The cat wanted to sit on the mat. But there wasn't a mat to sit on. There was a lawn, but the grass was rather damp and cold, and the weeds tickled the cat's bottom. The cat sat on the grass and howled. The stairs leading up to the front door seemed promising at first, but they were very exposed to the elements. The wind ruffled the cat's fur and the rain saturated it. The cat sat on the stairs and howled. Finally the cat settled on the small gap under the stairs that led up to the front door. It was sheltered from the wind in there and the rain only blew in on alternate Wednesdays. The cat sat under the stairs and howled.
The cat was small, black and fluffy. There was a white patch under its chin and it looked for all the world as if the animal was wearing an elegant dinner jacket with a white shirt and a bow tie. Perhaps it was a cultured cat, on its way home from an evening at the Opera. It had a blue collar with a bell on it which suggested that somebody, somewhere must once have loved it. Nevertheless the cat showed no inclination to return to wherever home was. It just sat outside the house and howled miserably.
Porgy and Bess found this quite fascinating. They stood on the windowsill where they were warm and dry and cosy, and they watched the fluffy, bedraggled scrap of fur that was shivering outside.
"Yah, boo sucks," said Porgy. "I've got some biscuits left over from dinner. I think I'll have a snack. And you can't have any, ho, ho, ho!"
"Go away," said Bess. "This is my house."
The cat howled.
No matter how high we turned up the volume on the TV, we couldn't drown out the sound of the cat howling. The noise vibrated its way through the walls of the house as if they weren't even there, and then it bounced around inside our skulls, insinuating itself into all the sympathy nodes in our brains.
"Let me in. Please let me in. I'm cold and wet and hungry and miserable. I desperately need someone to stroke me. I want to sit on the mat."
After two days of listening to the animal howl, I couldn't stand it any more. I went and introduced myself to the cat.
"Hello, I'm Alan." I held my hand out so that the cat could sniff it. There was a very bad wound on the cat's nose. It had probably been in a fight. It stopped howling for a while and looked at me hopefully. I stroked it and scratched it behind the ears. Immediately it began to rumble and its whole body vibrated as it revved its motor up to full throttle. It was a tiny wee scrap of a thing and the black, fluffy fur stuck out haphazardly in every direction. I carried it into the house and gave it some food.
It inhaled all the food in the bowl. It obviously hadn't had anything to eat for days. Then it spotted the bowls belonging to Porgy and Bess. As usual, they'd left half of their tea so that they could come back later for a midnight snack. The cat inhaled all of their food as well and then it sucked up all the water in the water bowl.
"Any more food?"
"Sorry, mate. You've just had three teas. I think that's enough for now. You don't want to overdo it if you haven't eaten for a while. You might get sick."
The cat trotted round the house for a while, exploring and looking thoughtful. Then it found the bathroom. It had obviously seen bathrooms before. It jumped into the bath and ejected all the food it had just eaten out of both ends simultaneously.
"I warned you that would happen," I told it.
"It was worth it," said the cat. "Yummy food. Got any more?"
It went into the lounge and sat on the mat. Then it washed itself and went to sleep. I cleaned up the mess in the bath.
"Perhaps we ought to make up a dirt tray and put it in the bath," suggested Robin. "Since that's where it seems to want to go."
So that's what we did. The cat seemed very grateful.
Despite being made of nothing but fluff, the cat appears to produce three times its own body weight of poo every single day. And there's an extremely efficient biological warfare factory hidden somewhere inside the beast. The smell alone turns the stuff into a weapon of mass destruction. We have all given up breathing. We've given up taking baths as well. Has that brown stain always been there or is it a new one? That is not a question you want to have to ask yourself half way through a soak.
And Robin no longer licks chocolate ice cream off her fingers. Just in case.
Robin went outside to do some gardening and the new cat went with her. Robin dug a hole.
"O, wow! Thanks!" said the cat and instantly filled it up with poo. The smell drifted into the air. Three ravens, two golden eagles, a partridge, a pear tree and an Air New Zealand jumbo jet fell dead from the sky.
The cat has a huge vocabulary and never shuts up. It purrs, it howls, it chatters away.
"I think its name should be Harpo," said Robin. "After the Marx Brother who never said anything at all."
Porgy and Bess were not pleased to have a new cat in the house. Porgy went on hunger strike. Despite the fact that he is three times the size and three times the weight of the little ball of fluff, he is scared stiff of Harpo and runs away when the animal gets close. Bess is slightly braver, but even she seems a little bit intimidated by the tiny, fluffy thing and tends to keep her distance.
We took Harpo to the vet.
"Gosh! What a fluffy cat," she said. "Is it a boy or a girl?"
"We don't know," I said and I explained the background.
The vet raised Harpo's tail and stared. "I don't know either! This is a fluffy cat." She moved her head closer to Harpo's bottom, wrinkling her nose as the special Harpo fragrance struck her nostrils. "Aha! He's a little boy; an un-neutered male. I think he's about eight or nine months old."
"Hmm," said Robin. "Do the arithmetic. It sounds like he's a Christmas present who has outstayed his welcome. I bet the children got bored."
The vet clicked her tongue over the wound on Harpo's nose. "That's quite nasty," she said. "It has split the septum, the join between the nostrils. It will probably never heal properly. And he's got some blisters in his mouth. He might have a mild dose of cat flu. I'll give you some antibiotics to clear up any lurking infections. They'll help the wound on his nose heal as well. And if he's still with you in a couple of weeks, bring him back and we'll vaccinate him and worm him and chop his nadgers off."
Harpo has been with us for nearly a fortnight now. His nose has healed nicely and you have to look very closely indeed to see the damage to the septum. It doesn't appear to worry him at all. He's definitely the boss cat he eats first, he owns our bed, he gets first choice of toys. Ping pong balls are good. He chases them up and down the polished wood of the hallway and when they bounce unpredictably he skitters like a cartoon cat, legs going a thousand miles an hour, body not going anywhere at all. Eventually he manages to get a bit of traction and he changes direction and heads off again at a gallop.
Porgy is slowly getting his confidence back. He has started eating again, though he is still a bit nervous and will back away if Harpo comes after his food. Bess has pretty much accepted him and they largely ignore each other. If he gets too stroppy she usually talks to him severely. Sometimes it works.
Nobody appears to be missing him there's nothing on the SPCA list, no notices on the supermarket notice boards, no adverts in the local paper, no pleading leaflets in every mailbox in the street. Harpo doesn't seem to care. He likes it here. He's a very affectionate cat. He loves a cuddle. And his tiny body is jammed full of enough personality for three ordinary cats. He's a bloody nuisance! I hope he decides to stay.