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Three Cat Tails

Tail The First – Porgy

This tail was inspired by (and is dedicated to) Leiber, a very Porgy-like cat who owns my friend Paul Riddell.


There are four ways a cat can sleep with you on the bed, and Porgy has thoroughly explored all of them, trying hard to find his favourite.

The first, and simplest, requires him to stretch himself out over my lower legs, thus effectively pinning me down and preventing me from moving at all during the night. This also has the amusing side effect of blocking the circulation of blood to my feet so that I wake in the morning, cramped, paralysed and grumpy. Porgy jumps off the bed, refreshed and rejuvenated by his night of comfy slumber. As his weight leaves me, the sudden rush of blood to my toes causes me to scream in exquisite agony, and a violent outbreak of pins and needles threatens to sever my feet from my ankles.

"That's a funny noise," says Porgy. "I hope it won't get in the way of breakfast."

"No, no," I mutter through clenched teeth. "I'll be with you as soon as I regain the power of movement. Just give me an hour or so."

Sometimes, for variety, Porgy moves to the other end of the bed and stretches out across the top of my head as he performs his world famous impression of a coonskin cap. I lie there like Davy Crockett in a coma while the top of my head keeps Porgy's tummy warm. He likes this a lot, and he purrs loudly.

Human beings radiate a huge amount of heat from the top of their heads. I have discovered by experiment that when Porgy prevents me from disposing of my excess heat in this manner, the temperature soon builds up inside my skull and eventually my brains begin to boil and leak out of my ears causing strange, nameless stains to appear on the pillow.

"Oh look," cries Porgy with glee, "a midnight snack!" He gobbles up the unexpected windfall.

I'm sure this is the reason why I have found it harder and harder to focus my thoughts in recent years. Porgy has feasted on all my spare brain cells. Now I have exactly enough left to allow me to eat and talk (as long as I don't show off by trying to do them simultaneously), but I no longer have any to spare for more intellectual pursuits.

By far the best way of sleeping with a cat requires the cat to stretch out by your side and place his head close to yours. This is cosy and snug and cuddly and it generates warm and emotional feelings for both animals involved when the cat purrs.

However Porgy has invented his own variation of this pleasant position. It involves him turning through 180 degrees and placing his bottom in close proximity to my face. This is a much less pleasurable experience, particularly since Porgy is prone to farting in the night. My dreams have taken on a distinctly brown tinge of late, and perfume features in them a lot.

"Get your bottom out of my face!"

"You're supposed to lick it clean," says Porgy, affronted. "That's what a good parent would do."

"Obviously I'm not a good parent."

"Oh well," Porgy heaves a long suffering sigh. "I suppose I'll just have to do it myself." He proceeds to do exactly that. I watch with mild disgust. I don't want to be reincarnated as a cat. They have to spend far too much time licking their bottoms. It's a rule.

Tail The Second – Bess

The lizard had lost two legs and a tail and seemed unlikely to be able to regenerate them in the near future. It lay bleeding on the kitchen floor. Bess licked her lips and burped reflectively.

"Does it taste like chicken?" I asked.

"No," she said. "It tastes like lizard."

"Well, go on then," I told her. "Finish it!"

"I'm not sure I want to," she said and coughed a bit.

"What's wrong? Doesn't it taste very nice?"

Bess coughed again. "I've got a frog in my throat," she said and threw up copiously on to the lino.

"Ribbit!" said the frog as it hopped out of the pool of vomit and hid behind the fridge.

Tail The Third – Harpo

From a distance, Harpo can easily be mistaken for a tree hugging hippy. He's long haired and laid back and he smokes only the highest grade catnip. Closer investigation soon dispels the illusion.

"Don't let the long hair fool you. I'm not a hippy. I like violence!"

I'm very glad that the fashion for wearing dress shorts at work has largely vanished from contemporary New Zealand. My left leg is mostly scabs and scars and I am ashamed to bare it in public. Harpo carries a full complement of concealed weapons and he is an expert in their use. Superficially they look like claws and teeth, but that's just a cunning disguise. Really they are stealth swords that can rip you to shreds without warning from right across the room.

Sometimes, after a particularly soothing roll-up of the mellow weed, Harpo will relax enough to allow Robin to stroke him. If I come any where near him, he invariably threatens to terminate me with extreme prejudice, but Robin is allowed to stroke him until she isn't allowed to stroke him any more. Removal of permission to stroke usually involves the spilling of blood One day she called me over in mid-pat.

"Harpo's got dags," she announced. "Have a feel."

I was dubious – I'm fond of my fingers and poking Harpo's matted fur seemed like a good way to have them ripped out by the roots. Nevertheless I ventured a tentative poke. The coat on one side of his body was an almost solid mass of tangled fur.

"We could try brushing it out," I said dubiously.

"You come anywhere near me with a brush and you'll regret it," announce Harpo. His demon eyes glowed red with fury.

"Time for plan B," said Robin. "You put him in the travelling cage and I'll phone the vet."

Robin headed for the phone while I dressed myself in an ex-police kevlar stab-proof vest, a riot helmet with a specially strengthened perspex visor, heavy leather leggings and welding gloves. Thus protected, I manoeuvred Harpo into his cage, losing less than a pint of blood in the process. I'm getting rather good at putting Harpo in his cage.

He howled all the way to the vets.

"Help! I'm being catnapped. Call the police. Help! Help!"

But when we got to the vet, he was an absolute pussycat, bumping heads with the nurse and purring like a train. The nurse was smitten.

"Awwwww! Diddums gorgeous den?"

"You'll pay for this," whispered Harpo in my ear. "Just wait until I get you home." His claws hissed from their sheaths and then withdrew.

Clippers were produced. They buzzed and whirred and great solid lumps of fur fell from Harpo's side leaving him exposed and curiously piebald.

"Brrr!" he shivered. "It's suddenly got cold in here."

The nurse held a mirror up so that he could approve the short back and sides that had been inflicted on him. Harpo examined his reflection carefully. On one side he was his normal long-haired hippy self. On the other side he was a skinhead with anti-social tattoos and bovver boots.

"You utter, utter bastard!" cried Harpo. "Now I'm going to have to beat myself up!"

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