Copyright 1992, Sarah Hartwell

I've got this card which tells people to look after my cats should I ever be rushed into hospital. Should I ever be rushed anywhere it will be to Severalls and they'll be the cause of it all.

It started with Kitty and Scrapper. Kitty thought she was social worker and set up a visiting rota. Unaware of this I could be seen wandering round late at night banging a fork on a can of food, yelling "Kitty, Kitty" and having the police ask me pointed questions about cat theft. After a while I got her a cat collar and we started getting calls asking if Kitty could stay the night or whether it would be all right to return her after News at Ten. We placed a note on the front door advising people returning her to 'post' her through the cat flap. Sick children confined to bed began calling for Kitty and she was regularly invited to birthday parties. When she died, the whole street sent flowers to her grave, which had to be on the front lawn so her fans could visit. Scrapper thought he was a JCB and landscaped all my flowerbeds. Bulbs had to be planted 2 foot deep to escape his attention. He would only drink out of the upstairs washbasin - and then only when he had to summon someone to fill it specially, which was all very well except that he always wanted to drink when John was shaving. If the basin was empty, he would sit in it and yell for attention. Sometimes he yelled all day, so the neighbours said. We bought a plug that didn't leak and filled the basin up in the morning. He sussed this out and hooked the plug out then sat yelling. A child psychologist would have said he was just after attention.

Affy joined us as a 5 month old abandoned Persian-cross. Scrapper taught her everything she knows. Despite being none-too-bright she has mastered the washbasin routine. She is the sort of cat who runs point blank into walls. Maybe the flat 'Persian' face is just a side-effect of running into walls. She also falls off of work-surfaces when thieving. My hair is going grey with worry over the dents in the floor from being hit by a 1 stone cat who hasn't mastered falling on her feet. Affy herself never suffers dents.

We then acquired Tulip and Holly. Tulip had been badly ill-treated so we treated her to cream and smoked salmon. Soon we had to make late trips to Tesco because the cat fancied a bit of salmon. The day she turned her nose up at Marks & Spencer Scottish Smoked Salmon we knew she was on her way out. Holly was ancient and senile, but nobody had told her legs this and we had calls from up to a mile away to fetch her. She even walked in her sleep though it's hard to tell the difference between asleep and awake with a senile cat. Several times we nearly said "Keep her". Eventually we confined her to indoors and she walked the carpet bald.

Sappho and Tinker followed these. Sappho will only sleep on my pillow, which unfortunately is where I like to rest my head. No matter, either John and I must share his pillow or I must get catarrh. Tinker was a real cat who ate, dug and hogged the best chair. He was standing by his breakfast bowl waiting for Seconds when he died of a sudden stroke. His contribution to the "Sending Sarah to the Insane Asylum Society" was a huge guilt complex about not fixing his breakfast on time. I was tempted to mark his grave "died of starvation while waiting for seconds". I plan to turn Sappho into a cushion and get my revenge that way.

At 18 years old Kitty-2 is a real cat. I'm just waiting for the phone to ring - there's a sick child down the road and I'll bet Kitty-2 is at the bedside, helping him finish his bangers and mash. After all, she only had 3 helpings of Kattomeat for breakfast. Obviously Kitty, Scrapper and Tinker have all been re-incarnated into a single body to drive me insane. Smoked salmon? Forget it, she'll eat fish and chips - including the wrapping.


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