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HOW WE BECAME CAT OWNERS.

It is said that you don’t choose a cat but that it chooses you. This was definitely true in our case.

The story of Jason

When we were first married, a lifetime ago, we lived in East London. Our next door neighbours had a handsome ginger cat called Jason. We mistakenly thought this was after Jason of the Golden Fleece but he was more prosaically named after the Blue Peter cat Jason!

Jason would visit us on a regular basis and our flat became his second home.  We made the cardinal mistake of feeding him which meant of course that he visited us frequently.  We could never understand why our neighbours had bothered to get a cat because they clearly weren’t cat lovers, often leaving him out in the rain where his piteous mewing would mean that we would rescue him and bring him indoors. Sometimes they forgot to feed him altogether (or at least that’s what Jason led us to believe but he might have been enjoying double rations) so we were often doing that too. It was easy to imagine that he was our cat and not theirs. 

Our kitchen had a small breakfast bar overlooking the communal garden. One lunchtime we were sitting at the counter enjoying our tomato soup. It was a bright sunny day and we had left the window wide open. All of a sudden Jason jumped in through the window landing paws first in my bowl of soup. With a yelp of pain he leapt right out again.  He sat outside on the patio frantically licking and licking at his once white paws which were now stained bright orange.  It was weeks before the orange colour disappeared and many months before we ever thought of having tomato soup again!

When our first child was born we began looking to move and found a new home in Hertfordshire.  I could not bear the idea of leaving Jason behind and would lie in bed at night thinking of different ways of taking him with us.  It even crossed my mind to kidnap him. After all, I reckoned, they didn’t appear to care anything about him and he deserved a good home. 

The day came for us to move and I summoned up the courage to speak to our next door neighbour.  I knocked timidly at her front door. “I’ve come to say goodbye Kathy,” I said. “We are really going to miss your cat. I wish we could have him,” I blurted out.  To my amazement she replied: “You can. We don’t want him. We’ve always wanted a dog and now we’ll be able to have one.” So there it was. Just like that. We were cat owners.

The following day, OH (other half) returned to our old address to collect Jason and bring him home where he became a much loved member of our family for many happy years.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

BLOG POST #166 – PET LIFE

Over the years we’ve owned two cats.  That is, two cats have lived in our home. 

One can never really ‘own’ a cat. Unlike dogs, they are totally independent – but that is part of their charm.

Our cat

Our cat likes to sit on papers

newspapers

new  newspapers

today’s

not yesterday’s

Our cat likes to sit on clothes

as long as they’re ironed

and neatly folded

Our cat likes to sit on beds

newly made beds

And flower beds

Our cat likes to sit on papers

exam papers

test papers

homework papers

report papers

Our cat is sitting on this poem.

It is said that cats choose you – you don’t choose them.

And this was true of Jason who adopted us when we were living in our first home. He actually belonged to our next door neighbours but made it quite clear that he preferred our company (and our home) to theirs.

When the time came for us to move house, I told the owner we would miss their cat and that I wished we could have him. ‘You can!’ she surprised me by replying.  So that was it. We were cat owners.

Jason lived with us for seventeen years.

To Jason

We didn’t choose you

You came to us

And became a part of us

and of this house

And when we let you out

that night

How could we know it was

to be for the last time?

And yet, you still came back to us

Slowly, painfully

You came home

We found you lying curled up

on the path

Looking for all as if you were

still alive

The children in their beds

wailed when they heard the news

but soon forgot

Yet I cannot look

at where you used to be

without the tears coming to my eyes

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Thoughts on a dead cat

When our cat was alive he terrorised all the birds, mice and frogs in the neighbourhood.  If you have read my poem, “A violent death” you will know what I am talking about.

Once he had died, our garden became a haven for wild life.

I miss my cat of course but I get a great deal of pleasure from observing the birds who visit our garden.  In the winter I put out food for them.

Whenever I am doing any sort of gardening or even just pottering in the garden, one little robin always keeps me company.  He’s very tame and comes so close I could reach out and touch him. I like to think it’s always the same robin – but who knows?

It makes me think of the little girl who was befriended by a robin in that wonderful children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett,  “The Secret Garden”.

The photo below shows “my” robin perched on top of a bucket in the snow.

I thought how, in the days when our cat was alive, this simple pleasure would not have been there for me. And I wrote this poem:

Robin

My cat is sleeping.

Just as well

he can’t see the robin

boldly standing there.

Once upon a time

no bird would dare

to venture near.

