Look What the Cat Dragged In

Imagine, if you will, a cat show like no other: a gathering of cats across time and space to determine which of them has made the most remarkable contribution to my house in Things Brought In.
Motto: Weirder, Wilder, Wigglier.

First up, my first-ever cat, a grey tabby named Sixty-Cola (for reasons which I will not go into). She was a very productive hunter – rats, geckos, and on one memorable occasion, a almond-smelling cockroach which made her foam at the mouth.

Result: DQ for styrofoam. (Cats should not eat styrofoam, it makes them vomit.)

Rough nightNext in the rankings, the plain grey cat Nina, probably best remembered for giving me my facial scar. I don’t remember her being much of a hunter, although she did once bring in a live blackbird.

Result: Dishonourable Mention for fleeing the house in terror when the blackbird got away from her.

Next up, Baggy (short for Bagheera), the black-and-white only child of the aforementioned Sixty-Cola. A talented hunter. As well as rats, geckos and the like, she also caught fruitbats (don’t ask me how), and a cricket which, when she let it go to play with it, jumped clear over the six-foot wall dividers and was lost to her forever. She was a great one for playing with her food. I shall always remember the night I woke to find her trying to persuade a headless bandicoot into bed with me.

Result: Winner, Most Dangerous category, for the Papuan Black snake she brought in one night, a night which will remain seared on my memory in perpetuity. (I scaled a bookshelf in an impressive six-foot standing jump. My mother thoughtfully informed me that snakes can climb.)

HuntedRaskol is one of our current cats, a somewhat fluffy tortoiseshell-and-white. Ever a great fighter, she didn’t go in for hunting much until she had kittens. Being an intelligent cat, she realized fairly soon that her humans didn’t go in much for mice and birds, and tried to bring us things we might be more interested in.

First it was sausages and chips (as in pommes frites). Then she went through a baked-goods phase: pieces of gnawed bread, mouldy crumpets, half a chocolate muffin. Then came the tennis ball phase, during which she built up a considerable collection, some of them clearly stolen from neighbourhood dogs. There was also a kiwifruit, but we think she may have mistaken it for a tennis ball.

Side note: the brown furry fruit is not a kiwi. This is a kiwi:
Round, brown and feathery: kiwi. Round, brown and furry: kiwifruit. Simple.

Returning, however, to the array of items brought in by Raskol – whose name, aptly, means ‘highwayman’ or ‘thief’ in Tok Pisin. After amassing a hoard of some two dozen tennis balls, she moved on to paper and card. Junk mail, recycling, something washed up in the nearby stream – didn’t matter what it was, she’d drag it home for us, or for the family next door, who assumed it was the fault of the wind until they caught her in the act. This phase, unfortunately, appears to be ongoing. (Get your human some paper. Humans love paper…)

Her pièce de résistance, however, was the skin of an entire ham which she dragged through the cat-flap one Christmas morning. (Still don’t know whose it was. If it was yours, I apologize. Let us both be thankful the ham itself was too big for her to lift.) It was huge, particularly considering she’s only about the size of a ham herself.
Result: Winner, Most Variety category. PB in weight lifting.

rosemary & marmalade glazed ham
Finally, we come to Boromir, a rather dapper ginger-and-white, son of the felonious Raskol. His late kittenhood coincided with a bumper-year for cicadas, and for a while it was not possible to step into our hall without the crunch of empty cicada cases under one’s feet.

One night, home alone but for the cats, I heard what sounded like a circling B-52 going round the house amid the clatter of cicadas. I rushed to the windows in a failed attempt to spot this emperor among cicadas, and Boromir rushed out through the cat-flap. You guessed it. Seeing my interest in this gigantic insect, he very thoughtfully went and got it for me. He must have been confused by the way in which I rushed into the bedroom and slammed the door behind me. Hadn’t I seen what he’d brought me? Why had I left it behind? But stay! There was a way around this awkward social impasse. Thinking quickly, he shunted the still live (and by now quite testy) cicada through the gap under the bedroom door, trapping me in my room with this monster beast between me and the door.

cat-323262_640Let us draw the curtain of charity over my response, and move on to consider some of the other things Boromir has brought home over the years. Now that I look back, I can see that he has always been one for grabbing the attention. There was the mouse left under the fridge (takes a while to get the humans’ attention, but cannot be ignored thereafter), the mouse in the slipper (something didn’t feel right when I stood up) and the weta (mercifully legless) in my shoe. There was the mouse which he caught by firing himself across the room with lethal force – using my stomach as a launch pad as I lay sleeping.

