Magazine article The Spectator

Let's Hear It for the Python That Had the Civic Good Sense to Eat Wilbur the Cat

Magazine article The Spectator

Let's Hear It for the Python That Had the Civic Good Sense to Eat Wilbur the Cat

Article excerpt

Rod Liddle takes issue with Wilbur's grieving owners who want a change in the law to impose restrictions upon creatures such as snakes. What we really need is a new citizen's right to defend ourselves against the feline menace

It's been a grim summer for news, all things considered, what with Afghanistan and flying pig flu and the rain and now Harriet Harman squatting over us all like one of those terrifying smallpox deities the Hindus have. So I thought I'd share with you a story which, in the midst of this gloom, cheered me up enormously. It is the story of a little ginger and white pussycat called Wilbur, who lived in Bristol with his owners, Martin and Helen Wadey. Martin and Helen loved Wilbur a lot. His purr was, according to Martin, 'like a dynamo'. He was the family pet and suitably adored.

Anyway, one day Wilbur set off in pursuit of that familiar and engaging leisure option for our millions of domesticated cats - killing wildlife in a neighbour's garden and then taking a massive dump in the middle of the lawn. Off he went on his pitter-patter little paws, over the fence, across the flower bed (pausing briefly to urinate on a rose bush) to check out what creatures he might harry to death - look, over there, a vole scampering with fright beneath the hedge! Or that fledgling mistle thrush obliviously looking for its mum. Wilbur thought about it for a moment, then devised a plan of action: start with the thrushling, then have a dump just by the patio and finish up spending a bit of time tracking down the vole - worth the effort because they're endangered, apparently. But then Wilbur caught a first whiff of something quite unexpected; a rich, exotic, luxuriant smell he did not recognise - beguiling and yet somehow carrying a sleek, sinuous, harbinger of danger. What the hell is that, Wilbur wondered to himself, in those last few seconds before he was eaten by the python. Wildlife 1, Pussycat 0.

Not just eaten, mind, but - according to the press reports - 'crushed, asphyxiated and consumed whole'. I don't know what the Daily Telegraph would have preferred the python to do - maybe stun Wilbur humanely with some sort of electrical device before flambeing his liver for a light supper, accompanied by a glass of Chablis. Whatever, Martin and Helen heard 'blood-chilling cries' emanating from their neighbour's garden and immediately suspected that it was Wilbur. They were right!

The RSPCA turned up and with some piece of hi-tech equipment detected the cat's ID chip inside the python's bulging stomach and the faintest, defeated, plaintive miaow.

Laugh? At this point of the story I was paralytic with mirth and jubilation - but then I read on and a familiar irritation began to settle on my shoulders.

First, the Wadeys' bizarre and unjust reaction in complaining about such an outcome.

Like all cat owners they seem utterly without any notion of responsibility, either to their neighbours or indeed to the wildlife which surrounds them. Some 80 million wild birds and animals are killed by domesticated cats each year and this may well account at least partly for the rapid decline of some of our garden songbirds - the thrush, the dunnock, the starling, the house sparrow. Not to mention the water vole. …

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