Copyright 1994, Sarah Hartwell

I've now come to terms with the fact that all cats read feline behaviour manuals and then feign whichever behaviour syndrome is guaranteed to cause greatest owner anxiety. Scrapper had a meaningful relationship with a pullover; Kitty II mothered slippers. Kitty I's quirk was more hazardous - she hunted dogs.

I always thought that dogs either chased or ignored cats and had unwisely assumed that cats were well versed in these options. There was not, I thought, a third option. Then one day I looked out the window and saw an elderly gent poking about underneath my car. Not being the sort of person that normally attracts extremists (although CPL cat-trapping activities are sometimes misinterpreted) I asked him what the heck he was doing.

Apparently Kitty Hartwell, all 6 lb of her, had chased his dog underneath the car. An ancient Cairn x yard-broom cross, was cowering dead centre under the car refusing to come out until the mad terrier-eating tiger had been chased away. According to the owner, it was not the first time that his amiable mongrel (which had the IQ of a toaster and the appetite of the La Brea tar pits) had been terrorised by 'that cat'. Fortunately we managed to extract the dog from its predicament, though from then on it insisted on crossing the street if it had to pass our front garden.

I concluded that the dog was a bit of a wimp. Kitty was mid-to-late teens and looked as if a light breeze would blow her away. Presumably the dog, which had never borne any ill-will towards cat-kind, had wandered onto the lawn, sniffed Kitty and suffered a gashed nose as a result.

Some weeks later a woman from the other end of the road popped over to ask if I was Kitty's owner. Apparently Kitty had been wandering through their cat flap, hissed at their extremely inoffensive neutered tom (who was getting agoraphobic as a result), duffed up the dog and eaten a labrador-sized helping of Pal. The dog now viewed any small, skinny, stripey cat as a feline member of Hell's Grannies and had taken to looking both ways before going out the back door!

Seriously worried about Kitty's attitude towards dogs, I sat down and explained to her that cats traditionally hunted things smaller than themselves - in her case bumblebees and butterflies might be appropriate. I didn't mention the cat which hunted cows by jumping out of trees onto their necks (presumably it had been a leopard in a past life and simply viewed cows as pied wildebeest) as I didn't want to encourage her to tackle larger prey such as hacks from the local stables.

In summer, our neighbours hired some builders. They brought with them a Welsh Springer Spaniel bitch to look after their supplies. I was worried that Kitty might bite off more than she could chew if she attacked their well-behaved bitch. That evening as I rolled down the drive I saw the Springer Spaniel curled up and tucked against its side, among its legs, was Kitty! Throughout the building work, the only thing that the Spaniel guarded was our cat.

Kitty outlived the Cairn-type mongrel and put the Fear of Cat into its successor. She continued to duff up down-the-road's labrador and stalk a young border collie that was regularly walked past our house. A young lady with a beagle took to going walkies on the other side of our road, though I never found out if Kitty was responsible for this change in habits.

After Kitty's death, the local dogs became a lot more relaxed. Since her death I've heard tales of cats which hunted and killed foxes and of a cat which gave a Fox Terrier such a severe sorting out that the dog lost an eye. I can only surmise that there is a "Feline Dangerous Sports Society" whose members specialise in hunting dogs and giving their owners conniptions.

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