“I think I’ll fit a magnetic cat flap for Trixie” said granddad Peter, “It will make it easier for her to get in and out.”
Trixie is a family pet, a tortoiseshell female who has got the lot of us at her beck and call. Like most cats she knows that she owns us, we are her servants. If she wants to be fed, she sits by the cupboard housing her packets of food and intently stares at the nearest human. She might not speak, but the meaning is clear. Ignore her at your peril, as she will wrap herself around your legs, nearly tripping you up, just to reinforce the request.
If she wishes to come inside, she will either wildly leap onto the kitchen window sill, causing whoever is doing the washing up to come close to having a heart attack or dropping a few dinner plates, or, she will throw herself at the back door and, as she slides down, her sharp claws will tear out deep gouges in the wood; visitors must think we’ve got a colony of hungry werewolves hiding in the Wendy house. When she wants to go out, she sits by the door, trying to catch the eye of any passing human. If no one obliges, she meows, winding up the vocals into an ear piercing crescendo any opera singer would have been proud of.
We’ve tried simple cat flaps before, but neighbouring felines cottoned onto them before Trixie did, and whilst she was hanging off the letter-box on the front door at dinner time, they’d nipped in though the flap and gobbled her food. A slug with a liking for meat also joined the thieving mob, leaving a silver trail from the back door to the dish, and an even wider silver trail on the return journey.
A magnetic door seemed to be the perfect answer. No other cat could get through; access would only be granted to Trixie when she was wearing her special magnet. So granddad Pete fitted the flap – we all stood back and admired it. Except Trixie. She was having none of this strange thing.
The first obstacle was a collar. We’d given up putting elasticised ones on her as she constantly returned home without them. Local children told us that a nearby hedge was sporting a number of colourful decorations hooked over the branches. She angrily fought against a new collar, even more so with its attachment. On day one, she hobbled home on three legs, the fourth trapped in the unyielding bit of material she had tried to hook off and dump.
Having been sorted out, and back on four legs, she continued to bypass the obvious aperture and carried on throwing herself up onto the back door, extracting more slivers of wood as she slid down. She disdainfully ignored our pleas to use the cat flap, turning her nose up at tasty morsels offered to her through the space; instead she walked away and started swinging off the letter-box on the front door. To back up her demands, she let out a few annoyed ‘meows’ through that flap.
We tried propping open the cat flap door, which she ignored, although all the other cats, plus the slug, couldn’t refuse this invitation. We laid a trail of inviting tid-bits up the garden path to the door and placed a few of the nibbles invitingly into the base of the flap. Trixie greatly enjoying this extra snacking, but craftily hooked out the strategically placed last few, ate them and walked away with the superior air only a cat can give when it has outwitted ‘these stupid humans.’
Advice from experienced cat owning friends such as, “Push the cat through once and it is intelligent enough to work things out for itself after that,” proved bloodied (ours) and unsuccessful. Using feline vocabulary that could easily be interpreted as fighting talk, Trixie noisily and angrily, fought against all of our efforts to get her through the hole. She held herself rigid, legs stuck out at right angles. Had the cat flap been letter-box shaped, success would have been in our hands. But she bit and scratched until we hadn’t got enough plaster to go round all our mutilated fingers.
We decided not to push the issue, hoping that in time she would accept the situation and simply start to use the cat flap. So we just carried on watching our doors being systematically shaved away, and the pile of broken crockery increasing.
Then we found out that the magnet, being a typical magnet, was attracted to anything metal. On one of her first days out Trixie returned with two screws and a nail attached to it. We are hoping that she might progress up to bigger and better things, say, a bicycle or two. The magnet is quite powerful, she has learnt that it is unwise to walk too close to the washing machine, as the magnet clunks onto the metal and she has had stand-off fights to pull herself free. The legs of the patio table no longer have any fascination for her to rub against to scent mark. After a few unwelcome sticky moments she wisely changed her affections to the more cat friendly, far less adhesive, garden hose.
Finally, with some edible persuasion, she finally agreed that she would go through the ‘out’ position of the cat flap, but coming in. No chance.
Accepted by “Your Cat” magazine. Dec.2011
This article was one of six submitted to Eastbourne DGH radio station by members of Anderida Writers Eastbourne. They were then recorded by professional voice actors and played to patients.