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At Odds With Mr Pussy

January 22, 2014
by the gentle author

Mr P

When my old black cat, Mr Pussy, woke me in the night by clawing at the bedclothes and crying out in the dark, I learnt to pick him up and settle him down upon the sheepskin covering the end of the bed, where he would rest peacefully until morning. It was my only option because turning over and going back to sleep would be an invitation to mayhem, with him pulling out the copy of King Lear from the bookshelf to send it crashing onto the floor or jumping on the dresser and knocking everything off. Similarly, shutting the bedroom door granted no peace either, drawing a litany of painful cries that would make sleep impossible.

Privately, I was relieved to have devised the solution to his nocturnal disturbances, calming his anxiety by exerting my authority as a human over an animal. Yet, over time, I found a new pattern had evolved in which he came to the bedside and waited in anticipation. No longer jumping onto the covers to sleep as he once did, now he expects me to lift him up and pet him before he settles down to sleep. Unwittingly, I had become part of a new ritual in which he played the part of the dependent child and I enacted the role of the devoted parent, tucking him up at night. This realisation neatly relieved me of my complacency, returning me to the subtly-troubling question of whether my cat or I have the upper hand.

I cannot resist indulging his favour, since his motive is not duplicity but devotion. As he ages, his need for human contact grows. He strays less from the house and he stays closer and he sleeps more, and with a deeper abandon in his slumber. He has acquired a new sound, an ecstatic cooing that rises from deep inside. I have woken to find him sitting upon my chest with his face inches from mine and he lets out this coo of delighted recognition. He looks at me with his deep golden eyes that are alert yet unknowing, seeking consolation.

These days, he stretches out his right arm when he sleeps as if to get a better purchase upon existence or to prevent it slipping away while he dozes. The external world means less to him and he prefers peace over excitement. He is withdrawing and yet seeking more ways to engage with me. Sometimes when he lies upon me, treating me as the human mattress, he reaches out his right arm in an unspecified exhortation.

I recognise I am his home and my vicinity is his safe place. Thus he takes great pleasure in the things I do for him as my reciprocation of his adoration. After dinner or when he is satiated with heat from lying by the iron stove, he desires to be let out from the room, sitting patiently by the door as an indicator. Once in the stairwell, he will settle upon a pile of paper bags that are conveniently placed to permit him to peer through the uncurtained window and observe life in the street outside. As soon as he tires of this and feels the chill and longs for heat once more, he will cry for re-admittance and I open the door again. Yet within ten minutes, he may wish to go out again and then return five minutes later, entering the room with one of his ecstatic cooing sounds – provoking my realisation that more pleasurable to him than the change of rooms is the opening of the door by yours truly. His prime delight is that I am his flunkey.

Just as when I settle him to sleep, he has drawn reassurance from my action and sought its repetition as a means to engage. He wants something from me, beyond food and shelter, and this is how he expresses it. This is why he reaches out his arm to me. Yet I am caught on the literal surface of things, encouraging him to be quiet so I can sleep or playing the flunkey, letting him in or out of the door. I do my best to comply but I do not understand his language and so I cannot answer the question he is asking of me. This is how I am at odds with Mr Pussy.

You may also like to read

Mr Pussy Gives his First Interview

The Ploys of Mr Pussy

Mr Pussy in the Dog Days

Mr Pussy is Ten

Mr Pussy in Winter

The Caprice of Mr Pussy

Mr Pussy in Spitalfields

Mr Pussy takes the Sun

Mr Pussy, Natural Born Killer

Mr Pussy takes a Nap

Mr Pussy’s Viewing Habits

The Life of Mr Pussy

Mr Pussy thinks he is a Dog

Mr Pussy in Summer

Mr Pussy in Spring

In the Company of Mr Pussy

and take a look at

The Cats of Spitalfields (Part One)

The Cats of Spitalfields (Part Two)

East End Cats (Part One)

East End Cats (Part Two)

Blackie, the Last Spitalfields Market Cat

37 Responses leave one →
  1. January 22, 2014

    Mr Pussy is sooooo like our Jazz. Who delight in midnight mayhem, but can be as loving as anyone could hope for. And yes, I am his flunkey – when I am not Jewel’s.

  2. January 22, 2014

    Sweet silhouette … black on white … eyes of mystery …

    he is entrained in your wake.

