I recall exactly when I first began to think about eating a cat. It all began because of a neighbour’s cat called Jones. It’s a silly name for a pet cat in my view, but of course that’s not why I decided to eat it. I mean I’m not prejudiced about the names people give to their pets. I prefer normal names such as Mitzy or Tibbles, but that’s all it amounts to.
The real problem with Jones was that he had been fouling my garden for quite some time and I was fed up with it. By the summer I was really tired of getting cat poo on my best trowel or the end of my hoe, or even sometimes my fingers. Yes, my fingers – I actually had the stuff on my skin! I washed it off and disinfected myself thoroughly as you may imagine, but the smell lingers and the shock of it stays with one for days. I’m not over-sensitive, but it isn’t nice, is it?
I actually complained to my neighbours once or twice, a middle-aged couple called Smith with no children but at least four cats. Jones was the only one to venture into my garden though. The others seemed to stay indoors all the time. What the Smith’s house must be like I can’t imagine, but they were pleasant enough and politely regretful about Jones’ doings as they called it.
‘I think you mean his pooings,’ I said, but my bluntness seemed to be lost on them.
‘But what can we do?’ said Mrs Smith, shrugging her plump shoulders in that annoying way so many people adopt when confronted with their responsibilities.
‘Train the thing to use a litter tray,’ I suggested – quite reasonably I thought, but apparently reason doesn’t come into it as far as the Smith’s and their damned cat are concerned.
‘You can’t train cats,’ Mrs Smith said as if it was a law of the universe or something.
‘Well you could try,’ I replied, rather huffily.
‘We do try,’ said Mr Smith, which I suspect was a barefaced lie.
‘Well you don’t try anywhere near hard enough in my opinion,’ I replied. I walked off at that point because I knew I wasn’t likely to get anywhere with the Smiths. Being politely regretful isn’t enough in these cases. Not in my view it isn’t. Cat poo requires action.
It was only when I got back to my neat little bungalow, after thinking over what I could do about Jones, that the idea of eating him popped into my head. It came from nowhere and shocked me at first, but not for long. Of course I’d no idea what cat might taste like, but when you are on a pension and money is tight, then really some nicely prepared cat should just be another meal shouldn’t it?
‘Why not give it a go?’ I asked myself. It may not have been a coincidence, but as these thoughts passed through my mind, my favourite TV cookery programme was drawing to a close. I hadn’t been paying it the slightest attention, although I knew I probably hadn’t missed any cat recipes.
Of course that was the first thing to settle - the recipe. I looked through my cookery books of which I have quite a number, being a good cook though I say so myself, but I couldn’t find a recipe for cat. Not that I was expecting to find such a thing, but I was certainly hoping for ideas. Some adaptation of a chicken recipe was my general idea.
Cat pie was my first thought, or a simple stew with mushrooms and onions or something more adventurous such as cat cacciatore. As you see, when it came down to it I wasn’t short of ideas, but I was not so sure about flavours and the best herbs to use. Texture too – how long was one supposed to cook cat?
I finally settled on a pie with a nice short-crust pastry, but it was only when I’d sorted out the recipe that I realised there was a distasteful aspect I’d rather overlooked in my enthusiasm for dealing with Jones. How was I supposed to catch him? Even more worrying – how was I supposed to prepare him for the pie?
At that point I wasn’t at all keen on the killing and skinning side of things, so I put the whole grisly subject to the back of my mind and just concentrated on my pie. I imagined myself baking the pie using prepared Jones fillets or something – rather like those packs of chicken breast you buy from the supermarket. The label would be different I suppose, but my imagination didn’t stretch that far.
Anyway, I gave it a go. One day I grabbed hold of Jones after enticing him towards a saucer of milk in the back garden. Cats are supposed to love saucers of milk, although Jones just seemed to want to wrap himself around my legs in that fawning way cats have.
Unfortunately when I picked up the little beast, he scratched me rather badly on the hand, wriggled out of my arms and ran off. I didn’t see where he ran to because I had to rush inside to disinfect that scratch which was rather deep and quite painful.
I was in no fit state to think about cat pie for days because that damned scratch made my whole hand swell up like a balloon. It itched like blazes too. However I daren’t go to the doctor in case she recognized it as a cat scratch and asked awkward questions as doctors sometimes do in my experience.
I mean - there was no reason why I shouldn’t go to the doctor with a bad cat scratch, but in this particular instance I didn’t want to raise my medical profile - re cats.
Eventually the swelling subsided and I was able to review my cat pie plans, but since the scratch I’d become more than a little wary of Jones. My hand still itched as a constant reminder of what I might be in for unless I did the job properly with protective gloves and maybe something for my face.
So I bought a pair of leather gardening gloves from the garden centre, expensive ones with good long cuffs. I also went to the DIY store and bought one of those yellow plastic helmets worn by builders on big construction sites - plus a pair of safety goggles. It wasn’t perfect protection, I could see that when I looked at myself in the bedroom mirror, but it was much better than nothing I thought.
But the next time I tried to get hold of Jones he spat and wriggled like a wild thing, scratching my face before he got free and ran off next door. My face was quite a mess this time, with three long scratches all the way down my unprotected cheek below the goggles. One of them was deep enough to bleed quite profusely. A few spots of blood were even spattered across the goggles.
I patched myself up well enough, but my face was really swollen by the following day. I felt ill and rather odd. I knew I was easily ill enough to go to the doctor, but I didn’t want to explain how I got the scratches. I don’t know why, but I thought it might get back somehow. Neighbourhood gossip for a start. I know they talk about me.
So people would guess from my scratches why Jones had disappeared, although I have to confess I was losing my appetite for Jones pie by then. In fact I noticed I was losing my appetite generally and losing weight. I weigh myself each morning on the bathroom scales and keep a note of each weighing on a chart. So I knew straight away you see - I knew there was a problem with my weight. It wasn’t just the fact that my trousers fell down at the bus stop.
One morning I opened the back door intending to do a little gardening. I was feeling better by then, but I saw Jones crouched down by the apple tree on the lawn. He stared at me with those horrible cat’s eyes, almost as if he was waiting for me to venture out. Another cat was with him too, a big, untidy beast with long black fur and a malign expression. I decided not to bother with the garden.
A few more days went by, but I stayed in the house, eating out of the freezer and the stock of tinned food I keep for emergencies. I often sleep during the day now and prowl the house at night. Sometimes I just stare out of the window into the darkness beyond – sipping my glass of milk. I’d like to go out into the garden, but I’m sure Jones is waiting.
Maybe I should just leave the back door open one night. Yes, I’ll do that.