Sunday, 29 January 2017

That Drang Cat – We Know Where You Live...

The saga of Thug (The Purring Death) is drawing to a close. His real name is the arch-villain Drang, who usually works with his sister, Storm... Really, you couldn’t make this stuff up. Or if you did, no-one would believe it. So the arch-villain is a bit of hyperbole... but Thug is definitely Drang, and the sweet little tabby called Storm was very upset when her brother disappeared.
Drang lives about a third of a mile down the hill – how did we miss that? We thought we had canvassed the neighbourhood to find out if anyone was missing a cat, but that hit two practical problems.
Firstly, how do you describe a cat? It sounds easy, but you have to know your audience. If you are speaking to someone who doesn’t have cats, anything other than the word cat is lost, so asking have you seen a big ginger tom cat near your place translates as have you seen a cat... And the answer is no. Usually. With the cat-owned, you would think it would be simple, but that becomes a matter of perception and a surplus of contradictory detail.
Take Thug (or Thuggles to the support and service staff) as an example. We described him as a big, aggressive ginger tom, a lean-mean-violence machine who hates other cats. Even when talking to our neighbours, describing Thug made no mental connection with their affectionate, slightly chubby ginger tom who adores his sister.
Now, problem number two – geography. The first house I ever bought had a post-code that covered half the length of the street and probably contained fifty houses. I could walk from one end to the other in a minute and a half, maybe less. Out here in rural Cornwall, our post-code covers about twenty houses, spread along more than a mile of road. The house furthest from us might even be less than a mile away, as the crow flies, but you wouldn’t walk the direct route without stout boots, waders, perhaps a coil of rope, and a keen eye for a bull before crossing the fields. By road, it’s nearer a mile and a half.
Catching up with the neighbours for a quick chat does not happen every day.
During a recent visit down the road, we heard of the missing Drang... well, it could be Thug, maybe, can’t really tell. Even looking at photos took some serious staring... well, it might be Thug.
So, a few emailed photos went back and forth, different views, different angles... isn’t Storm cute. Thug certainly looked like Drang, and the neighbours were certain that Drang looked like Thug. We got him in a basket – not easy with such a large and energetic cat – and drove the suspect down the hill for a quick identity parade.
The neighbours took one look and positively identified Thug, who clearly saw that the game was up and confessed that yes, he was in fact the arch-villain Drang, and could he get another scratch behind the ears because those new people of his haven’t quite got the technique...
Drang, the monster recently known as Thug, is now re-united with his sister, and looked very contented on the sofa when we left. Our other cats have noticed, even if they don’t quite believe it yet. Ginge, who hasn’t dared come near the house for the last few weeks and had to be fed in the barn, appeared in the kitchen this morning. We all miss him... no, that’s not true... I miss him, even though I do appreciate getting a decent night’s sleep with him gone.

Thug has been returned home. Now we have to hope he stays there. And we can drop by for a cup of tea and say hi.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Full Facial

Thug was not supposed to be a permanent resident here, but for all practical purposes the Purring Death has moved in. There are little hints that give it away, like being here pretty much every night, and every morning, and sleeping the day away on the bed. He would be on the sofa, I am sure, but the lounge door is shut, with a cat-flap for the others to get in and out – Thug hasn’t learned cat-flaps. Yet.
The real clincher, is greeting him with hello Thuggles...
Oatmeal is not happy, Piper is afraid but has worked out that Thug doesn’t understand cat-flaps, and Ginge is just plain pissed about the whole thing. I’m retaining the title of Purring Death for the moment, but Thug has calmed down and only chases Piper because Piper runs away. Of course Piper runs because Thug is a monster that put him at the vet over and over again. It makes for a mutually reinforcing conditioned response.
Thug turns up, comes in through the window (which is open because Piper and Ginge like it that way), has a munch from every bowl he can find, and then just waits for one of his newly-adopted people to do what every cat expects: unquestioning and endless worship.
There is a theory that cats rub against hands because they see that as an approximation to another cat’s face. Thug actively intercepts hands, jumps up to reach, and generally makes it clear that his love and attention requirements are not impossible to meet, just very, very challenging. Hours of dedication are required.
Thug also knows that people have faces too, just out of reach, so the hand business will have to do... most of the time. Of course, after working-hours, when the people are enjoying their down-time, faces are accessible. Just sit on the chest and look down. If only we could teach him to look but not touch.
The night-time routine is variable – Thug drops by as and when it suits – but there are certain constant features. Sit on my chest – check; stick cold, wet nose on mine and shove like I need a touch of rhinoplasty – check; snuffle around in my beard and claim it for all Thug-kind – check. When faces are accessible, Thug is having none of this pretending that a human hand might be another cat.
Then there is the night-time special. It works better during heavy rain, because nothing says here I am like sitting on your people, cold and dripping wet. The way it goes is like this...
First, stretch out in that cosy valley in the duvet between my people. Roll around a bit (especially when wet) and then reach, hook claws in that beard thing, and then pull – either the beard gets closer, or I slide up the bed. Whatever. Now, roll around some more, really get those claws tangled in and nibble. There’s a nice bit of cheek just there, or how about sinking teeth into the chin... nothing too serious, no drawing blood... I just ate... I think it was cat... again.
As Thug gets into the swing, so to speak, I get my hands in there to stop him. Thug has shown himself quite capable of getting carried away. And once he’s at the beard, there’s the wonderful trick of working his front paws under my chin, finding my throat and easing the claws out...

Thug is no longer truly the Purring Death. He is a monster, an adorable and adoring monster. And when he wants something, Thug is more than a little bit in your face.