Herding cats

As the days grew longer, and we all became more settled in Yorkshire, we started to let the cats explore outside more. After all, one of the reasons we moved there was because of the ‘good cattage’. We started small – letting them out one at a time and under supervision – at least that was the plan.

The first time the Calamity Cat went out, she was pretty good. She sniffed around the hedges and the creeper on the garage and then came back inside. Relieved that she was being more cautious than she is known for, we tried again the next day. It was a whole different story …

She shot off up the garden and scaled the fence that separated us from next door. She then sat and laughed at us as we tried to coax her back down, before disappearing into next door’s garden. For the next few minutes, she totally ignored us as she explored every inch, even going to sit and stare through their patio doors into their conservatory. Hugely embarrassed, I had to go and ask the neighbours if I could get her back, like a child with a lost football.

The door was opened by their toddler, closely followed by his mother. I explained what I wanted, feeling like a total idiot – she was a cat – they are supposed to find their own way home – but I have little faith in Calamity’s common sense. The little boy, however, grasped the seriousness of the situation and took my hand.

“You come through my house,” he said “and we’ll find her. She might be in the shed.”

She wasn’t in the shed – she was patrolling their lawn like it was her own, totally ignoring their dog, who was leaping around the conservatory in a mad, if friendly, sort of way. My neighbour opened the back door so I could go and get her but, as soon as she saw me, Calamity knew she had been rumbled and shot back over the fence to her own side, making me feel even sillier than before. I made my apologies and returned home. I went into our back garden to be greeted by Calamity, who was looking very smug and D, who told me that, as soon as I had gone back inside next door, she had briefly gone back over to their side, as if to make the point that she could go where she liked whenever she liked. However, she told us, she would come back – as long as there was Sheba on offer …

Surely the Princess would be different, we thought. Although she had probably roamed further in Scotland than Calamity, she has much more sense and has an unswerving devotion to me that may keep her close. Again, the first time was fine – she followed pretty much the same path as Calamity. The next day, I was working upstairs when D decided to have another try with her. The first I knew was when he was frantically waving from the window and pointing to next door on the other side.

I cut short my phone conversation – “I’ll have to go – D has lost the cat”. Thank goodness it was a member of my team and not my boss. When I got downstairs, D was already on his way round to the neighbour to take his turn at retrieving a cat. As I turned into the dining room, he came back through the front door.

“She’s not there”, he said, worried.

No, she wasn’t. She was sitting on our patio outside the French windows, waiting patiently to be let back in, with a ‘where have you been’ look on her face, having come back through the hedge almost as soon as D went to find her.

We accepted the inevitable and let them out alone after that. They are now queens of all they survey (most of the time).

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