People really don't own cats, just ask my neighbour... | Jack Marshall's column

Honestly and truly, there are very few scenarios in life where the hasty assertion that ‘oh no, don’t worry, we had 16 cats at one point’ constitutes a reassuring statement.

Monday, 9th August 2021, 4:55 am
The offending Billy the cat

This is because normal people simply do not have 16 cats.

I’m sorry to any of you who may indeed own a Premier League matchday squad’s-worth of feline friends, but it’s undeniable and should really go without saying: 16 cats is too many cats. By a lot. By about 13 cats, in fact.

I’ve made friends with a local neighbourhood cat. He’s been the topic of a previous column of mine and, frankly, since then we’ve grown even closer. Having initially named him Ronnie, I’ve discovered his real name is Billy, which is somehow even more excellent than Ronnie.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

When the door is open, Billy now saunters into my house in that regal yet dismissive way only cats and French people can. He floats into the kitchen when I’m cooking, tying himself around my ankles before strolling into the lounge where he’ll merrily hop on to the sofa. It’s safe to say he feels somewhat at home.

This is great. I love cats, having grown up in the presence of my mother, who is herself an enthusiastic cat lady. (I hesitate to say ‘crazy cat lady’ because I feel she’ll earn that moniker more effectively as she gets older. You’re welcome, mum.)

But I’ve always been nervy that Billy’s owner would be less understanding, suspecting I had plans of cat-knapping. Until last week, that is.

While I was putting the bins out, Billy’s owner sauntered over (now I know where Bilbo gets it from). She said hello and added ‘I hear my cat has been coming into your house’. I froze. ‘I’m so sorry, he’s just so nosy’.

Crisis avoided. She wasn’t angry, so now all I needed to do was convince her that I was a safe and trustworthy guardian for Billy. ‘Oh no, don’t worry,’ I said. ‘We had 16 cats at one point.’

Whether this did the job of assuaging her fears or merely amplified them by firmly establishing me as some Egyptian-fetish cat weirdo, I don’t know.

So I pressed on, explaining the concept of my mother and adding that three of her cats had given birth to large litters at the same time. Hence the inflated cat population.

She seemed slightly more reassured. I mean, who wouldn’t when informed that one of your neighbours used to have 16 cats?