  3. Jill Dion permalink
    January 22, 2014

    I happen to be a black cat’s flunky as well. I pretty much do his bidding without question, but maybe I should question it^..^

  4. jerseydevil permalink
    January 22, 2014

    I love reading about Mr. Pussy’s exploits. He’s a good old lad who has trained you well G.A.
    We enter servitude to our darling four pawed babies, dog or cat…they end up ruling the roost don’t they? My dog has me trained to lift up the blankets so that he can join me in cozy slumber…then he gets hot and burrows out,only to repeat the ceremony ….over and over .But we love them don’t we?

  5. Milo Bell permalink
    January 22, 2014

    I am currently suffering 44C in Perth, Western Australia with no air conditioning and no let up for days yet my fan is trained directly on my rats (Rebecca and Hayley since you ask) cage and i spend most of my day replacing the ice i put in the cage to assist with their cooling down.
    Yet i will swear that they both realise what i am doing for them and appreciate it.
    Never had this problem in Mountague square E14. A very cool house indeed. And much missed.
    (Mind you the rats there were less sociable…)

  6. Annie permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Yes, you have correctly surmised your relationship with Mr P. You are, indeed, his personal body servant. I have been one to a cat in my time – he controlled me by eyes alone – but it was also deeply satisfying. Cat owners (who am I kidding?) know this to be true. He is a great fellow.

  7. January 22, 2014

    He has you well house trained, made me think of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The cat who walked by himself’. Valerie

  8. January 22, 2014

    Lovely.
    Blumming cats!

  9. January 22, 2014

    One thing is certain for me: I’ll become a cat in my next life to come!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  10. Melissa permalink
    January 22, 2014

    How I recognise the exploits and ways of Mr Pussy! If my cat Lily could read, she would purr in approval. Now when I’m woken in the night by her I’ll know I’m not alone.

  11. Linda permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Your blog postings, without fail, are beautifully written, evocative and sensitive to your surroundings, and make me feel good about the day. Thank you

  12. gioconda permalink
    January 22, 2014

    I’ve an idea that, one day, I’ll be standing before the Pearly Gates, and St. Peter will be looking for my name on a long list, frowning dubiously.
    Then through the bars of the Gates will slink a familiar dark form. She will say something to St. Peter, whose eyes will brighten with understanding.
    “But of course, dear cat, just as you wish!” And I will be escorted into Heaven on the word of my Felix.

  13. January 22, 2014

    what a beautiful post.

  14. Mirabilis permalink
    January 22, 2014

    I have a black cat very similar to Mr P. He is now 20 years old and has become querulous and vocal but oh so devoted, following me from room to room in the hope that I might sit down so that he can jump onto my lap. It is a bittersweet process when a beloved cat turns from being aloof and cool to devoted and needy and sad to see a friend who was once younger than us overtake us and become old before we do. I hope when I am as old there will be someone to offer me a place by their fireside and put up with my complaints but I fear that I will have less to offer than our feline companions.

  15. Nan Holcomb permalink
    January 22, 2014

    My Mr. Henry was a rescue kitty, so his exact age is unknown, but the vet puts him at around 11 or 12. After four years together, he too, is slowing down, altho the occasional wild dash through the house at 3AM is not beyond him. He too, is increasingly affectionate and vocal. Aren’t we fortunate, to have such great companions?

  16. Jean permalink
    January 22, 2014

    We can never own a cat, they do us a great honour by living with
    us as long as we provide their every need.

    Who would be without a cat :)

  17. Sarah Correia permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Yes I am definitely enslaved by my tiger cat Buttons. Wakes me up in the night and insists on being petted before going back to sleep. Perhaps I will be a cat in my next life. . . .able to master the art of lying paws under chest like the Sphinx and napping curled up with paws over nose keeping it warm.

  18. Reader permalink
    January 22, 2014

    This column spoke volumes to me, and made my cats, past and present, snuggle even closer in my heart.

  19. January 22, 2014

    Oh, Mr. Pussy, what a wonderful pussy you are, you are, what a wonderful pussy you are! And lucky to have such a devoted human.

  20. Pete permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Ah yes the familiar knocking stuff off shelves etc for attention, this particular fluffy rescued moggy waited a year or so to ensure his unassailable position, then discovered Isaac Newton , who could well assist him with the evil breaking ornaments scheme…
    Also have a dog that does exactly the same bed clothes ritual as mentioned above ….
    I wonder if they all read some kind of ‘ how to exploit humans’ manual..?

