The Neal James Website

                                     Falling Out With George





George and I are not on speaking terms at the moment and it’s not my fault, it’s his. George is one of our cats, more specifically my cat, since Poppy (our other feline friend) has decided that my wife, Lynn, is all that she will ever need in the form of company. We’ve had them both for about four years now, and they came from the rescue shelter at the Cats Protection League centre near Dalbury Lees in Derby. George is a jealous cat and wants everything his way. This includes which knees to sit on, what chairs to occupy and even the basket to sleep in whenever Poppy doesn’t get there first. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not violent just crafty. A typical trick will be to sit facing Poppy on the poufee until she moves from the tub chair. As soon as she loses her nerve he’s in, and with the smug, self-assured look that tells you not only has he had the cream, but that he also knows where the tin opener is and how to use it.

The times were that he would come in from his morning constitutional after I’d  fed him, changed the water and unlocked the door to let him out, and plonk himself down on my knee for the fifteen or so minutes before I had to leave for work. He’s a very satisfying cat and economical with the space he occupies in your lap, so things have been going along very nicely thank you. Now, however, it’s as if I’ve said or done something to annoy him because I don’t get so much as a ‘By Your Leave’ and he’s up and on Lynn’s knee with his back towards me. If I’m really lucky he’ll use me as a set of stepping stones on his way over to the other armchair where my missus sits drinking her early morning cuppa.

Oh, he knows which side his bread is buttered alright, and I’m still the flavour of the month at five o’clock each day when stomachs emit the kind of rumble you only normally get before a blinding flash of lightning, but after that he doesn’t want to know and I’m completely at a loss. With Poppy it’s a different matter and we have always worked on the understanding that it was Lynn who rescued her from the perils of having to live with shed loads of other cats at the shelter. Therefore I am left in no doubt as to my status in her life. I am more than happy with this, and things have remained unaltered since day one. She requires me to feed her, provide her with water, will tolerate regular grooming and grudgingly allows me to clip her toenails every once in a while. We are both cool with this and I foresee no changes in the future.

I had thought better of George. After we seemed to get off to such a good start. It was he who selected me at the shelter, and I felt honoured at the attention he lavished. What I fail to understand is that he didn’t like Lynn at the start. You are recommended to keep new cats under control and indoors for the first four weeks of their lives with you, to dissuade them from legging back to their former homes. We were even advised to take them out for walks on a harness for a while. With Poppy this was not a problem, it just meant that a trip around our small back garden was apt to take three quarters of an hour because she insisted in sitting down every few feet. With George it was a completely different matter. He freaked when Lynn put the harness on him, bit right through her hand and ran off to hide under next door’s car. He will never know how close he came to going back to Dalbury Lees.

However, we persisted, he calmed down and the two of us became big buddies. He took to following me around the garden, offering technical advice on a range of activities which I couldn’t possibly be expected to complete on my own, and generally being supervisor-in-chief. He even perfected the art of testing the water in the watering can to ensure that it was of the correct consistency and temperature for the plant life which we possess. He has a number of vantage points around the garden depending upon where I am working, and these include the shed, next door’s garage  roof and the length of the fence around the perimeter of the property. He refuses to get involved in the cut and thrust of actual work, as his back is playing him up at the moment you understand. Nevertheless I would be lost without him and he knows it.

When I am bored he will allow me to play with him, and a rolled up ball of paper is the favourite pastime. This can be chased around the garden with a great deal of enthusiasm and generally beaten to a pulp before being torn to shreds – what fun! Alternatively he has a bell-in-a-ball, but this went out of favour a while ago when it inadvertently forgot the rules of the game and commenced chasing him, having somehow become snagged on one of his paws. This went down like a lead balloon, and the ball has now been confined to the top drawer in our utility room and he runs like hell when it comes out for an airing.

We evolved a kind of symbiotic relationship whereby I was not to be allowed to go/sit/lie anywhere without him, and this was irrespective of whether it happened indoors or out. The favourite place, weather permitting, was the back lawn where I would lie on the grass and he would use me as a sun shade, lying in my shadow allowing me to keep the heat off him in his delicate condition, although he never did explain what that condition was. In the evenings we would sit and watch television together, or rather I would sit and watch television while he went to sleep – such a tiring activity you see. At the end of the day I would switch the box off, tidy up, put the main light on and switch off the quiet ones (cunningly disguised as wall lights). This would be (and to be fair, still is) the signal for the nightly routine of Tickling George’s Tummy. He rolls around on the floor with his legs in the air at the most ridiculous angle, and I rub his underside while he lies there in raptures of ecstasy.

After the usual interval of some ten minutes, he gets slung over one shoulder, checks his hair in the mirror and we make our way to his bedroom (the utility really, but I ‘ve never had the heart to tell him the truth). One leg up on to the top of the freezer and he’s in bed for the night.  I always make a point of saying goodnight to Poppy, who’s been in bed for the better part of half an hour, and you can tell he doesn’t like it by the way he glares down at her. I have never made any active overtures to Poppy to become my friend, so that can’t be the reason for his coldness at present – in any case her allegiance is firmly to my wife, so it would be a complete waste of time.

No, George and I just aren’t hitting it off at the moment and I’ve tried speaking to him about it but you might as well talk to the wall – you’d probably get more sense out of it just now. Thinking about it, maybe it’s got something to do with me smacking his bum the other week after he tried his teeth out on my finger. It was only a gentle tap and not meant to cause any harm, and anyway fairs’s fair I didn’t get the hump when he biffed me after I bit his tail. I had told him not to stick it in my beer, but you get fed up when they take no notice don’t you? Well I did, so I bit the end of his tail and I could tell he was surprised by the speed he departed my knee. It’s not much fun biting a cat’s tail when you’ve all those hairs to remove from your teeth, and he sat in the middle of the room complaining to all and sundry, whilst giving me a look that could stop a clock – in fact our clock had stopped and I wondered if he’d done it.

I still don’t think that it’s my fault that we’re in the doghouse with each other (maybe in his case it’s the cathouse) and I don’t see why it should be me who apologises, but in the end I suppose it will be. Anyway he can just wait for a bit longer – maybe he’ll make the first move but I wouldn’t hold your breath.


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