Christmas is turning out to be stinkier than anticipated. I had envisioned scented candles, pine needles – bath salts, maybe – but what I’ve got, in line with my usual quota of luck, is an un-neutered tomcat called Christmas.

My friends don’t know about Christmas yet – so this will be by way of post and email. But they won’t be surprised. They would probably be more surprised to get an email that didn’t mention yet another cat. We’re now up to fourteen. However, two of the residents are elderly – 18 and 20 – so we’ll be back to 12 within the next year or two.

Unless more turn up.

You know how you leave mince pies and a glass of sherry out for Santa Claus? Well, I’ve always left a bowl of cat food out for any moggie vagrants passing through my back garden en route for pastures new. Sometimes the hedgehog got to it first, but that was OK. But after the last one (Kitten, aged 20) I decided not to do it anymore, and not to look out of the kitchen window if I could help it. Every time I look out of my kitchen window there’s another disastrous pussycat just standing there – staring back at me. As if he’s been there for hours, just waiting, just in case I might look out and might be tempted to reach for the Felix.

And there he was – a grubby, black and greyish-brown (presumably he’ll get round to washing, eventually) tom. You can tell an adult tom even from a distance by their general hugeness and square faces.This one was further decorated with strings of those spikey burrs that attach themselves to passing animals, and giant gobbets of gloss paint. It looked as if someone had thrown the entire pot at him, catching him running away. His tail in particular was thick with the stuff. The paint was the colour of ‘seventies bathroom suites – also a ‘seventies Reliant Robin owned by a woman I worked with/for and disliked, but who insisted on giving me lifts. Her car was that colour. It also had a nail just inside the passenger-side door, which seemed to have been placed there specifically to tear a person’s coat as they clambered in. And it was always a clamber as far as I was concerned. I am not a small person (Dad was six foot four) and Reliant Robins are the smallest cars on Earth.

But I digress. See where a painted cat can lead you.

This morning he got to see the nurse, who shaved most of his tail and most of his back. As the clippers began to whirr and chunks of paint-clagged fur started to land on the consulting room floor, far from being offended Christmas became a different cat altogether – stopped all the hissing and growling and behaved – well, like a pussycat. Now he’s asleep on the windowsill behind my computer, one filthy foot pointed in my direction. He has his front paws folded over his chest as he sleeps. See, you got me now, he’s saying, in his sleep. Bald, but at peace with the world.

That’s because I haven’t told him about the neutering. Unfortunately, there are no spaces in the vet’s crowded surgery till January the 4th. Such a long way off, and such an aromatic gentleman.

Luckily, no visitors.


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