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Roisin Gorman’s Open Letter… on cats

I’m at double figures in feline ownership, although not all at once — that would make me The Simpsons’ Crazy Cat Lady’


Roisin with current cat Ted.

Roisin with current cat Ted.

Roisin with current cat Ted.

Happy belated Global Cat Day. I’m just getting the decorations down in time for Halloween. It’s entirely different from International Cat Day and National Cat Day — which is a bit like Miss World vs Miss Universe — while the animals are insisting that every day is cat day. The idea is to get would-be owners to adopt from shelters because the world is too full of strays to pay for one. It’s also to encourage ‘trap, neuter and release’ which I’ve had to do to one of my own when it realised a house in the next street was a better fit, and they were welcome to him. It was a Siamese crossed with a feral cat, so high maintenance and a bit wild, or the Christian Bale of cats. Our relationship broke down entirely when I kidnapped him back long enough to get his manhood fixed. I’m at double figures in feline ownership, although not all at once because that would make me the Crazy Cat Lady from The Simpsons, destined to be eaten by her cats, because they like a snack and the dog prefers dried food. That’s counting the five childhood cats, all called Tara regardless of gender. Times were hard and we could only afford one name. I’ve also had two Jacks, after the original ran away, and a neighbour kindly brought him back. It took a while to work out that either this was a different cat or Jack had regrown his testicles, and by then it was too embarrassing to admit I didn’t recognise my own pet. The love affair started early and seems to have stuck. There may have been periods without men or children, but there has always been a cat to ignore me in times of emotional crisis. There are many theories about why over a fifth of adults in Ireland and a quarter in the UK open their house to a creature which would kill you if it was big enough or could be bothered. The cuteness theory is that we’re attracted to their infant-like large head and big eyes, and they’ve adapted to cry like a human baby. We enjoy the pet health benefits of an emotional connection and the release of happy hormones from stroking them, while single men are also more attractive to women if they have a cat. We’re a simple species. The gruesome theory is that the parasite which causes toxoplasmosis, which can only breed in the digestive systems of cats and is carried by a third of the population, alters our brain chemistry to get us and moggies together and increase its chances of survival. We’re a really simple species. It’s been found in human brains as far back as the Egyptians, and even the fearsome Vikings, who had a thing for ginger Garfields, took their cats on pillaging missions. I’ve never fancied pets like hamsters or rabbits but there must be some reason why my life has been shared with all the Taras, Seamus, two Jacks, Albert, Fred, Ted and Minx. Seamus was a big ginger superstar, the size of a small dog, who caught leaves and empty crisp bags; Albert couldn’t retract his claws and plucked every carpet; Minx is neurotic and incontinent but we’re both menopausal, so she fits right in, and Ted bit me last week when I gently moved him off my yoga mat. One of us clearly needs to do more yoga, or get nicer parasites.

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