Magazine article The Spectator

Cat Wars

Magazine article The Spectator

Cat Wars

Article excerpt

Low life Cat wars Jeremy Clarke

For his birthday, I got my landlord a carrier-bag full of lion dung. I'd heard a programme on Radio Four about how to keep cats out of your garden. This chap was so fed up with cats using his garden as a latrine he'd sought help. Like my landlord, he would ideally have liked to catch his neighbours' cats in gin-traps and then suspend them by their necks from his washing-line as a deterrent to others. But the radio people got a spokesman from the Cats' Protection League on to suggest some humane deterrents, all of which he tried for a week.

In his heart the Cats' Protection League man was against deterring cats from doing anything. But he reluctantly conceded that there were a few unimaginative souls who abhorred cats. At the end of a week's trial, the most successful of his largely futile suggestions was to spread lion dung in the garden. The zoo keeper from whom I obtained the stuff said that since the radio programme he'd been inundated with orders. He couldn't say whether it frightened cats or not, but he said it did wonders for roses.

My landlord isn't a keen gardener or anything; he hates cats on principle. It's an obsession with him. We have a simple choice, he says. We can have cats in the garden or we can have wildlife. What chance do our song-birds have, he says with mounting anger, with 7 million cats in the country? The noun 'cat' is always suffixed by an obscenity, the only time he ever swears. Finding yet another dollop of cats' faeces adorning the lawn, however, renders him temporarily incapable of the power of speech: rhetorical, profane or otherwise. When he can speak again, he sometimes invites me outside to inspect it and comment on the volume. Which admittedly can be surprisingly prodigious.

Since moving to the town from the country, I admit I have been staggered by the sheer number of cats knocking about and their insouciance. They act as if they own the place. I don't see them, as my landlord does, as an axis of evil, but I keenly support his low-intensity war against them. His last humane deterrent was an elaborate mesh of fishing-line stretched tautly between pegs in the front garden. I helped knock in the pegs. The only victims of this so far, however, have been the landlord and myself on Jubilee night. Previous ineffective humane deterrents have included plastic bags tied to the shrubs, plastic windmills and pepper. …

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