Monday, 26 September 2011

Apologies to Leo

Leo is our neutered tom cat and he is more like a combination of something out of the Wizard of Oz and Jonesy in Dad’s Army – don’t panic, don’t panic. He is the lion who needs a dose of bravery and even the vet in Johannesburg called him a Dorothy. Big and little things alike seriously faze him out and he exudes a lack of confidence which merely works against him. Even the guinea fowl have sensed this and there have been terrible scenes in which Leo comes flying in through the kitchen window, eyes wide and tail bushed out with half a dozen noisy spotted birds in hot pursuit. They seem to chase him just for the shear amusement of watching the reaction.
Like the time when we got him and his mother out of six-months worth of quarantine and brought them back to farm. Leo took one look at Labrador Oscar and decided the dog was going eat him. The cat disappeared up the chimney. We coaxed him out but he was still not having any of the dog and I never thought it possible that a cat could spend a whole week living on top of the fridge. But then amazingly he suddenly decided that he was not a ready Lab meal and Leo came down to resume a relatively normal live at the farm. But the operative word is relative.
The thing is Leo also has a very odd relationship with food. He actually doesn’t know what it is. Put any range of tasty morsels in front of him and he merely sits there looking vaguely offended and confused. He only eats dry cat pellets. But he does this with alacrity at least twenty times a day and purring loudly in the process. This of course means that the bowl has to be constantly replenished and if for whatever reason we forget to do this – immediately – twenty times a day – Leo will witter and perform, dashing and darting under our feet in a manner guaranteed to cause a frightful accident and someone to nearly break their neck.
It was recently during his many visits to his peanut bowl at two in the morning that I noticed he had started talking to his food. “That cat seriously needs counselling”, I remember thinking but being snugly tucked up in bed, I didn’t go and investigate. Until three night ago. Being restless, I decided to present myself at his side and what a bloody shock. There was Leo sitting in front of his bowl which had been invaded by giant slugs. These things were so huge I could actually hear them crunching and scrapping at the cat’s peanuts. And not only were they in his bowl, there was a whole load of them having a party on the work surface. No one will believe me or the cat, I decided. So I went to fetch a camera.

After preserving them digitally, I then had this great idea. I recall reading that one fool proof way of catching garden snails is to leave out a bowl of beer. The story goes that they find the smell of lager irresistible and climb in only to drown – very happily. So there I am in the early hours of the morning, in my bare feet, pouring the giant slugs a Bittberger and wondering if they would prefer an Amstel.
We do say that at Scotland Farm the inmates run the asylum but I formally offer Leo an apology. He is not barking mad talking to his food. He was telling these revolting pushy things to sod off out of his beloved cat peanuts.
The beer lark failed miserably so the next night I exacted my revenge and went into the utility room armed with the salt sellar. No more slugs. Odd though, Leo still talks to his food….

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