But his true nature, that of an unashamed glory-hound, did not become clear to me until this week. The first post in this week’s series went up on Monday. On Tuesday night, Boromir brought in no fewer than three mice. We were duly impressed (although we might have been more impressed if he didn’t keep waking us up by yowling about each individual mouse as he brought it up the stairs).

And then on Wednesday night, he brought in four mice, one after the other. I don’t know where he’s getting them. I’ve never seen a mouse in this house that wasn’t either in a cat’s mouth, or in a clearly post-cat condition (i.e. dead). But there it is. Seven mice in about thirty hours, and he ate four of them in their entirety (as well as two dinners). I’m surprised he can still walk without tripping over his own stomach.

Result: Winner, Bulk category. Mice in one night, 4; PB, HR [Personal Best, Household Record]

And as for Best in Show – well, that’s a People’s Choice Award. What do you think?
To entertain you while the votes are counted, may I suggest this cat’s-eye view of assorted prey: I Eat You by Misha (amanuensis, Christina Anne Hawthorne).


So, if you’ve followed the last few weeks of fling-along, you are now standing knee-deep in a pile of stuff. Stuff that you have decided you don’t want in your house any more, but – what do you do with it?

Answer: exercise virtue. In this case, generosity.

Give it all away.

This is not to suggest that everything in your pile of stuff is fit to give. Deciding to get rid of something can have the sudden side effect of making you realize just how junky a piece of rubbish it is that you’ve been treasuring all these years. As Tove Jansson wrote in Moominland Midwinter, “Already it looked like something one wouldn’t even have the cheek to give away to a displaced hedgehog” – a displaced hedgehog being defined in the Author’s Note as “a hedgehog that has been removed from its home against its will and not even had the time to pack its toothbrush.”

hedgehog tubeBe generous to the earth: some things are best donated or otherwise charitably bestowed upon a recycle bin, rubbish bin, or compost bin. (No one else wants your lightly-used teabags.)

Now there are those who will tell you that giving doesn’t count as generosity until you’re giving what you actually want, or need – until it’s really costing you something. I say work your way up. Start with giving away the stuff you’ve already decided you don’t want; then move on to the stuff you wouldn’t mind keeping but to be honest won’t really miss. As you gradually train your subconscious into the pattern of giving, you will build up your generosity muscles to the point where you can give (up) something you really love, because someone else needs it more. Or because doing so will leave you freer to do something else. Or just to prove to yourself that you can, that you own it and not the other way around.

For generosity role-models, consider the mortally wounded Sir Philip Sidney, who gave his water to another wounded soldier.

Benjamin West - The Fatal Wounding of Sir Philip Sidney
Or St Francis of Assisi, who had to be put under oath to stop him giving the clothes off his back to those whose poverty was greater. Or, on a cheerier note, Bob, who gave Larry’s hairbrush to The Peach “because he has hair.” Except preferably don’t postpone your generosity until your deathbed (too long to wait). Nor until a singing dancing tomato gives things away for you (even longer to wait).

Just go for it – have a giving spree! No regrets – what you give, give freely and cheerfully. Once it’s out of your hands, let it out of your heart and mind as well. It’s not yours any more – not your thing, not your responsibility, not your problem. Enjoy yourself! Generosity really is one of those virtues which does as much good to the person exercising it as to those around them.

I regret to inform you that this concludes our regular programming for a while (though who knows what irregularities may crop up?) as we have just moved house and I must devote myself to unpacking, locating my desk and so forth. Don’t worry, I won’t be gone long, and when I return we will turn our attention to such interesting questions as the naming of houses and whether or not I am in fact Cruella de Vil. Au revoir!

