I have written a fair whack about my cat over the lifetime of this blog, often in the form of Conversations with my Cat, in which I anthropomorphised Elgar in order to write about him without, hopefully, sounding like a crazy cat lady. (And in case anyone wonders why I always referred to him as El Mog, it was an attempt to hide this blog from Google and anyone I didn’t want to read it; in the same way you’ll never find my surname on here, the name of my cat is somewhat, uh, identifiable. It doesn’t seem to matter so much these days.) Anyway, the character of El Mog didn’t really reflect Elgar’s true personality so, while he is still alive and I can write it in the present tense, I have decided to put down snippets of what he’s actually like. As an aide memoire for myself, more than anything.
He is obsessed with the hallway cupboard. This is the only part of the flat he’s not allowed into, because it’s where I keep things like drain cleaner and slug pellets and turps. And he will sit in front of it and stare, slide his paws into the gap under the door and meow at me mournfully. Very occasionally I allow him in, under supervision. He always seems a bit disappointed.
When he’s outside and smells the air, his nose and whole whisker humps twitch. This is cute.
What is also cute is when he rolls over on his back with his paws bent. Paws up! This kills me. Also, lying down with paws outstretched in a Sphinxy fashion. This is cool.
He loves to make biscuits (knead his paws). Especially in the corner of the sofa, where I eventually had to bunch a throw to save the couch from being shredded. Give him anything soft and he’ll also go to town: a sleeping bag, the duvet and – the one that makes me a little offended – my stomach. (It makes me think of that bit in Bridget Jones where her young date says ‘Mmm, you’re all squashy’. Cat, I shall have you know I’m a size 10.) Oh, and he dribbles when he does this.
He is as dumb as a bag of spanners. I’d give examples, but it just seems ungallant.
He doesn’t mind the rain. Unlike most other cats, he seems to like going out in it. I’m the one stopping him wandering out in anything other than a thunderstorm. And when he’s out, he likes to drink from puddles. This, I don’t mind so much. It’s when he starts drinking from puddles that have been there a few days, formed in pots with ancient earth and moss, or the big bucket of standing water in next door’s garden, that I get cross. He has three drinking bowls in the house – three – filled with filtered water. It’s a miracle he doesn’t have constant diarrhea.
When outside for a pee he will dig a hole, pee next to the hole, then cover over a patch of earth that is neither pee nor hole. When this is done, he’ll most usually race flat out up the garden in an attempt to put as much distance between himself and his business as possible. It’s nothing to do with him, you see.
When peeing indoors, however, he wants to make damn sure I know about it. I’ve discussed this recently on Twitter and it seems a lot of cats wait until you’re in the room before using their litter tray (various proffered theories as to why), but on a morning Elgar will meow and meow and meow and stamp all over the bed to get me up – then head straight for the litter tray and have a wee in my presence. This doesn’t mean it’ll immediately get cleaned up, either. There’s one in the toilet from 9am that still needs sorting out. (Yes, yes, I am slattern.)
He’s a very nervy cat. He’s always been this way. He hides from most visitors, the doorbell makes him Freak Out. I’ve even developed a habit of not moving while laughing so I can watch TV without disturbing him on my lap – the smallest movement from me and he’ll scramble down. If he’s lying next to me on the sofa and I get up, briefly, to get something from my desk perhaps, he’ll jump down too. I suppose this could be devotion, but it seems to come from the same impulse as the twitchiness.
He is also Freaked Out by that noise plastic and bin bags make when you flick them out. This is the scariest noise in the world, after the doorbell.
As well as the teeth he had out last autumn, Elgar has always had a fang missing. It’s his upper right and this means, when he closes his mouth, his lip tends to snag on the lower right fang. Which gives him a sneer. I cannot tell you how often I have reached over and sorted it out. Now I think about it, that’s a weird and slightly invasive thing to do. And, given how he never lets anyone go near his mouth, is an odd thing for him to let me do. Anyway.
He has a taste for Lush hand creams, particularly Smitten and Handy Gurugu. If I put some on and he gets the chance, he’ll lick my entire hand. What do they put in those things?
Jumping onto stuff is easy for cats, right? Not for this one. Oh, he’s perfectly capable of clearing fences, but when it comes to leaping onto my bed or the sofa (I just measured the sofa. It is less than 18 inches from the floor) he has to concentrate very hard. Very hard. And shimmy around looking for the perfect launching point. And get a determined expression on his face. To get down from my lap when I inject him or from the desk chair, he climbs down my legs (I stretch them out. We’ve been doing this for two years. First person to mention co-dependency gets a slap); to get down from my bed he slides down the bedside table and uses the drawer handles for purchase. To get to the chair by the window, he prefers to use the coffee table as a stepping stone.
