Chairman Meow was due before the Parole Board today. It’s been a month since we moved back to London and all the official guidelines say to keep your cat indoors for the first 28 days. I’d like to claim he got time off for good behaviour but bad behaviour is closer to the truth. Ten days in, he was having none of this house arrest nonsense and legged it out the back door.
They say dogs have owners, cats have staff. If moving house with a cat has taught me anything, it’s the true meaning of “pussy-footing around”. Even our decision to return to London kept being delayed out of concern for The Chairman: We’d have happily squeezed ourselves back into some grungy one bed but there was no way Meow was getting anything less than a house and garden and traffic free access. So hardly surprising it took ages to find somewhere a. on brief and b. affordable without a winning lottery ticket. Even then, there was this nagging doubt that London just wasn’t the right sort of place for a cat. Eventually, it boiled down to a leap of faith : If Chairman Mao could conquer the city from the country, we reckoned our Meow would manage ok.
But first, how to get him there. The usual advice made no sense: “consider booking your cat into a cattery for a few days whilst you get everything sorted”. I’m sure there are superhuman domestic goddesses out there who can be done and dusted in just a few days but down here, amongst us mere mortals, we knew we’d still be lugging furniture and unpacking for weeks to come.
As our life increasingly descended into a chaos of bubble-wrap and boxes, it was clear separation wasn’t the answer for Chairman Meow. He clocked we were on the move and refused to let us out of his sight (It really is quite disconcerting when your cat won’t even let you go to the loo on your own!) Given his origins as a rescue cat*, he was always more likely than most to have abandonment issues, but he seemed genuinely worried he’d be left behind.
In the end, the fact that Chairman Meow was a rescue cat actually made the move easier: We’d been through the process before of introducing him to a new home and so were more confident in what to do and what to expect. At either end, we kept him in the spare room, safely out of harm’s way, whilst the removals men did their job. The travelling, we knew, was always going to be the hardest part. Cats are connoisseurs of comfort. Anything less than five star accommodation and a first class ticket leaves them pretty unimpressed, let alone a pet travel box and long car journey.
For the Chairman too, this was clearly nothing like as traumatic as coming home from the rescue centre. Yes, there was a new house to get used to, but at least he didn’t have to adjust both to a new neighbourhood and new owners (aka staff) . Back then, we had weeks of cowering under the bed plus moments of pure Psycho-Kitty madness. This time, he only hid for 24hrs before curiosity got the better of him and he came out for an explore.
A month on and it’s obvious Chairman Meow actually prefers his new pad. We’d been so focused on all the bad things that were to be found in London, the traffic, the people, the foxes etc, it never occurred to us to think about the ones that weren’t – in particular, other cats. Back in the Village, everyone seemed to have a cat; and since all cats are born believing they’ve a divine right to rule, the Chairman was forever battling neighbours and rivals as they tried to rob him of power. Here, he’s finally claimed his rightful position as Supreme Leader.
Since moving to London, we’ve noticed a real change in the Chairman: He’s confident now, sassy and street-wise, not-so-much unfriendly but definitely diffident and decidedly difficult to impress.
A power-crazed puss perhaps? No. Just a typical Londoner.
*For more about Chairman Meow and his transformation from humble orphan cat to great Meowist leader, click here