Moving house is a real performance. Just ask my cat.
Even if your heart isn’t set on a pad with an eye-watering price tag, like London’s Princes Gate or the Bishops Avenue aka Billionaires’ Row, it’s a major expense, and that’s before stamp duty. There are also surveys to arrange, solicitors to pay, and a mortgage to sort out. Get ready too for the gazumping, gazundering and chains which make the property game an expensive version of snakes and ladders.
Cats have no such worries. All Mishmish had to do was let herself be transported to a weekend retreat. “We’re going on a mini-break,” I tell Mishmish. She takes this announcement in her stride.
The weekend starts well because she loves her basket. This always surprises me, considering it’s only used for transporting her to the vet and back. Maybe it’s the ‘and back’ bit she remembers best.
The journey itself is no trouble, though it’s hard for the humans to squeeze into a car packed to the gunwales. It’s all very reminiscent of trips with my three children when they were young. Only in this case there are two cat trays, a favourite water bowl, the special cat food, her favourite toys, and of course The Blanket.
Not that anyone would call it a blanket now. You can always tell who has cats. Their blankets look like towels and their towels look like knitting mistakes, says the author of How to Live with a Calculating Cat. This little book has been making people laugh since 1962 because it’s so damn true.
Anyway, on arrival Mishmish bolts out of the basket and heads under the IKEA sofa. There she stays, oblivious of efforts to coax her out.
Husband and I put out food, water, toys, The Blanket, even a welcoming sign.
We talk to her in a silly voice. She sits there watching us make idiots of ourselves.
After a few hours our knees hurt and I wonder if she’ll be there until the sofa self-destructs. This could take a while. Many people I know have an Ektorp sofa and it lasts years, sometimes decades. As reliable as a Volvo, though without ABS brakes.
We tell each other that you can’t make a cat do something. You can only make a cat want to do something.
Actually, scratch that. If your cat doesn’t want to do something, it’s never going to happen.
Cats are highly territorial, but my first ginger cat was far more adaptable. Bananas went places. As a student, I’d take her from London to Brighton and back. When I was a junior doctor, I’d often have to spend 80 hours at the hospital, so I’d take her with me to my on call room if nobody else could look after her.
But I have to accept Mishmish is different. She’s a homebody. And now she’s turning a couch potato.
Over the course of the weekend, she doesn’t venture out, not even to use the tray placed about 5 feet away. I get that. If there are predators around, a fresh deposit will give away your presence faster than a big brass plate on the door. But still.
So after 24 hours we go home, with Mishmish having seen no more than the underside of the Ektorp sofa.
Back and seat frame: fibreboard, moisture-resistant particleboard, plywood, solid pine, polyurethane foam 20 kg/cubic metre.
Cover: 100% cotton. Machine wash, warm 40°C.
We try again two weeks later. It begins exactly the same way, with Mishmish heading straight for the sofa to complete her PhD in furniture construction. All I can hope for was that she might graduate to an armchair for her post-doctoral research.
The breakthrough comes on Sunday around 2 a.m. This, I can only assume, is the moment she realises she isn’t going to be mauled by a lion, and the ceiling won’t cave in if she emerges from her shelter.
Her eyes are wide. There are loads of new crannies to investigate and new places to play.
“Cupboards! Wow! This one must be mine.”
“And what’s this? Instead of wooden flooring there are carpets! That means the whole house is a scratching pole. “
We’re kind of sleepy but this cat, having conserved her energies, is ready for action.
Pets depend on us, but they’re not children. Still, I get a warm glow now I see Mishmish likes it here. And it thrills me that she’s now eating and drinking.
Over the next few hours she uses both trays, sending the cat litter flying. I’m grinning from ear to ear with pride. Was I this delighted when my kids first used their potties and upturned them over each other? I’m really not sure, because my eyelids are drooping and I’m done in. Must repair to the sofa for a rest.
On top of it, not underneath.