Mr Pussy’s New Game
My old cat, Mr Pussy, loves water. While others detest getting their feet wet, he has never been discouraged by rain, even delighting to roll in the wet grass. Consequently, when he languishes in hot weather, I commonly sponge him down with cold water – an ecstatic experience that leaves him swooning.
Although I am conscientious to leave him a daily dish of fresh water beside his bowl of dry biscuits, he prefers to drink rain water or running water, seeking out puddles, ponds and dripping taps. Sometimes when I have been soaking in the bath, he has even appeared – leaping nimbly onto the rim – and craned his long neck down and extended his pink tongue to lap up my bath water, licking his lips afterwards out of curiosity at the tangy, soapy flavour. And when I choose to stand in the bath and take a shower, he likes to jump in as I jump out to lap up the last rivulets before they vanish down the drain.
One day, I took the shower-head and left it lying upon the floor of the bath, switching on the water briefly to wash away the soap in order to leave him clean water to drink. Thus a new era began. He perched upon the rim of the bath, his eyes widening in fascination at the surge of water bouncing off the sides of the tub in criss-crossing currents. This element introduced a whole new level of interest for him and now it has become a custom, that I switch on the shower for a couple of seconds, so that he may leap onto the bath and manoeuvre himself down to lick up the racing trails before they disappear.
It was something I did occasionally to indulge him, then daily, and now he demands it whenever he sees me in proximity – perhaps a dozen times yesterday and sometimes in the middle of the night too. The game begins with the spectacle of the surge of water coursing around the bath. He gets pretty excited watching the rush. And then, as soon as the water is switched off, he lets himself down head first, leaving his back legs on the rim and moving swiftly to slurp up the rivulets as they run. Each time it is a different challenge and the combination of the necessity of quick thinking, of nimble gymnastics and the opportunity of refreshment is compelling for him.
In the winter – you will recall – I found myself letting him in and out of the drawing room door, as he sought respite from the warmth and then re-admission again five minutes later. I am aware of his controlling nature and the pleasure he draws in extricating these favours from me, yet this new game has become a compulsion for him in its own right. When it gives him such euphoria, I cannot refuse his shrill requests, trilling liking a song bird and indicating the bathroom with a deliberate twist of his neck.
From the moment I turn my steps in that direction he is ahead of me, leaping up and composing his thoughts upon the brink with the intensity of a diver before a contest. Hyper-alert when I switch on the tap momentarily, he is rapt by the sensory overload of the multiple spiralling streams of water and intricate possibilities for intervention. Running all the decisions in his mind, he may even make a move before the water is switched off. Unafraid to soak his feet, he places two paws down into the swirling current and starts to lap it up fast. Observing his skill and engagement as a credulous yet critical spectator of his sport, I cannot deny he is getting better at negotiating the bathtub and the runnels. His technique is definitely improving with practice.
Within a minute, the water has drained to trickles and, before I may rediscover my own purpose, he seeks a repeat performance of his new game – and thus, with these foolish pastimes, we spend our days and nights in the empty house in Spitalfields.
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