Tell us a tiny bit about yourself and a whole lot about the mog that used to share your life.
I used to be a psychotherapist and I now write psychological thrillers. I’m fascinated by secrets, lies and, rather like any self-respecting cat, I’m curious about locks, keys, closed doors and anything that’s hidden under floorboards. Tigsey came into my life in 2002, before that I’d only had a passing acquaintance with moggies.
Have you always had cats or are you a late convert to the Church of Mog?
Definitely a late convert. We had dogs when I was born and right through my upbringing. Big dogs – German Shepherds, so I’ve never been afraid of them. Our rabbit used to chase next-door’s cat (!), but that’s all I saw of it.
How did your cat procure you?
I was living as a lodger in a very posh house in Putney, London, and the neighbours had two cats. One had already absconded to a house at the back (the owners were away a lot and the cats were left all day in the utility room). My husband and I spent time outside on the patio when it was Spring and, very tentatively at first, Tigsey, came to say hello. One day, he made his way into our first-floor flat by the fire-escape. He looked very hungry and my husband rushed down the road for food. Not knowing what to get, he came back with a tin of prime M&S salmon! Tigsey wolfed it down, then made himself comfy in an armchair. After that, he came in every day, food or not. The neighbours decided to leave the area soon afterwards and we were frantic that they’d take Tigsey with them. It was a bit cheeky, really, but I wrote them a letter asking if we could keep him. It was obvious that they didn’t have much time for Tigs. They agreed and we were over the moon!
What features did you like most about him?
Everyone used to say how regal and majestic Tigsey was – he really was handsome. He came to us when he was seven until we had to say goodbye to him at the ripe old age of 20, last year. Every day I was at home working on my books (which was full-time after a year or two), he’d be by my side. Sometimes he’d sit on my lap as I typed, sometimes behind my chair or on the window ledge, but always around. He wasn’t much of an explorer (we were glad, as we lived on a main road) – instead, a very homely chap. Like all cats, he had his own unique personality: shy with strangers, chatty whenever he came in through the cat flap, grouchy about being picked up, but on my knee in a flash as soon as I sat down to watch TV!
Do you have a special divert and distract method to keep your feline from bothering you while you’re writing? Or does your cat leave you alone while you are typing away?
He didn’t fuss when I was working. He used to plonk himself right on my lap, squashed between my knees and the desk and he’d stay that way for hours. From time to time he’d hook his paw around my arm to make me stop typing and rub his chin.
Have you ever featured one of your cats or a cat in general as a protagonist in one of your stories?
I wrote a feature for ‘Your Cat’ magazine about his dastardly behaviour, once. Read on to find out more!
Most disgusting gift/surprise you ever received from your cat?
Soon after we moved to Southampton in 2003, there was an infestation of rats in the house next door. The woman was poisoning them (urgh!) and they were then making their way, half dead, into our garden. Tigsey was immensely pleased with himself when he managed to get hold of them. I was terrified he would be affected by the poison, but they kept on coming through the fence. Luckily, because they were so huge, sticking out of his mouth, Tigsey couldn’t bring them inside through the cat flap. Except the one time… (see below)
What’s the biggest catastrophe a mog has ever caused in your household?
When I was still doing psychotherapy, I was seeing patients at home and unbeknown to me, Tigsey must have left a baby rat in the room I used. I always kept Tigsey away from patients because it could cause complications (allergies, fears etc), so he was never in the room with us. Half way through the session I heard a scrabbling sound under my chair. At this point my patient was very upset and shaking, suffering from PTSD from a recent road accident. The last thing she wanted was to see a rat idly padding across the carpet. Besides – as a health and safety issue – I could have been struck off.
I can tell you, it was the longest, most strained twenty minutes of my life. I was begging the rat to stay put under my seat. I didn’t know whether to sit perfectly still (would it venture out, thinking the coast was clear?) or to shuffle around a little (would it be disturbed by the noise and scuttle across the room?). All the while, I was trying to stay engaged with my patient; talking her through hyperventilation techniques – ones she might have needed to call upon sooner than she expected.
My inner pleas were answered and after the hour was over, my patient left, oblivious to the situation. I pulled out my chair and sure enough a lively baby rat darted across the floor. I shut the door and rang for humane pest-control to come as soon as possible, because my next patient was due in an hour. I went to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face and on my way, I passed Tigsey curled up on the bed. He opened one eye as if to say, ‘You found it, then?’