I have the day off work today so I can pack stuff. I'm moving house very very soon and so far have managed to pack exactly fuck all.
I was going to get up early and get stuck in. I woke up at 10, naturally. But I did have a bit of a bound out of bed. A day off work, nice weather, things to do, life's pretty good. And then I saw it. My back door wide open. Now, I have to emphasise that even if I didn't have a neurotic, mental cat to look after I am anal about locking up. I have no idea what happened. I can only assume I was so hypnotised by The Great British Bake Off last night that I neglected all my normal actions and happily went to bed having left the door slightly ajar.
And that's all it took for my fat cat to disappear.
Immediately I couldn't breathe very well and I started to cry. This is basically up there with nuclear war and my mum dying as my worst nightmare. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Not even a bit. Outside of my mum and a few close friends, he is the most important thing in my life.
I know that people don't get this love that people have for their pets. And I know to some, cats are just cats, easy come, easy go. I'm sure many people would think my reaction excessive and hysterical. But this cat means the world to me. The round one has been with me for about seven years now and I love him. But more than that, when I rescued him from Cats Protection I undertook to look after him the best way I can for the rest of his life. And I had failed him. Massively.
Hysterical thoughts were flashing into my mind. That I would never see him again. That he would be killed. That he would starve. That I would have to cancel my move because obviously I can't leave the area now. That he would be so very, very afraid. He has no street smarts, no instincts. He's a cat imbecile and he wouldn't survive alone out there. Plenty of cats can and do, but Fatty's basically special needs. He's never even been outside before. Ever.
A quick scan of my backyard failed to reveal a mass of quaking fat covered in fur and I had to face the fact that he'd actually left the confines of safety and was out in the big wide world, scared, alone and - knowing him - hungry.
I ran round the streets for a while, heaving and sobbing, and drawing anxious glances from neighbours I've never even seen before. I called my friend and she joined the search. I called my expert cat friend who started co-ordinating vets and people and Cats Protection from far and wide.
All the while I was fighting a tiny kernel of admiration that Fatty a) was brave enough to go outside and b) had found the athleticism under his warm blanket of flab to scale the walls in my back yard. I genuinely didn't think he had in him.
On approximately the 17th walk down the alley way behind my house calling his name, I heard him. Or at least I heard a cat. But I know my Fatman's voice, and that was it. So I got my ladders and I climbed over the wall of the house four doors down and I broke into their shed. They weren't in, I hasten to add, or I would obviously have just knocked on the door.
A round, dusty face peered at me from the rafters of their knackered shed. He was squeezed into a tiny space. My friend returned from her mission of photocopying his details and photograph (her practical and helpful idea, I was far more about smoking fags and crying) and joined me. She brought some of his favourite treats and I tempted him with those. Until I realised that I was just standing in someone else's back yard feeding my cat. And if I carried on doing that, he'd never leave his new lookout. He was frightened but he's also stubborn. I moved some of the rickety tiles from above his head to see if he'd come out that way. But he just stuck his head out like a meerkat king surveying the world. He was bloody enjoying himself. The rat bastard.
Eventually my friend, being just ace, grabbed him, we transferred him to his cat basket and here he is. Back at home. Dusty and hungry. But absolutely fine. And safe.
I am never speaking to him again. Ever.