Five true things people didn’t tell me about owning a cat (and one lie they did)

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I’ve heard many things about cats in my 20something years on the planet. Aloof, unfriendly, claws, disappearing for days on end, bringing dead presents into the house like every day is Christmas Day.

It might explain why we were always dog people. I grew up playing with my grandparents’ Labradors until, after years of pleading, we got a dog when I was 13. It wasn’t until I got into my twenties and started to hang out with a few cats that my cold cat heart started to melt.

Subsequently, shortly after I finished my undergrad degree, I acquired this:

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(Check out the nick of my stupid face. It was love at first sight for me. I think Stella knew she was doomed to being squished forever. SHE WASN’T WRONG.)

It’s been four years now since I acquired Cloth Cat, and I’ve come to realise that quite a lot of the misconceptions were, frankly, total nonsense. Below are just some of the things that Stella exists to disprove.

Not all cats are divas when it comes to food.

Here is a list of everything I know Stella has eaten in the time I’ve owned her.

  • Wet food
  • Dry food
  • Dog food
  • Grass
  • House plants
  • Cooked chicken I was about to take to work for my lunch
  • Pizza
  • Ham
  • A bit of Rich Tea biscuit
  • Mashed potato
  • String
  • A stray olive
  • Some feathers
  • Her own fur.

Here is a list of things that she’s turned down.

  • A piece of vaguely expensive salmon that I dropped on the floor by mistake and figured I’d put in her dish rather than waste. Because it was vaguely expensive.

It ended up in the bin.

There’s no escaping the hair.

Stella’s adoption certificate lists her as a British Short Hair. “Ah, excellent,” said I when I met her tiny, British Short Haired kitten face. “I won’t have to buy a million lint rollers and hoover five times a week.”

Wasn’t I stupid.

There’s hair on my kitchen utensils, hair on my towels, hair on every available surface. All she has to do with walk within three feet of me and I look like I’m cosplaying Chewbacca. I’m live in a state of constant bafflement as to how she isn’t entirely bald as she seems to be on a one-cat mission to carpet my entire downstairs in shades of ginger and brown.

British Lotsof Short Hair, more like.

Cats aren’t always graceful ancient feline god material

I mean

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For a long time I thought cats slunk about like Si and Am from Lady and the Tramp but without the singing. YouTube did solid work in shattering these expectations but I still wasn’t fully prepared for just how ridiculous cats are. Cue falling out of bedroom windows, jumping out of trees onto garden parasols (the cartoon sliding down into the shrubbery was a particular highlight) and two memorable incidents of jumping behind the bed and getting wedged, feet dangling, between the headboard and the wall and squeaking pathetically until I got up and rescued her.

If cats are ancient gods, I’m pretty sure mine is the equivalent of Mushu from Mulan. But Mushu’s awesome, so it’s OK.

Cats WILL come when you call them

Breaking news! You don’t need a variety of weird cat-friendly noises (you all know them, don’t tell lies) and a bag of biscuits to make a cat appear. You can teach them their name and then they’ll show up (the biscuits do help with this part though). It does however mean I end up channelling Marlon Brando whenever I want to see her.

(Yes, contrary to popular belief, Stella’s last name isn’t Artois. She’s named after Stella Kowalski from A Streetcar Named Desire. Prior to this, she was known as Beyonce in her foster family because she’s got a patch of light hair on one of her toes that looks like a ring. I chose badly re-enacting classic American theatre, however hollering “Beyonce!” in the garden to coax a lazy cat from the bushes would also have been excellent.)

They’ll shred you the moment you even vaguely displease them

Cardinal rule of cats: you pat them very carefully and you stop when you start to get That Vibe: the one that says they might suddenly turn around and rip off your epidermis. Don’t touch them underneath. Ever.

I don’t know if it’s her overall personality or the fact that I was so enamoured with Stella when I first got her that I used to pick her up and squeeze her several times a day, but she’s a teddy bear. She’s quite open to being seized and cuddled at random. All you have to do is think about patting her and she falls over. She’ll roll onto her back and stick all her legs in the air and let you stroke her underneath until you get bored or she falls asleep.

In fact, in four years I can count the number of times she’s taken her claws out on one hand.

*

And one lie about cats I believed for a shamefully long time:

Cats won’t love you like a dog would

Every day, when I come in from work, I go into the living room and deliberately make a hell of a lot of noise. Every day, without fail, Stella will come barrelling down the stairs like a sack of bricks with legs, aquaplane (but on fur, not water – furplane?) across the laminate flooring and start decimating the couch out of sheer joy until I go and grab her and throw her over my shoulder.

She sleeps on the bed most nights, sometimes rolled up on the end, sometimes right next to me so I’m spooning her, sometimes across the top of my head on the pillow like an odd little hat.

It’s very unusual for her to not be in the same room as me if I’m in the house. If I’m doing the dishes she’ll be trying to get into the cupboards so she can drop a kilo of hair all over the plates, if I’m in the spare room on the PC she’ll lie under my desk. If I’m in the living room she’s either on the floor in front of the window or on the couch between us.

She’s a ridiculous, dopey, lazy sack of cat who often forgets to put her tongue back in when she’s been licking herself, sees a closed door as an invitation and is currently standing on my keyboard without a care in the world, so I’m writing this with my chin on her back and a mouthful of tail.

And she loves, wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, everyone who comes through the door, without prejudice.

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