But my cat is sleeping now

And has been

For a long long time.

A lump of stone

marks his last resting place.

ROBIN PIC

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

A violent death

A violent death

When I saw the hairs upon the hall

and feathers on the stairs

my stomach took a dive

All of a sudden I saw it

what was left of the starling

and stalking it

was our fat

well fed

lap loving cat

The bird half hopped

into the living room

 I shoved the cat away

and closed the door

The bird flew frantically about

At least it still could fly

It swooped up to a picture frame

and stayed there quivering

A droplet of blood appeared

 from underneath the tail feathers

and oozed its way down the wall

I stood there helpless

as if by a roadside victim

unable to give the kiss of life

Suddenly

the bird dived across the room

intending to fly free

Instead it hit the patio door

with a heart stopping thud

and lay still on its side

I bent to pick it up

but it fluttered free

and hopped about the room

leaving a trail of blood

and feathers

Summoning all my strength

I scooped it up

holding tight its soft frail wings

I held its life in my hands

I could feel its little heart beating

as I carried it down the garden

seeking a safe hiding place

all the while murmuring

as if to a crying child

hush now, it’s going to be alright

I left it on the fence

and went back inside

to hoover up the feathers

and wipe the paintwork free of blood

and soon it was as if

the bird had never been

except for a streak of pink blood

trickling down the wall

and when I wiped it, it turned blue.

When I looked the next day

the bird had gone

And for a whole week afterwards

I could not look at the cat.

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Cats and Dogs

Poems can be written a  long time after the event that triggered them. When I was about nine I saw another little girl’s dog get run over by a milk lorry. Years later, when I was 21, I wrote this poem:

So new – he didn’t have a name

Happy little girl

in white knee socks

laughing and skipping

on her way to school

a puppy frisking at her feet

Dog, seeking adventure

bounds into road

Dog! Dog!

Still new – he

hasn’t got a name

Rumble of huge lorry

lorry

rattling tons

of free school milk

Dog! Dog!

A scream then

like I’d never

heard before

and a crunch that

set my teeth on edge

Ketchup on the road

A tangled, soggy mass of fur

Little girl crying

Living her first death

Oh dog! Poor dog!

So new – he didn’t

have a name

This next poem is about the time we ran over a cat.

Sunday Morning

A streak of ginger 
flashed towards our car 
We lurched to a stop 
a stop a stop 
Too late.

It could have been our cat.

It slithered on its belly 
to the kerb 
and slunk away to die.


We found it skulking 
in an alleyway 
and picked it up 
mindless of the blood and hairs. 
The cat lay limp and lifeless 
in my arms.

The vet came down in his pyjamas. 
The smell of Sunday roast was in the hall 
and nameless cats strayed upon the stairs. 

In the surgery 
blood 
spotted the nice white table 
into a Rorschach blot. 
I idly wondered who would clean it up.

The cat squawled a bitter miaow 
At least it was alive 
Brain damaged, said the vet

We skulked away 
into an alleyway 
to die.

In fact, the cat wasn’t hurt at all – although we did get the vet to check it out.

Luckily for the cat – and for us – it survived with eight of its nine lives still intact.
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Pet life

Over the years we’ve owned two cats. Or should I say, two cats have lived 

under the same roof as us.  

One can never really ‘own’ a cat. Unlike dogs, they are totally independent – but

that is part of their charm.

Our cat

Our cat likes to sit on papers

newspapers

new  newspapers

today’s

not yesterday’s

Our cat likes to sit on clothes

as long as they’re ironed

and neatly folded

Our cat likes to sit on beds

newly made beds

And flower beds

Our cat likes to sit on papers

exam papers

test papers

homework papers

report papers

Our cat is sitting on this poem.

It is said that cats choose you – you don’t choose them. And this was true of Jason who adopted us when we were living in our first home. He actually belonged to the people next door but made it quite clear that he preferred our company (and our home) to theirs.

When the time came for us to move house, I told the owner we would miss their cat and that I wished we could have him. ‘You can!’ she surprised me by replying.  So that was it. We were cat owners.

Jason lived with us for seventeen years.  

To Jason

We didn’t choose you

You came to us

And became a part of us

and of this house

And when we let you out

that night

How could we know it was

to be for the last time?

And yet, you still came back to us

Slowly, painfully

You came home

We found you lying curled up

on the path

Looking for all as if you were

still alive

The children in their beds

wailed when they heard the news

But soon forgot

Yet I cannot look

at where you used to be

without the tears coming to my eyes

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems