Category Archives: Cats
It’s been a crazy sort of week. A really good week but at the end of it I find myself dithering around and at a loss to know what to write about. This is not unusual. But it’s usually because I have too many things to choose from. This time it’s different. This time my mind is a bit like those squares of soft plastic that come in the boxes of stuff you buy from Amazon. And I’m not talking about bubble wrap; that would be interesting, at least you can pop it.
In the past weeks I’ve written about the danger of using mobile phones when driving, public address systems in airports, my deceased cat Eric and his life as a spy, sausages, cows, coastlines and contemporary art. I also love to write about the wacky, mad things people do and strange unknown facts. So, while I get my head together for next week, here are some things I’ve just discovered. They’re the sort of things that brighten up my life and make me smile. The links to the sites where I found them are at the end of this post. So, Einstein couldn’t swim and …
Isaac Newton invented the cat flap
Walt Disney – creator of Micky Mouse – was afraid of mice
The Tory (Conservative) party was founded by a group of Irish Catholic bandits. The name comes from the Irish for outlaw or bandit. They’re certainly living up to their origins.
Virginia Wolfe wrote all her books standing up.
Pigs love Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, except for the Mint Oreo flavour.
There’s a spider named after Harrison Ford.
Goethe could only write if he had an apple rotting in the drawer of his desk.
In 1980 Saddam Hussein was given the key to the city of Detroit.
Elephants purr like cats.
Bats always turn left when they leave their caves.
Tigers don’t just have striped fur, they have striped skin.
The Founder of Pringles was buried in a Pringles can.
Despite fulminating and ranting about the misuse of English, I love some of the new ways the language is used. One of the words I’m particularly fond of is ‘random’. ‘Random’ meaning haphazard, without aim or purpose or without an underlying principle. Nowadays it’s often used to mean strange or weird – indeed sometimes it’s the only word that fits the situation.
Take last week. Last week was random in all senses of the word, old and new. Correct or otherwise. It was scattered. It was weird. It was definitely haphazard. I was editing blogs and writing content. I was trying to sort out the cover for my book, with the help of a friend who is not only kind but more knowlegable and technically savvy than I am in all things jpeg. I was dithering about booking plane tickets – cheap and lethal Ryanair or slightly more expensive but definitely more civilised EasyJet?
While juggling with all this I had foolishly agreed to enter a Tall Tales contest for my Early Birds Toastmasters Club, in aid of a good cause World Child Cancer. What is a Tall Tale? Wikipedia was unhelpful for once as none of the examples were contemporary. Having to fit a story into a formula, of sorts, did bad things to my brain. It froze it. The contest was on Friday. On Wednesday I was still staring at a blank sheet of paper. The only thing I could think of was my ex-cat, Eric, who used to send emails.
A brain frozen takes some time to defrost. Thursday morning I was still struggling. However, thanks to the encouragement and suggestions of my lovely Toastmaster and Twitter friends, a story gradually took shape. A convoluted story involving my beloved Eric, who had, it seemed worked for MI5. Pavel, the psychotic goat, a Russian agent. A plot to blackmail Larry, the Downing Street cat. An exciting chase across Whitehall into Trafalgar Square. A fall from the top of Nelson’s Column, a broken leg and the 73 bus also figured. A fortuitous cat flap and an Islington safe house appeared to signal the end of the story. But no. There was yet another dastardly plot involving the corgies and the Queen, a faked death and a mysterious box of ashes.
If the word random can be applied to anything, it can be applied to last week.
I came third, by the way.
Or indeed several cats. Most apartment buildings in Japan don’t allow residents to keep pets. Some do but they are at the expensive end of the market. The astute, cat-loving Japanese have come with the ideal solution. Cat cafės. Here in the U.K. we now have therapy dogs and cats that visit residential homes – perhaps we could make their presence more permanent in day centres and care homes. Of course there is a question of hygiene, but cats are clean creatures and the Japanese seem to manage in a café so why not in a day centre. As to health and safety, I’m sure most folks would rather injure themselves tripping over a cat than lying neglected in a bed. Besides, cats are clever. They’d get out of the way.
Just imagine the situation. You are getting older and are not in the best of health. You live alone with your beloved dog, your constant companion and friend since your husband died some years ago. Sometimes you think he’s the only thing that keeps you sane. But there’s one problem that’s destroying your peace of mind. That keeps you awake at night.
You’re finding it harder and harder to get about. The doctor is suggesting residential care but you can’t bear to be parted from your pet. And, you have to face it, even should you remain at home, what will happen when you die? Who will look after him? How will he cope? This is the agonising problem that faces many elderly people. Those who become terminally ill confront the same difficulty, have similar fears and worries.
This is where the Cinnamon Trust comes in. I came across it almost by chance when I was researching something else on the net. It’s the only specialist national charity with the sole aim of helping older people, and those who are terminally ill, to ensure that their pets are well looked after when they can no longer care for them. I’m amazed to discover that in the UK at least, it’s the only charity working quietly in this crucially important but almost invisible area.