Round 2

Yes, it’s round 2 of the fling-along, and today I encourage you to throw in the towel!

Towel Day - Dont Panic - Douglas Adams - The Hitchhikers Guide to the GalaxyWhich is to say, today we are going to look at rooms involving towels, i.e. water-related rooms: the bathroom, kitchen and laundry. More than look at them, we are going to leap on them unawares and rifle through their pockets for loose stuff. Beginning with the bathroom.

Depending on your personality, worldview etc, your bathroom may be crowded with every cosmetic aid known to man (or woman), or it might be home to nothing more cluttery than a stash of toilet paper. Whatever the case, it’s worth going through the room – flat surfaces as well as storage spaces – to see if there’s anything that can be dispensed with. Bottles of hair stuff you know you’re never going to finish, expired medications from the medicine kit – whatever it is, biff it out.

If you finish under 15 minutes, you qualify for the next round can have a rummage through the linen cupboard or wherever you keep your towels, flannels etc and fling out anything that is no longer of use. Tip: flannels make great rags, and towels no longer fit for human consumption can be used to dry off wet pets as they come in from the great outdoors (or donated to an animal shelter for bedding).

Happy Towel Day By Bianca the Cat 1Ready with a timer? Fifteen minutes: on your marks, get set – go!

I thought our bathroom was pretty clutter-free, but I came away with two old mostly-empty perfume bottles, one sunblock ditto, a comb (bought as part of a set and surplus to requirements), three expired medications and a couple of pieces of recycling, including an empty liquid soap dispenser. Also a bathmat from my fossick through the linen cupboard, itself recently denuded of two single sheets, two single duvets, a duvet-cover with matching pillowcase and a single electric blanket. (We have no single bed.) Score: call it 6.

Next up: the kitchen. Again, it depends on what kind of person you are whether you can immediately think of half a dozen things in your cupboards you don’t need, or would be hard-put to it to think of a single thing in your kitchen that you don’t use. If you find yourself with time to spare, have a look through your pantry for items past their use-by date (not to be confused with the best-before date), bulging tins, groves of leafy potatoes etc etc.

Messy kitchenOr you may find that you can spend fifteen minutes just clearing off the benches. Like me. (Blush.) I collected a stack of recycling, put a few things away, and put a few more things in the bin. To donate: one squeezy bottle, one bud vase (originally a salt shaker) and a pair of salt-and-pepper shakers (once emptied of ageing contents). I also need to decide what to do with a large bottle of fish sauce which has passed its date but a) is still unopened and b) contains about as much salt as the laws of chemistry permit a liquid to do. Call it 4, running total 10. Decidedly, I will be spending more fifteen minuteses in the kitchen over the next few days!

Last up, the laundry. You may not have a separate laundry – it may be part of your kitchen, or your bathroom, or the business down the road. (Try not to declutter a laundromat unless you own it – may easily lead to misunderstandings.) It may be a cupboard just large enough for a washer (and maybe dryer) or it may be a hangar of a lumber-room which happens to have a washer in it (somewhere…). If nothing else comes to hand, you can always clean out the lint trap and fish the half-pegs out of the peg-bag/basket/apron.

Ready? Allons-y!

Where is the Vim? Project 3665(2) Day 50Result: some recycling (including a quantity of batteries waiting to be taken for a trip), some rubbish (including a bag of things I sorted out the last time I cleared out the laundry – you should have seen it when I started!), and a remarkable number of things not in their proper places. (What is it with pegs??) Also a number of items which I not only do not want or use, but cannot even identify – possibly from earlier ages of the house. There were a few things which could be donated: a placemat, a sock hanger, a medicine-measuring cup, and a small assortment of toy mice.

Call it 6 again; running total 16 – thus beating last week’s record by 3 items! Should I go with the Olympic theme and say PR? I’d take a lap of honour, but my cup of tea isn’t big enough. On the other hand, I still haven’t dealt with all the things which I purged last week (the shame!) so perhaps I should postpone the victorious cuppa until those are out of the way – and there’s a motive if ever there was one!

Do feel free to share your own progress, PRs or problems (what do I do with the fish sauce?) in the comments. See you again next week for the third and last round!