Tell us a tiny bit about yourself and a whole lot about the mog(ies) that share your current and/or past life.
Hi, I’m Viv, writing short stories and articles as Vivien Hampshire and novels as Vivien Brown. I have two cats – Pixie and Dixie – aged three and a half, and from the same litter. They are rescue cats, found abandoned as kittens, and I got them through Cats Protection. Choosing which two to take home from the litter of four was very, very hard! Pixie (the little girl) is rather a nervous cat, always hiding under the sofa if a stranger comes in, while Dixie (my supposedly tough boy cat) will roll onto his back for a tickle from just about anyone. They have always been very affectionate with each other, grooming and licking, and as kittens they curled up together to sleep for as long as their shared basket allowed and they got too big. Even now, they take turns in various cat beds and other sleeping places around the house, with no ‘That’s mine!’ attitude at all. Pixie is the one who defends their territory, seeing off any feline invaders in the garden – and has been known to kill pigeons, and even a squirrel, given the chance. My grown-up daughter also has two cats – Lola and Loki – and I just had to include a photo here of Lola hiding in the washing machine!
Have you always had cats or are you a late convert to the Church of Mog?
There was always a cat around while I was growing up. The first was a tabby called Kitty who was part of the family before I was, followed by a big fat white and black stray called Dollop who adopted us, and another called (Little Orphan) Annie who my mum took in when she had been found left alone in a vacated council house. As soon as I had my own home, I had more cats, preferring to have two at a time for company while I was at work – Mork and Mindy who came from a Somerset farm, then Buster and Mo, both rescue cats. All lived to a good age, with Mo almost twenty when she died – but sadly none of them just went peacefully in their sleep, and there was always that awful final visit to the vets with all of them, and it’s always so very hard to hold that little paw and say goodbye.
How did your cats procure you?
Big pleading eyes and ‘Pick me!’ faces.
What features do you like most about your current cat(s) or cat(s) that accompanied you through your life?
I love a cat that curls up on my lap and purrs, but many of mine have just not been that kind of cat. I think the fact that most were rescued meant they had sad histories and memories of mistreatment and found it hard to give 100% trust. Luckily my Dixie is one of the most loving cats ever! And Pixie’s markings always attract attention as she has a partly Oriental look about her – and looks a bit like she is wearing a bandit mask across her eyes!
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?
Dixie often jumps up, purring loudly, and tries to sit on my lap as I write, but that does not really offer enough space while I am close to the desk. I think he is just trying to say Hello, and he never walks across the desk or keyboard. Usually I turn him upside down as if I am holding a baby in my arms, and a quick tickle/kiss/cuddle will satisfy him before I move him to the more comfy armchair beside me, where he will happily go to sleep. As my goldfish Mandy also lives in my study, I have to make sure Dixie is evicted and the door closed behind us when I have finished as he does show an unhealthy interest in its movements.
Have you ever featured one of your cats or a cat in general as a protagonist in one of your stories?
I have included cats in so many short stories for women’s magazines – often becoming friends to lonely characters or to children, and many of them either rescued or found, their presence leading in some way to happiness or romance for their humans. I contributed a couple of poems about cats to an anthology called ‘Cat Lines’ too, for a charity raising funds to help with feeding and medical costs for all the strays on the island of Fuerteventura.
My novel ‘Lily Alone’ features an elderly lady called Agnes and her old cat Smudge. They have moved from the peaceful countryside to all the noise and traffic surrounding a London flat, and one of her biggest regrets is what she has done to the cat, taking him away from his big garden and his freedom to roam safely and at will. In reality, Smudge is old and slow enough now to be happy just snuggled up at home, but his natural friendliness and curiosity mean that he does come very much into his own as a bit of an accidental hero later in the book.
Most disgusting gift/surprise you ever received from your cat?
A frog in my shoe was not altogether welcome!
What’s the biggest catastrophe a mog has ever caused in your household?
I can remember years ago we all went on a family holiday, putting the cat in kennels. When we came home after two weeks, armies of fleas who had had nothing to live on for so long, leapt out of the carpet and all over our legs the moment we came in the door. Ugh! And there was the time my mum’s cat Annie decided to climb right up the living room curtains, not only ripping the cloth but bringing the rail down too! Somehow, it’s impossible to be angry with a cat for long though, isn’t it?