A Very Purrculiar Practice: Cindy, the Amazing Homing Cat
Copyright 1996, Sarah Hartwell

Cindy was a pretty tabby cat who lived with her disabled owner in an outlying village. When Cindy was in her early teens, the widowed owner, a Mrs Sheldrake, decided that worsening arthritis meant she couldn't cope with caring for Cindy any longer. After much heart-searching it was decided that Cindy would go to live with Mrs Sheldrake's daughter in town.

Cindy's new home was in an urban setting which meant that the cat could no longer wander like a free spirit. While the daughter was quite happy to have the cat, Cindy made it clear that she was not at all happy at this change in circumstances.

For a start Cindy took up singing. Each night when the household slept, Cindy practised her solo work. The long and intricate piece she was composing was not appreciated by Mr and Mrs Cartwright. When it became clear that choral work was not to be her new career, Cindy explored the possibilities of interior design. Anaglypta wallpaper developed a 'distressed' look and shred-effect furniture was suddenly in vogue in the Cartwright household.

After damage limitation measures (loose covers on the furniture and offcuts of carpet stapled to the walls) Cindy abandoned this career choice in favour of modern art. Using the only medium available to her, bodily waste, Cindy began a campaign of house-soiling to express her displeasure at the mainly indoor lifestyle enforce upon her. The litter tray remained in pristine condition while the blue living room carpet developed brown patches that even mega-strength carpet shampoo and steam-cleaning could not shift.

Each week, Mrs Sheldrake phoned her daughter and was assured that Cindy was settling in, though it was a slow job.

'I don't care if it is your mother's cat, I'm not living in a house that smells like a litter-tray,' proclaimed Mr Cartwright after a morning spent de-Cindying the lounge carpet, 'Either Cindy goes to a shelter or I take her down the vets on a no-return journey.'

Even Mrs Cartwright had to agree that Cindy was not happy in her new setting. Though far from house-proud, she was embarrassed to invite friends round to her shred-effect, carpet-walled home with its lingering odour of cat poo. However, it was not until Cindy pee-ed in the video (no more re-runs of Manchester United games) and then the toaster (the odour of scorching cat urine being beyond any comparisons) that she realised the situation was untenable. In the dead of night, she bundled Cindy into a carrying box and drove to her mother's home. Cindy was unceremoniously deposited in Mrs Sheldrake's porch.

Next morning Mrs Cartwright phoned her mother.

'Mum, I don't know how to tell you this, but shortly after your last phone call Cindy disappeared. We searched everywhere, but she must have squeezed through a fanlight,' even Mr Cartwright was nearly in tears at his wife's Oscar-winning performance as distraught owner of vanished cat. 'She never fully settled down and though I asked around and phoned the vet and the local shelter, no-one seems to have seen her,' snuffled Mrs Cartwright, 'I've been terrified to call you, because I know how much Cindy meant to you and I feel so guilty.'

'Well, it's really odd that you should call today, because when I went to get the milk in I found little Cindy scratching at the front door,' her mother replied.

'Goodness, she must have walked all that way back to you mum! I've read about cats doing that in books, but I never really believed they could do it. Err, do you want me to come and fetch her back - I know how much trouble it was for you to get up and keep opening the door to let her in and out.'

Brandishing a loaded staple gun in one hand and a VAX-2000 wet-vacuum cleaner, Mr Cartwright viewed his shredded, Shake-and-Vac-ed, home and groaned at the thought.

'I think she really wants to be here with her mum,' Mrs Sheldrake said gently, 'I know you got fond of her while she was with you, but I think I can cope with her for a bit longer. She is almost fifteen; I'm sure I can manage a few more years. Her poor little paws looked so sore from all that walking. I buttered them and she's had a big dish of tinned salmon to help her regain her strength, she probably hasn't eaten properly since escaping. I hope you're not too disappointed.'

'But all that getting up and down to open the door ....?' her daughter 'protested'.

'I thought maybe your John could come round a fit a cat flap for me,' his ear crammed close to the phone John nodded manically, 'If she's bright enough to come all this way on her own she can probably learn to use one. You couldn't bring her bed round at the same time could you?'

Cindy, the amazing homing cat, was quite a celebrity though the Cartwrights did wince inwardly when a local reporter ran a story and photo of heroic Cindy in the local rag. Cindy the homing cat lived a good few more years in the rural setting she preferred and when she finally traded in her claws for a halo, Mrs Sheldrake decided not to let the cat flap go to waste and immediately adopted another cat since 'they're such good company for a disabled person'!

Back to Main Index