Wednesday 23 October 2019

Catnappers put the collar on our Dilly

David Medcalf

Meet Dilly, our cat. The word 'our' is important here. Of course it is sometimes said that no one ever actually owns any cat. The feline psyche does not acknowledge the human obsession with possession. Cats merely permit or decide not to permit us to share their company. They will not be dictated to and generally regard us with haughty disdain.

Nevertheless, I insist that Dilly is our cat. She certainly does not belong to anyone else. She has been ours since 2008. She is our pride, our joy. The day when we all barrelled out into the countryside aboard The Jalopy in search of our first pet is part of family folklore.

The word was that the friend of a friend living on a remote farm had a batch of kittens which required homes. Directions were sketchy but we chanced to roll up the correct boreen without mis-hap one spring morning to be given the pick of the litter found mewling on a bed of straw in a barn.

Dilly was not the biggest or the liveliest or the cutest of the bunch but all were agreed that she had a pleasing tabby coat, so she was the one dropped into a cardboard box and brought back home, protesting all the way. On release, she hid under the sofa for several hours before being tempted out to be corralled back in the box overnight.

Dilly - named after Daffy Dan Dilly for no real reason at all - grew from the tiny hissing, scratching, spitting creature that scuttled beneath furniture to become the spirit of the household. She grew up alarmingly quickly too, nabbed by the local tom to produce a litter of her own well before she was a year old.

The birth of her brood gave a touching lesson in practical biology to young Eldrick and Persephone. They wanted to hang on to all five of them. Instead, four were passed on to other families, while the fifth turned out to be a feral mischief maker who stayed around long enough to earn a reputation as a hell-raiser before skedaddling. Black with white socks and as volatile as his mother is calm, he was not made to spend his time indoors with mere humans. I sometimes fancy that his are the cat's eyes which gleam from the darkness in grubby corners where the wild cats forage. More likely he lasted no more than a few days in the wild before he was run down by a passing car.

His mother is far too much of a scaredy-cat to tangle with the traffic and has relaxed into comfortable maturity, safely neutered and immune to the attentions of the predatory tom. Though not one to sit on anyone's lap for longer than a couple of minutes, she is friendly to her hosts and appreciates a good stroking.

She has emerged more or less unscathed from the arrival of The Pooch who was inducted into Medders Manor three years ago. For much of those three years, he could not resist the temptation to chase and harass the senior incumbent. Of late he has figured out that Dilly is not worth the effort. First, she does not want to play. Second, those claws of hers have the potential to inflict permanent blindness.

Young Persephone and I had a chat about our two pets the other day. We agreed that we like The Pooch, a natural entertainer who refuses to allow us rest on our laurels. With his persistent demands for walks, he has raised fitness levels in the household. Liking, however, is as far as it goes.

But we love Dilly. Though she drifts away for days at a time. Though her scratching has reduced one of the legs under the kitchen table to flitters. Though she turns her nose up at cheap tins of PussyMeat and insists instead on being served expensive KittyCuisine, we love Dilly. It is somehow easier to love an animal which requires stroking rather than patting.

But does Dilly love us? She turned up the other day sporting a new red collar put about her neck by person or persons unknown. The unavoidable conclusion was that our Dilly has been courting some other family or maybe conning some little old widow out of extra rations of top of the range Mewsli. She may well have been clawing at some neighbour's table leg and curling up in front the fire in some other sitting room.

The collar has been removed. Hands off Dilly. She is ours.

Wexford People

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