A Ragdoll cat. Picture: Vyacheslav OSELEDKO / AFP
A Ragdoll cat. Picture: Vyacheslav OSELEDKO / AFP

You’re either a cat person or you’re not

SOMETIMES it is better to admit that there are things you can't stand and that drive you up the wall. And although one might try to be polite and considerate to other's feelings it's best to be honest. Even to a friend.

Around a dinner table a friend of mine was talking about her "trip of a lifetime" to Europe for two months, doing the continent and then a couple of literature tours in England. A Jane Austen Tour around Bath and surrounds and a walking tour of authors' homes in London.

My friend asked if there were any authors homes I'd like a photo of, I thought for a bit and said George Orwell's house would be good and maybe Charles Dickens'.

She nodded and then said for her, the house she most wanted to see was TS Eliot's.

I squirmed in my seat a bit. I knew why she wanted to go to that particular house. Now TS Eliot is top shelf, I first came across the old trans-Atlantic literary titan in a humanities elective at uni and was taken with his gift even after arriving from enjoying a few recreationals in the Students' Club.

But there's one TS Eliot work I know my friend adores that makes me a little uneasy. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, a whimsical collection of poems about all matters feline.

Nothing wrong with the writing, just the subject matter. Cats.

My friend adores cats.

You are, I think, either a cat person or not. There's no in between. I don't wish cats ill and I don't think any less of a person because they have a cat companion.

Cats have never been my cup of tea. My first contact with a cat was something that was supposed to belong to my sister Corby, a creature called Blinky.

She was christened Blinky because she blinked a lot, which should have been a dead giveaway for the thing not being all there. Her contribution to the McInnes household was basically her sitting on the steps and then swiping at you with her claws as you walked by or leaping on your back.

Although Blinky's kitten Barney wasn't bad. This I put down to him actually behaving more like dog than a cat. This personality peculiarity was attributed by my mother to my father. Mum said Barney didn't behave in a "catty" way after my father accidentally sat on him while taking his seat at the dinner table. He became a lovely animal.

It was a toss-up who made more noise, my Old Man or poor old Barney.

And then there was a flatmate of mine who had a great slug of a cat called Rangoon who was a part of the new housemate test. I was desperate for a place to stay and tried to bung on an act of loving cats.

"Cuddle him if you want," said Rangoon's owner.

I did my best and held Rangoon, then chanced my hand and tried to pat the thing. I don't hold it against Rangoon, maybe I held him in the wrong place because he let out a weird moaning noise and then ejected goodness knows what from his back end all over me.

"Rangers likes you, he's given you the Old Spice treatment," was the verdict and I was allowed to stay, so me and Rangoon cohabited until I found another feline-free place to reside, safe from the Old Spice treatment.

Around the dinner table my friend saw me move in my chair.

"You know the only thing that worries me is how I'm going to have to leave Gough and Cleo," she said.

Gough and Cleo were her two cats.

"I almost can't bear them being in a cattery," she sighed. "If only there was a friend who could help," and she smiled at me.

I looked back. She was a good friend. She looked at me. It took a long time but I said, "I don't like cats. I like you but I don't like cats."

My friend stared back and burst into laughter. "I know you don't, you boofhead. My sister's looking after Gough and Cleo. The look on your face"

And she did send a photo of Orwell's and Dickens homes. And Eliot's as well.

And in every photo, she was holding a cat.

William McInnes is an actor and author

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