Sarah Smith, 1989

One morning one of my colleagues came to work looking very bedraggled and woebegone which led the rest of the department to speculate on the state of her marriage. At coffee time she told us that she had been besieged in her on her stairway by a huge black cat.

She had arrived home at 6 pm expecting her own cat to greet her hungrily as usual. When Puss did not launch herself at her returning owner my colleague was rather concerned. Puss was not the wandering kind; she even preferred to use her litter tray rather than brave the world outside but now she was nowhere to be seen. My friend filled up the food bowl and started to go upstairs thinking that Puss was fast asleep on the bed when she heard a very pathetic "mee-oow" from the landing. There, at the very top of the stairs was a very hungry cat and lying halfway up the stairs was a mean looking black cat. Puss, plainly terrified of the intruder, had been stuck at the top of the stairs waiting to be rescued and by the look on her face the intruder had been eating Pussís food and drinking Pussís milk.

Sheepishly, my colleague described the battle of the stairs. She sat on the tread below the intruder and tentatively reached out a hand to stroke it to see if it was friendly. It let out a huge snarl which sent my colleague leaping down the stairs for safety. Puss miaowed pathetically as her human "protector" ran for cover. Next, my colleague walked up the stairs, feigning indifference and hoping to step across the stair claimed by the intruder. She could see the catís eyes light up as it lashed out at her with one well armed paw, reducing her Christian Dior stockings to shreds. Once again she fled for safety leaving Puss whining on the landing. Donning gardening gauntlets she gingerly tried to touch the cat, hoping to immobilise the monster by its scruff. Once again it fought her off with a single paw.

At that moment the man of the house arrived hungry and tired from work only to find his wife trying to leap over a large black creature which had taken up residence halfway up the stairs. In a fit of chivalry he dashed to the rescue. The intruder had no difficulty fending off two humans without even having to sit up. War was declared. The valiant husband attempted to dislodge the visitor by tapping its flank with a bamboo cane. Recognising this as a new game the unwelcome visitor dabbed at this new toy.

Not wanting to hurt the cat but by now rather desperate to rescue their own, my colleague and her husband decided to phone for help. Would a vet want to come out with a dart gun to sedate a large cat which was menacing the household? What would the Fire Brigade say to a call to rescue a couple unable to go upstairs because a cat was lying on the stairs? Lacking the courage to call out a squad of husky firemen, they phoned a friend who was used to handling bad-tempered cats.

It took this friend 30 minutes to drive to the besieged house. Tentatively she approached the snarling monster - which rolled over onto its back to have its tummy scratched, began to purr like an engine and let the woman pick it up like a baby and put it out the back door. The friend could not believe that such a sweet, gentle-natured cat had held two people at bay for the best part of two hours while their own cat had cowered at the top of the stairs.

Doubtless the friend went to work telling her colleagues how she rescued someone from the sweetest, softest moggy she had ever met, which had held them at bay in their own home!

Names have been omitted to preserve the dignity of those involved.