middle of the night several times by Henry deciding that he must sit on my head, or shove his nose into mine, or lick my ear. At two in the morning I find myself sobbing hysterically: “I don’t like you! Leave me alone!” as I push Henry off my face for the twentieth time. The Husband awakes to find me crying, after having shut The Cat out of the bedroom, and considerately consents to cuddle me until the tears are gone.
He’s a little miffed: he wants Henry to stay, despite the gouges in his shoulder from The Cat using his shoulder as a launch-pad a little earlier. He says he would like to give The Cat a decent trial- at least until The Friend comes around to see us: and then if I really can’t bear it, we’ll give him back. I agree, but Henry has temporarily become The Cat to me.
The next day, The Cat becomes Henry again. He still gives me headaches, but he gets on well with The Dog, and The Husband is very fond of him. I have been trying to get over my new but extreme dislike of having a cat as pet, and partially succeeding. Then I get a call from The Friend, who has called, it seems, for the sole purpose of telling me tearfully that the children have been crying all day and that they all miss Possum. The other cats have changed. They’re not the same without Possum. Over the next few days there are more calls and texts, each one building the guilt I feel, until between the guilt and the allergies, I’m feeling that I’ve made the single worst decision of my life.
At last I tell The Husband that I think we’ll just have to give Henry back. Greatly to my relief, he agrees. It turns out that a cat was more work than he remembered it being from his childhood, and Henry hasn’t entirely endeared himself to The Husband, who has more scratches than fond memories by now. My headache is entering its fourth day of non-stop misery, and I can’t wait until The Friend comes to take Henry away.
I’m really quite fond of Possum. Now that he’s someone else’s cat again, I feel free to pat him and think he’s quite sweet really. But it turns out that I am not a cat person. Guys, does that mean I can’t be a writer? I’m still part of the club, right? Guys?