To be fair, perhaps this isn’t inherent laziness. Perhaps it’s to do with his leg. Before he came to me he broke his leg somehow (not sure which one, other than a back one) and now he walks with a waddle. His back legs do not slink. He is definitely not a slinky cat. They are at slightly wrong angles. He looks like a bear walking on all fours. This is cute.
What is also cute is his confused face. I have never managed to get a photo of his confused face, even though he wears it all the time. When he gets big pupils – because of dim light, being Freaked Out, whatever – often, because he is all black, the only other part of his face I can see properly is his shiny black nose. The big eyes on top of the little nose. It’s a triangle. And it seems to form an “oh!” face. A face that says “oh! I do not know what is going on”. Which seems a reasonable explanation for his state quite a lot of the time. Bless. He gets very confused.
Another thing that is cute and never fails to make me laugh (my old cat Felix never made me laugh. I knew him so well I could anticipate his every action, but he never made me laugh) is the morning “are you getting up or what?” routine. He doesn’t spend every night on my bed, or sometimes he does but then will jump off to sleep somewhere else, eat some biscuits, go do cat stuff, whatever. When he judges it’s time for me to haul my arse out of bed (often when he hears the radio go off), I will hear the pitter-patter of his paws on the floor and look up to see his head peering round the bedroom door. He never comes in further. He just stands there, head cocked, looking at me with alert eyes and ears, “are you getting up or what?”, then turns and leaves.
He has a side of the bed. I sleep on the side closest to the table (water, alarm clock, keys, lamp, book) and he has the other. This is, at least, the theory. In reality I come to go to bed and he’s curled up at the top of the bed, on my side. Cue much shoving and protest meowing. Then he curls up next to my stomach and legs – I can only sleep in a foetal position – and purrs away. This, of course, means I can’t move without disturbing him (see above). Eventually he moves off and tucks himself into the other pillow. Hey, it’s his side of the bed, I don’t use that pillow.
He likes to rest his head on something when he goes to sleep. The arm of the sofa, a pillow, me. I’ve even seen him leaning his head on the stone stand for the patio umbrella.
He purrs easily. And what a purr. Loud and strong and constant. When he’s really happy, an extra rumbling bass note comes in. It’s a beautiful sound.
When he’s on my lap – or just around me, sometimes – he likes to pin one arm down with a paw. I mean, really hold it down. When I scoop him up and lie on the bed with him on my chest, he rests a paw on my windpipe. I do not like to think about why this might be.
He’s a big cat. Even ignoring the massive belly (nothing to do with me. He came like that) he’s big. The length of my arm from my elbow to fingertips (back with the measuring tape again: that’s 41cm) is the distance from his bottom to his neck. At his heaviest he weighed 6.4kg. That’s a stone. (That’s also what Felix used to weigh. Who also was the same length as my forearm. Evidently I like big cats). At least, he was a big cat. Much less so now. Stupid lymphoma.
Despite having to endure two injections every day, he is surprisingly patient with it all. Don’t confuse this with not minding: oh no, he knows when a jab is due, and he’ll wander off and make a passive-aggressive protest somewhere. But when I do scrape him off the lino and sit him down for the jab, I don’t need to restrain him. And then he climbs down my legs and goes back to his food. He’s very good. (You already know he is not good at the vet.)
We communicate in blinks and nods. Cat psychologists (fuck off, there are such things) say that blinking is cat language for unthreatening and friend. I’ve always done it. No idea where I picked it up from. Maybe I was just copying the cats. Anyway, Elgar and I will watch each other and blink. And I sort of bob my head as I do it. We have no idea what each other is saying when we make sounds (I’ve never been able to work out the difference in his meows, or the context. On more than one occasion I have followed him round the flat, trying to work out what he wanted, only to conclude that he wanted to walk around the flat meowing at me. I have difficulty with the concept that a cat can meow just because it fancies a chat. I must have grown up with cats who only meowed for a reason).
Even though he has no idea what I’m saying, I’ve somehow constructed a whole raft of endearments based around the word ‘moo’. Mini-moo. Moo-nose. Kitty-moo. Moo-paw. Or just Moo. Look, I don’t know why. He just looks to me like a cat who should be referred to as ‘moo’. I want to point out this is nowhere near as bad as my Mum realising she’d accidentally trained Felix to go out on hearing the phrase “wee-wims”.
He is brilliant. I’m really going to miss him.