Inspired by Belinda Alexandra’s new non-fiction book, The Divine Feline: a chick lady’s guide to woman’s best friend (which is next month’s book club read), I tried to count all the cats I’ve lived with in my life, since early childhood, but my memory gave out at 20. Of those 20, however, I can confidently say that our current black-and-white boy, Clark, is by far the most amiable lad I’ve ever encountered.
We met Clark when he was three years old, two years ago at the local shelter in one of their cat enclosure spaces. He was in his own cage, one of many in that building. To put it bluntly, he started yelling at us the moment we walked in the door. ‘Oh, isn’t he a talkative one.’ We put fingers through the bars and he sniffed and rubbed up against us, talking to us the whole time. We continued around the hub of cages, seeing who we might connect with, and Clark followed us in every direction as far as his confines would allow him and did not stop calling to us. He was determined that our attention would not go anywhere else and eventually his persistence won us over.
While signing the paperwork at the counter, the volunteer told me she didn’t like cats, which I thought was rather alarming, given she worked at a rescue organisation where fifty per cent of her clientele would be felines, and when she bustled into the cat enclosure to catch Clark, it was clear she lacked cat communication etiquette and he immediately jumped to the highest point of his cage to get away from her and refused to come down. ‘Would you like me to have a go?’ I offered, hopefully tactfully. She was most relieved to step out of the way. I squeezed myself inside, looked up into Clark’s eyes, patted the bench below me and invited him to come down. He didn’t hesitate. He was absolutely convinced we were the best option coming his way and he made haste to get himself out of there, quick smart.
From the moment Clark arrived, he was at home. He leapt out of the carry box into the bedroom, looked around for a few moments, then started batting at a piece of fluff on the floor. When it was time to introduce him face-to-face with the other cats, he waited politely for them to approach him, and when the first feline hissed at him, he simply lay down calmly and waited for his natural charisma to win them over, which it did. Lacking even the slightest twinge of any kind of aggression, competition or jealousy, Clark is everyone’s best friend. Even the cats that don’t like other cats, like Clark. He is frequently to be found entwined in cuddles on bed tops, or robustly grooming another cat. In fact, his love of washing his friends is so intense that he recently landed in hospital with a severe fur ball because he not only washes himself but the other cats too, ingesting many times the fur he should.
Clark is one of those cats that seems to live in ‘another realm’, one only he can see but which he enjoys immensely. He continues to talk and it’s not uncommon to find him sitting in an empty room, chatting away to himself… or invisible friends. He isn’t a cat that enjoys being picked up but does love to be patted, to be involved in whatever we’re doing and enjoys a good belly rub. Our cats love Christmas time and Clark’s particular love is for tinsel and wrapping paper. He is also an avid fan of Lego and will happily ‘play’ Lego with our son and then eventually pick up the pieces and carry them around the house (and unfortunately try to eat them). When our son was smaller and loved Thomas the Tank Engine, Clark was enamoured with the motorised trains and would follow them around the tracks, patting at them gently with his paws. He plays ‘chasey’ with our small dog but has maintained a sensible degree of wariness for Sunshine, our golden retriever who is still an enormous and boisterous puppy who quite likes to ‘love squash’ cats. For Clark, every day is a new opportunity to find friends and fun. He will never be the alpha cat and he lacks confidence, yet he is the relentless ‘best friend’, the all-important sidekick. His quiet, unwavering companionship and loyalty manages to win him the ‘people’s choice’ award without even trying. If Froddo needed a best friend to follow him into the hell mouth of a volcano, Clark would be first to put up his paw.
He truly is the most delightful, loving, generous soul I have ever met in a feline… or in a human either, for that matter. He will give up his food, his space, his bed and his time for others. Our lives are so much richer for having his funny, eccentric self in our family.
If you love cats, or want to know more about cats, and would like to join our book club chat with Belinda Alexandra, you can register here. (Book club is 7.30pm, Tuesday 19th January 2021.) I would love to hear about the cats in your life too. We hope to see you there!