Number 5, my cats
I love my cats. I am not foolish enough to believe that they love me; I suspect they regard me as a sort of pleasantish thing to have around, unless one is trying to have a peaceful nap, when sudden unexpected nuggles or loud “resident human thumping around” noises can become irritating. But love them I do, and consider myself deeply lucky to be able to share my life with their furry presences.

Of the two, Katherine is the more stand-offish, spending a large part of her time asleep on top of the kitchen cabinets in the cat bed I have placed up there for her greater comfort and convenience. I love seeing her little white paddy paws sticking over the edge in various relaxed arrangements. This makes it all the more charming when she does come down and communicate, usually around supper time, but also at other times to yell at me about various things. I’m never clear quite what the issue is as I don’t speak Cat; I’ve come to the conclusion that it may just be a dutiful form of politeness, a bit like ringing a distant elderly relative once a month to see how they’re getting on.

Katherine used to sit on the stairs and wowl quite a lot but recently that seems to have settled down and has been replaced by chatty little moops and mrowps as she enters or leaves rooms or passes me on the stairs. Some nights when I am reading in bed she will join me for a brief stroking session, which always finishes with her walking over my lap and then doubling back up the pile of pillows behind me. She then sits on top of the pile behind my head for a bit taking in the view before climbing down the other side and jumping down off the bed with a friendly good-night Prrrrrupp.

Missy is much more human-friendly and likes to hang around me and other visitors soliciting strokes, which are particularly appreciated around the ears, although under the chin works well too. If I lie on the sofa for an afternoon nap her bat ears will inform her of the exact moment when my breathing deepens as I start to drop off and she will race from wherever in the house she happens to be in order to jump onto my lap, causing me to come wide awake with a scream. She will then settle herself comfortably between my knees, wiggling her big fat butt around until she has excavated a comfortable nook, and have a wash. Once I have dropped off again she will climb onto my chest and nudge me awake so that I can stroke her. At night when it’s cold she joins me on the bed, snuggling into my back and gradually moving across until she occupies the whole of the centre of the bed and I am arranged around her like a sort of human cat bed.

Reading this back I suspect that those readers who don’t have cats will be completely mystified and those who do will be going “Yep!”. I don’t love my two in spite of these things, but because of them. These are the interactions which delight me and make me happy to have these furry little personalities in my life. This morning in the sauna at the Lido we were talking about that mystical swimming term, the “catch”: the way one gets hold of the water at the beginning of the stroke in front crawl and exerts gentle pressure on it in order to move oneself forwards. A recent post on Facebook by a swimmer described how he had improved his catch by imagining that he had his hand cupped around the butt of his big ginger cat, trying to move it gently across a sofa. The Lido community (and indeed, the community on the Did You Swim Today Facebook page where it was originally posted) instantly divided into those who acclaimed this as a magnificent tip which exactly described the sort of movement exemplified by a good catch, and those who were completely bemused.

If you are in the latter camp this post will have left you cold and you won’t understand at all why my cats can make me happy just by sleeping on top of my kitchen cabinets. To be honest I don’t really understand it myself. But it is so, and I’m very grateful.

More tomorrow.