I don’t know if this is exclusive to Sheffield, but lots of people I know here report an incidence of Six Dinner Sids. For the philistines amongst you who aren’t familiar with Inga Moore’s timeless classic (4.33 stars on Good Reads – pretty impressive), the titular Sid enjoys six meals a day by turning up at various houses along his street looking hungry and adorable. I probably should have mentioned at the top that, although some people might read him as a metaphor for Greed, Sid is a cat. At least, he appears to be a cat in the illustrations – who knows what Moore was intending when she conceived of him.
Our house is by no means free from the plague of feline interlopers. The street we live on is terrorised (and I mean that) by a ginger creature who apparently belongs to Mr and Mrs Not Next Door And Not The One After That But The One After That One. Barely a day goes by that a plaintive mewing isn’t heard outside our backdoor. Our neighbours – as well as my housemates – have grown wise to the cat’s overwhelmingly malevolent nature, so it falls to me to fling open the door and let Pure Evil in.
The cat’s name, our neighbour told me once when we left our houses at the same time, is Arthur. We agreed it was a shit name for a cat, swapped some more remarks about e.g. the weather and went our separate ways. It was a successful interaction.
You know how vampires are only legally allowed to bother you if you invite them into your home? If my relationship with Arthur has taught me anything, I’m now certain that I would be easy prey for any creature of the night that fancied a snack. This is how it would go:
Vampire: Can I come in?
Similarly, whenever Arthur yells outside the back door, I fling it open for him and greet him with open arms, despite the emotional and physical pain he’s caused me in the past.
I know what you’re thinking: “Ro, that cat literally looks like the epitome of cuteness. How bad could he be?” Actually, that was your second thought. Your first thought was of course, “Ro, holy shit, your photography has got even better. You truly have mastered your Canon 350D, and are certainly not overusing the super-wide-aperture settings. Incredible stuff.” Hey, yeah, you’re right. But let’s not focus on me.
The cat is the most horrible and frustrating creature I’ve ever met, and I once dated a girl who believed that the beans in a full English should be served in a ramekin. In lots of ways, Arthur is not dissimilar to the unnamed and in no way made-up ex. Both of them have luscious red hair and spend similar amounts of time licking their own limbs.
He is spontaneously violent and extremely needy, but his concept of personal space is complex and unstated. He seems to decide arbitrarily when a stroke crosses the line into being unreasonable touching. He is merciless in his retribution and has scratched and bitten me many, many times. He invariably crawls into my lap and digs his claws into my thighs, seemingly to provoke me into yelping, bothering him, and therefore justifying further violence.
Cat lovers have told me that I’m clearly not reading his body language correctly, and to them I say, “Do you always blame the victim, or is it just when the perpetrator is cute?” Also – the first thing you learn in Cat Language 101 is that purring = happy. This motherfucker purrs up to and even as he gouges my hand for daring to stroke him in exactly the same way I stroked him before. He occasionally gently bites me when he’s very very happy, but I have no way of knowing in the build up whether it’s going to be a Bite of Praise or a Bite of Punishment. The former is a gentle nibble that I find comforting and – yes – somewhat invigorating; the latter is a great way to help me reach my target weight as Arthur speeds away with 30g of my flesh.
He is a monster. I am certain he has been sent from hell to test me.
Once again, I can hear your questioning voice in my mind: “Ro, if this cat causes you so much pain, why do you keep letting him into your life?” It’s a good question. Why do I keep putting myself in the path of Arthur’s arbitrary swipes? Well, if I’m honest, dear reader, I do see a lot of myself in Arthur. Consider the similarities:
Both of us
- sleep all day and cry when someone tries to move us;
- consider biting a symbol of fondness;
- are fabulously beautiful;
- react badly when people boop our noses;
- crave affection but lash out when people get too close;
- have poorly defined boundaries;
- and shit outside.
I sense a kindred spirit in Arthur, and to banish him would be to banish a part of myself. Also, I’m mercilessly exploiting his image on my Instagram because – guess what? Cats can’t sue you.