The trust was founded nearly thirty years ago by Mrs Avril Jarvis, and named after her much-loved corgi – Cinnamon. It’s stated aim is ‘to respect and preserve the treasured relationship between owners and their pets.’ It works in partnership with owners, solving any difficulties that arise. Avril Jarvis says she has known many elderly people who have, quite literally, lost the will to live when their pets have died, but have been too worried about what might happen after their own deaths to acquire new animals.
With this in mind, the Trust enables owners to hand their pets over to the Trust before they die, or on their death, so that they have the comfort of knowing not only that their companion will be well cared for but also who will be doing the caring. Younger animals are fostered long-term with financial help from the charity or matched with distressed owners whose pets have died. Older ones live out their days comfortably in one of the trust’s two unique sanctuaries in Devon and Cornwall.
What makes these sanctuaries so special is that they replicate, as far as is possible, a proper home. Instead of kennels or cages there are sofas and armchairs, rugs and cushions. Even TVs. Everything these pets would have been used to. The Trust does more than provide sanctuary and match pets with new owners. An army of volunteers, the length and breadth of Britain, come to the rescue in all sorts of situations. From short term fostering when someone is in hospital to walking a dog for a housebound couple, to driving a pet to the vet or shopping for supplies.
If I ever win the lottery, there will be a shed load of money coming their way.
This is the story of my cat, the beloved Eric Longfellow, and of a wonderful organisation called SNIP – The Society for Neutering Islington’s Pussies. I have to admit that the name makes me giggle, but that in no way detracts from the great work they do. I first came across them when I was about to adopt Eric – although that’s not quite the way it was, as you will see.
I hadn’t had a pet of my own as an adult though we’d had family dogs and cats, not to mention Jane, the evil pony. One day, some years ago, I realised I was being watched from the tangle of Forsythia at the end of the garden. Two large golden eyes were staring at me. But when I moved, the cat disappeared. It reappeared a few days later. I played a waiting game, standing perfectly still whenever I was aware of its presence. I put out food, gradually moving it nearer to the house.
Eric became bolder. I dithered. I wasn’t sure I wanted a cat – it’s quite a commitment. He had other ideas and took to spraying my back door. He knew what he wanted. I let him into the house. He took over my bed, sleeping on his back with his legs in the air in a trusting, if inelegant, manner. He wasn’t neutered and he really stank. Which is why, at first, I called him Smelly Cat.
One day I came home and he’d gone. I couldn’t find him anywhere and was so upset. Just when I thought he was gone for good I woke up to find him on my bed – with a smashed leg. How he got through the cat flap I’ll never know. This is when SNIP came to the rescue. I’d been talking to them about having him neutered. Now of course my mind was made up for me and I was suddenly responsible for a badly injured cat. It sounds pathetic but I didn’t know what to do.
SNIP found a vet, negotiated the fee and paid most of it. I’d brought in a handsome, if tatty, furry grey cat. I collected a furious little creature who looked more like an alien than a cat; shaved all over with steel bolts protruding from his leg. To cap it all they announced that he had feline AIDS. It wasn’t a great start.
Poor Eric, confined to a small cage in my bedroom, was terrified, furious and in pain. I was horrified to find myself the owner of a howling, smelly cat that tore everything within reach to shreds, including flesh. I had to handle him with gardening gloves. He was really constricted in his cage. I begged the vet to let me take him out; I’d keep him in the bedroom, I promised. ‘As long as he doesn’t jump’ said the vet. ‘He’s a cat’, I thought, ‘he jumps’. But I kept it to myself.
The day I let Eric out of the cage, I was rewarded with his first purr. That night this angry, spitting creature transformed completely. He cuddled up close to me with his paw on my arm. He didn’t move from my side all night and slept on my bed from then on. As to not having to worry about this independent cat – I worried. Of course I worried – until the day my beautiful fellow died of cancer after 7 years with me. I still miss him.
And SNIP? Lately it’s been transformed. There are several similar charities doing great work trapping feral cats in Islington and the surrounding area. However, trapping and sterilising them is one thing. What to do next is another. Most of the cats will remain feral. They can’t be returned to where they were found – they are attacked by dogs or poisoned by people who want to get rid of them. It’s a miserable existence.
The great people at SNIP and the other charities have found a solution. They are now devoting their energies to finding kind, responsible homes for ferals in stables and smallholdings across the country. These people love their animals and often have problems with rats and mice. It costs them nothing but some straw and a few tins of Whiskas. The cats are warm and safe and undisturbed. Everybody’s happy.
Like all other charities, SNIP is struggling in these difficult times. If you can help in any way by displaying posters, by spreading the word, by letting them know if there are feral cats in your area – please do get in touch.
If you can volunteer to do some driving or trapping or you want to adopte any ferals or friendly strays, please call their re-homing line on 07557 118 484