My cat Paddy is 20 today. He started life in North London, was dropped off at a pet shop in a card board box along with several other black and white brothers and sisters, dropped off with the shop probably a little earlier than he should have been (the pet-shop owner said, ‘but it was that or…‘), then discovered by me when I picked several of the kittens up, one by one and his crooked little white mark across his face made me smile, and his intelligent personality made me think, ‘now here is a cat I’d like to have live with me.‘ My mom and I brought him back to my flat in a cardboard box in a taxi; my mom had her hand in the box the whole time to soothe him. I think she was worried I was too young or too impulsive to be a good cat-mom. I was too young and too impulsive but I ended up being a good cat mom.
I called him Max. Then Little Max Paddy Cat because he padded everywhere (as cats do) and eventually he became Paddy.
There are times I’ve wanted to throttle him. When my husband of the time and I went away for two months for his medical elective we had a nurse sub-let the place, to take care of Paddy and Pippa (the black and white cat we got as a companion for Paddy). I suspect the woman didn’t actually stay there much because we came back to find the tops of all the doors shredded (he liked getting on top of doors and lightly scratching until he caught your attention, and then you were supposed to throw a little buzzy bee toy up for him to catch, chew on then drop for you to throw again). Oh, and cat wee everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
So we had to deal with Paddy’s Issues with Unhappiness from then on. Whenever he was unhappy he would wee on something other than cat litter. We had a very cat friendly house, he had a playmate in Pippa, but if we so much as looked cross-eyed at Paddy he would wait till we were asleep then leave a message of righteous indignation on the corner of the sofa. In the early days he did this on the duvet on my ex-husband’s side. (He must have known.)
In his more recent years after my daughter and I, and Paddy and Pippa moved to a bigger house in the country he confined it to whatever was left on the floor in the kitchen at night and you know what, no matter how many times you tell a teenager something the don’t seem to listen–please don’t leave your school bag on the kitchen floor at night, please don’t leave your shoes in here at night. Even cat wee doesn’t concentrate the mind, they still did it. Something changed a few years ago, about the time of the arrival of Minky, then Raffy. Although he hated tiny, scrappy little stray Minky kitten so much when he first saw her he actually bit me for the first time ever (I was in the way of him getting at her) he suddenly stopped weeing on everything.
But the purring has been the most interesting. Paddy never purred. We got Pippa when he was a year old to keep him company. They played, the slept side by side. Pippa purred all the time. You’d smile at Pippa and she’d purr. You sneeze and she’d meow at you. She was a happy-go-lucky kitteh. Paddy never, ever purred. Until I started dating the man who became my second husband.
(I know! That’s what I was thinking!)
I labelled him The Man Who Brought Purr to the House.
Paddy has seen a lot in my UK life, he’s been my buddy through thick and thin. In fact, he has seen most of my UK life. Marriage, moving house, moving jobs, travel, arguments, friends, relatives, moving house, a beautiful baby girl, arguments, moving house, arguments, Pippa’s kittens, special toddler love, toddler friends, divorce, pneumonia, moving house, boyfriends (‘The cats and I? We’re a package: you don’t like cats, this won’t work.‘), friends, The Man Who Brought Purr to the House, a university degree, starting school for the toddler-now-girl-child, moving house, a new big family but also a bigger house (more shoes to wee in), farm cats, Pippa’s passing to the great cat-place in the sky, different jobs, six-weeks-of-lap-time when I had both feet operated on, work from home, new cats to feel anxious about but eventually work quite well with.
Like most pets who have lived long enough with humans to show their personalities to us, Paddy has funny ‘quirks’. He loves plastic. I went away one weekend and my artist friend Helen came by to feed Paddy and she sent me a text ‘Um, he’s sleeping on a plastic bag, is that ok?‘ I replied that yes, it’s his special bag. He also wears the plastic grocery bags as a cape. I know. He did this on his own at first, then of course, being human, I thought it was amazing so I started putting it on him just to see his reaction. Whenever I emptied grocery bags I would slip the handle of one over his head, press it gently so it fanned out across his back and then he would begin to strut around with it on. I told him ‘oh, Paddy, you are SO handsome!‘ And he would strut even more. I’m serious. It’s a family joke now. (The things we do.)
Paddy has always been a skinny, small cat, which I think is strange because he was the biggest of his litter. Until he started getting grey hairs around his mouth and eyes a year ago, whenever I took him to the vet they always thought he was 5 or 6 before they checked his records. When we moved to the country I worried a little about the farm toms. Needlessly. One day I heard an almighty racket of screeching and growling and I ran outside to see little Paddy, arched and fierce, howling and scowling at the biggest tomcat in the area, then Paddy shrieked and chased after him. The tom disappeared, never to return. He did this a lot with different passing hobo toms, until recently. Paddy is like one of those little MMA guys who you think no way is he going to topple that giant Russian but yep, he sure does.
And now, Paddy spends a lot of time on an old blanket on a box with a heating pad. He is mostly blind, mostly deaf but he knows his house and had a great sense of smell and knows the second I open a tin of tuna. He receives a lot of cuddles and lap time, the other cats don’t bother him, and he finds plenty of sun on the window seat. I think he’s got a pretty good thing going. And he must too, because he purrs a lot.
Happy birthday ol’ guy!