It’s a cat’s life
Author and self-confessed cat lover Terry Pratchett shares some tales of his feline-friendly home.
‘Discworld’ author Terry Pratchett says that cats have been part of his life for more than 30 years. He and his wife Lynn currently share their home with six!
“We moved to a country cottage in the 70s, and a cottage has to have a cat,” he says.
“Oedipuss came to us from a cat sanctuary near Bath, in return for one pound donation. She was an extremely affectionate tortie, who would wait on the garden wall for us if we went out.”
“Ever since then we have built up our cat family by accident. There is always a door to be opened or a bowl to be filled in our house! We have a friend in Hereford called Dave and Dave-cats are always worth having. [sic] We have one at the moment, called Genghis. He’s grey and white and will only sit on your lap if it happens to fit in with his programme.”
“We also have a pair of Russian Blues, Garfield and Squirrel, who are beautiful but rather neurotic. Squirrel hates everyone, but in a beautiful way. Then there are Patch and Tiger, who are the kittens of one of our earlier cats. Patch is my office cat and sits in the desk drawer while I am writing. If she wants attention she will lie on her back with her paws in the air and stare at me. Tiger will go out hunting with Ghengis but only catches mice if they hit him on the nose.”
“Our sixth cat is another tabby, Pongo. Our daughter took in a pregnant stray, which had three kittens. She kept two and we had Pongo, a big cat who thinks he is a kitten.”
“I didn’t have cats when I was a child because our neighbour’s cats used to come into the garden and dig up my Dad’s seedbeds. We are gardeners too, but we have a walled garden, which the cats seem to see as our space, so they only go in when we do.”
Over the years Terry and his family have had to cope with the heartache of losing cats to road traffic accidents. Even though they live in the country, their road becomes very busy during rush hour.
“Cats seem to be able to cope with busy city streets, or roads that are always quiet, but not roads where there is occasional heavy traffic,” Terry says.
“After losing four cats in two years, we installed an invisible fence. You bury a wire around the edge of your property and your animals wear collars. If they go near the wire there’s a buzz and if they go nearer they get a mild electric shock. It sounds cruel, but it’s better than having them take their chances on the road. We haven’t lost a cat since 1996.”
“We were told it took dogs three weeks to learn. It took our cats about five seconds. They seem to have reprogrammed their world and they are happy with their space.”
Terry can’t imagine a cat-free life.
“They are a presence, but an independent one. They don’t need walks and they only need attention on their own terms,” he says.
“They will give you affection, but only when they have nothing better to do. Oedipuss was the friendliest. Our current cats live in their own cat environment.”
“I see a lot of feline politics. Ghengis has appointed himself the family policeman. If any of the others are fighting he isolates the aggressor and gives them a good talking-to, in his silly squeaky voice! He seems to have decided that his role is to see none of the others gets too big for their boots.”
“The two tabbies go out to play together. Patch hates everyone but she likes me, for some reason. I once accidentally shut her in the drawer where she sleeps in the office but she didn’t seem to mind!”
“Ghengis gets on with everyone. When friends come to see us they are surprised to see him waiting in front of the house like a car park attendant. He likes to know what’s going on. We had a digger in the garden and the driver was amazed to see Ghengis sitting in the bucket, waiting for something to happen. If we ever have any tradesman in Ghengis always watches them carefully too.”
“Writers are busy people so I am quite glad the cats don’t need a huge input of fuss. Both our tabbies are very good at the ‘dead cat in the gutter’ look with all four paws stretched into the air when they do need attention.”
“Cats are definitely nice to have around, especially on cold winter evenings when they all turn up to be fed and then settle in their room where their baskets are – though they prefer to sleep on chairs, of course.
Terry Pratchett was talking to Jill Eckersley. Your Cat Magazine February 2006.
I think keeping the book rather than the cat is a brilliant idea.LadyL wrote:I bought this book as a present, couldnt resist to have a look before giving,
and eventually couldnt stop reading it.
I still havent got a cat but I kept the book AND I LOVE IT
Katariina wrote:I love the book. Just gave a copy to my boyfriend for his birthday a few weeks ago. He had never read Terry, but he loves cats, so I thought that's a good way to lure him in. He loved the book, and still keeps quoting stuff from it.
I'm giving him Good Omens next. He will be one of us...
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