That cat’s some­thing I can’t explain

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I don’t currently have any pets. Land­lords in London who allow cats or dogs are a rare breed. My house­mate has a trop­ic­al aquar­i­um, and I don’t fancy getting hamsters or mice, and don’t have space for rats. So no pets other than fish for us.

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My mum has two cats, Oscar and Mitzi. Oscar decided at some point I was his person, and he gets very disap­poin­ted when I visit and turn out to not be moving in. I got his hopes up too much when I house­sat for a couple of weeks in 2013. They are broth­er and sister, from the same litter. The moth­er is a Bengal cat, the fath­er a Siamese. Oscar has come out almost completely Siamese though.

My mum retired and came into some money, and bought a house in a small town in France, so the cats now have their own pass­ports. (Small french towns are full of older english people- all the young french people want to go Paris or London.) There’s an english family who live on a farm near her, who have a really friendly ragged old ginger barn cat named Henry. Henry likes to come in to my mum’s place, and sleep on the bed or sofa with her two cats (as close as they will let him- Henry gets flea treat­ments, so it’s ok if they did) and have a taste of their food. Oscar and Mitzi don’t get aggress­ive or territ­ori­al with him, they just sit there with morti­fied polite­ness like they’re going “well we didn’t invite him, but it would be rude to throw him out, can’t you do some­thing?” like they’re chil­dren whose parents have organ­ised a play­date with anoth­er kid they don’t like, while Henry purrs away like a rusty engine.

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This is Mitzi. She enjoys shame­lessly posing for photos, because she knows she’s pretty. She doesn’t meow so much as squeak at you, and being incred­ibly nosy, she likes to follow you round the house having an in-depth conver­sa­tion in squeaks and meows. I think she thinks humans under­stand what she’s saying. She also likes to make an upwards chirp­ing noise when she jumps up, and a corres­pond­ing down­wards one when she jumps down, so you know what direc­tion she’s going; nip people’s toes (lead­ing to her nick­name Nipsy) and hassle any visit­or to lavish atten­tion on her.

Her main interest is watch­ing tv shows with dancing in. My mum is a big fan of Strictly and other tv talent shows, and the cat never misses an epis­ode. I don’t really like them, and last time I visited, I went and had a bath while it was on. Mitzi was outside the bath­room door, frantic­ally meow­ing at me “you’re miss­ing it! come on!”. When I was look­ing after her once while my mum was away, I watched a film about the rehears­als for and the famous riot at the première of the Rite of Spring. Mitzi’s normally pretty unfazed about most things on tv; gunshots and shout­ing don’t seem to both­er her. However once the music in the ballet star­ted, she jumped bolt upright, with a look on her face like “No! It can’t be!” and ran away and hid in the kitchen until the film was over. I guess she has a pre-1913 mind. For quite a while, the Fest­iv­al Hall in London had a piece of sound art play­ing in the toilets, where Portuguese artist João Penalva had recor­ded himself whist­ling the music (there’s an inter­view with him in the link too) from the ballet, which was pretty eerie sound­ing. It made me want to laugh so hard every time I was in there though, pictur­ing the cat’s expres­sion. That would have been a hard one to explain to people.

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Oscar is a grumpy old man at the ripe age of 4. He never bites or scratches, but he sulks hard. His main hobby is lurk­ing behind furniture. He also enjoys a good belly rub, and is all round a giant cuddly wuss who tries to pretend he’s not. He likes to pretend he’s the alpha cat around the house, but he’s scared of most strangers, and nearly all other anim­als. He agit­ates to go out when he sees birds, but when he’s let out he real­ises the birds are just a little too big, or the grass is just too wet, and then he cries to come in. Cats are a native species in the UK and France, and the local birds just laugh at them, the bolder ones even going so far as to taunt soft domest­ic cats. To prove his tough­ness though, he likes to bring in feath­ers from the garden and then elab­or­ately wash them, as if to say “oh yeah, I totally caught a huge bird out there, but it was just too big to bring indoors”.

Oscar is also fascin­ated by water. He insists on drink­ing from the tap whenev­er possible, and when he was a kitten, he fell in a running bath and had to be rescued and dried off, because he got a bit too curi­ous about the running tap. He has a complainy sort of meow that sounds like he wants to speak the the manager (you just can’t get the staff these days). He learnt how to open the fridge, but luck­ily as all the food inside was so substand­ard and unworthy of such an import­ant cat, he didn’t both­er to eat it.

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(not entirely in focus photo of the two cats- they were moving too much)

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