Monday, 8 September 2014

Pussy cat, pussy cat.

This year we decided we would bite the bullet and sacrifice our summer holiday in favour of a fully-functioning bathroom. However, we were not condemned to spend the whole of the summer holidays at home after all, because my brother handily suggested that we go and house-sit for them in August while he and his family were away visiting my sister in Australia.

My brother's house is in a tiny and extremely picturesque Leicestershire village, and is all the things ours isn't. It must have started life as a fairly standard two-up/two-down Edwardian farm cottage, but an extensive refurb and extension-cum-loft-conversion shortly before he and his wife bought it has turned what was no doubt originally the second bedroom into a palatial en suite, while also providing two more good-size bedrooms and a box-room, and downstairs creating the sort of open-plan kitchen-dining room I generally only see while browsing longingly through expensive tile catalogues. All in all, going to stay there for a week is rather like booking a very expensive country holiday cottage, the main difference being that it isn't expensive, and that unlike the majority of the holiday cottages I've stayed in, it has a well equipped kitchen with useful things like stock-cubes and oil in the cupboards.

Unlike a holiday cottage, where you might find a chocolate on your pillow when you arrive, or a box of speciality tea in the kitchen, our welcome gift turned out to be a dead field-mouse, because the house also has a resident cat, that being the main reason we were asked to go and stay in the first place. Ada (whose name, I think, is in honour of Ada Lovelace, the computer pioneer, rather than being, as the boys insist, an abbreviated version of Darth Vader) is a Siberian Forest Cat. Apart from the mice* she is not particularly hard work and the boys loved her. Unlike my mum's cat Heidi (who lives up to her name), Ada is very affectionate, loves to be stroked, and is still young enough also to enjoy tearing about the place chasing bits of string.

So we had a thoroughly enjoyable time going for day trips and keeping Ada company. But the trip has now left me with something of a dilemma, because the boys are now even more desperate than before to have a pet, and I am still really not sure I want one.

Growing up we always had pets - cats in particular - and I know I loved them dearly and they were part of a very happy childhood. Childhood nostalgia reminds me of the times I and my siblings spent playing with our cat, and stroking him while he purred like a band-saw, and the feeling of waking up with him curled up on the end of the bed in the winter when it was cold (we didn't have central heating, so a warm furry hot-water bottle was always welcome). Or the fun we had bathing the guinea pigs and watching them run about in the garden. And I wonder whether it's fair to deprive the boys of that.

Then I remember all the times that the cat brought in a rabbit or a bird or a mouse, disemboweled it in the back room and then regurgitated the semi-digested remains under the sofa. And the fleas, and the midnight fighting with other cats, and the endless cleaning out of litter-trays and guinea-pig cages. And the time the guinea pigs got scabies. And the fact that having started with two guinea-pigs who were both definitely female, we eventually ended up with twenty-seven...and I think, no, not just now. In a few years, when the boys are a bit older. But perhaps I am being mean...

*We did have one three-mouse evening. On that occasion all the "presents" were well and truly alive and we spent a good while shifting furniture trying to recapture them and throwing them out the front door, only to have Ada go straight round and bring them back in through the cat-flap.