  21. Gary Arber permalink
    January 22, 2014

    You must realise that you are permitted to live with Mr. Pussy on his terms.
    You cannot expect to be released from any of your duties and it is possible that you are still on probation for the terrible insult that you extended to him when you threw away the delicious rat that he placed beside your sleeping head and did not eat it, and thank him profoundly.
    You still have much to learn.
    Gary

  22. Rick permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Really nice story. Highly recognizable.

  23. January 22, 2014

    How old is he?

  24. Caro permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Provoked more than a few wry smiles of recognition. Beautiful. Thank you.

  25. Chris F permalink
    January 22, 2014

    I had a black and white tom cat who came to me as a foundling… I knew him and he knew me… He had me wrapped around his little paws… He would wait until I had laid myself out on the settee to watch the TV and then he would settle down on my head like a Davy Crocket hat… It is difficult for some people to understand the bond that can be created between an animal and a human but he was a friend and I loved him and when he died of kidney failure, I cried like a baby… and ten years on…… I still miss him…………..

  26. Catherine permalink
    January 23, 2014

    Delightful Mr. Pussy!

  27. Greg Tingey permalink
    January 23, 2014

    My Lilac-point Birman tom (ex) does the same …
    “Sqrrrp”, after walking up the bed, tickles face with whiskers, etc, until you let him in.
    Spent the whole of last night, “nested” with his human.
    Nice & warm.

  28. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    January 23, 2014

    I recognize all this I love my cat,she exploits me I know it & she knows it,yet I do these things willingly because to paraphrase someone ” the more I see the human race,the more I like my cat.”

  29. Patricia Oates permalink
    January 23, 2014

    Dogs look up to you. Cats look down on you. Pigs accept you as an equal.

    Oh, well, it’s Shadow the feline who is my roommate. She and Mr. P behave pretty much the same in their elder years.

    My only quibble. It’s not her face she presses against mine, it’s her furry posterior.

    Do you think it’s because I snore?

  30. January 23, 2014

    oh Gentle Author , thank you once again for making this tender space that is your writing , we are truelly truelly blessed by your pen and so too is mr P.

  31. January 23, 2014

    What a beautiful, precious post. And one that resonates so powerfully with all who have /have had the joy of humbly serving a cat. What a priceless privilege it is to gain the unwavering trust of an animal. I ponder on this gift everyday as it is something that makes my heart rejoice. Thank you for putting into words things that I’ve felt but could never describe.

  32. Jake permalink
    January 23, 2014

    Wonderful piece of writing. Just wonderful.

  33. William Sovie permalink
    January 24, 2014

    Love you Mr. P……xoxoxoxoxox

  34. jeannette permalink
    January 24, 2014

    you are a cat sofa. glad you know your place.
    lots of ancient kitties like heated cat beds. perhaps it’s time for mr. p to have one?
    http://www.amazon.com/Thermo-Kitty-Heated-Cat-16-Inch-Sage/dp/B00176F9AM

  35. January 25, 2014

    I know only too well what it is like to have your cat living with you as we had our beautiful cat called Mozart. She was the most beautious cat and had the most beautiful nature. She was 19 when she went. She grew up with our kids and was part of the family. We never saw her as a cat and I used to look for special food whenever I went shopping as she was always included on the shopping list. She was clever and had her ways with us we pandered to her wishes. Cats are clever and always have exactly what they want. They only have to look at you and you give in to them yet we can’t live without them.

  36. jenny permalink
    February 15, 2014

    I love your words that sum up every characteristic trait of the cat. My own do exactly the same, but I could not have put it into such rich descriptive words. If you ever write a book about Mr. Pussy and his view of life I would buy it.

    Incidently, I work in a library and we have just recieved a fiction book about a cat. One of the branch libraries has catagorised it as non-fiction.

    I ask, how can it be non-fiction? It’s written in the words of the cat.

    It remains non-fiction.

  37. Alex permalink
    February 25, 2014

    Thank you for your delightful and insightful writings about Mr Pussy.
    My elderly black cat Babby is in his 20th year and our time together is sadly drawing to a close but an indomitable will keeps him tottering around on his stiff old legs. I hope Mr Pussy continues to enjoy his enviable and wonderful cat life with you for many more years.

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