Nine out of 10 cats prefer me - By PAUL MCKAY.jpg

Nine out of 10 cats prefer me – By PAUL MCKAY

Saturday, September 9

August ended and September began somewhat dramatically with the arrival of a new house guest. It was pitch black outside, around 10pm, when both dogs charged out of the house and across the terrace. This was immediately followed by a high-pitched squeal, eerily echoing down the valley. I finally arrived at the terrace, expecting to see a butchered mongoose and was surprised to see a tiny bundle of honey coloured fur with a miniscule tail wagging vigorously.

As I picked up the bright-eyed puppy, it instantly let out another high pitched squeal, calling for its mother. A few gentle words and a little stroking stopped the squealing and we made our way back to the house.

The decision to take her to the rescue centre was abandoned within the hour and the following day saw us heading for the vets to have Hattie checked out. We spent the rest of the week being entertained by her naughty puppy antics and lamenting at the sort of people who could abandon a puppy to fend for itself. Both Portuguese and foreigners were agreed on the unacceptability of such behaviour. An interesting cultural difference was how many Portuguese neighbours referred to her as a “present”.

Monday, September 11

All is going OK in the horticulture department and we are still picking a wide variety of summer vegetables. The tomato glut is being sun-dried, the lingering hot weather drying them in one day. We have purchased a blood orange tree and a mulberry tree for planting as soon as the winter rains arrive. I have also taken cuttings from Lantana and Oleander, which are growing quite impressively and intend to plant a few hedges as soon as the rain arrives. I am hoping to get them established so that they will survive with minimal watering during the summer months.

Tuesday, September 12

Just had a look at the calendar and noticed ‘Whisky and black pudding’ scrawled down for next Saturday. This can only mean one thing – Martyn is off to Wales to visit family. This will give me an opportunity to sort out all the dross he has been holding onto, including about 64 odd socks, which he stockpiles in anticipation of their mates turning up “any day now”. From where he expects them to emerge I do not know. What I do know, is that every time he does a home-visit, I bin another 50 and the whole process begins again.  

Thursday, September 14

A neighbour has claimed Hattie as his. Apparently, a young pup of theirs went missing around the same time as Hattie arrived at our house. Another neighbour has been mediating and telling me stories of their eight-year-old son, who has not stopped crying since the day the puppy disappeared. This afternoon we took Hattie up to their farm and were greeted by three generations on the front porch. Hattie’s mother emerged from a pile of straw and greeted her long lost daughter frantically and the little boy burst into tears as he picked her up and cuddled her. The gratitude and happiness of the family did a lot to sweeten the bitterness of having to let the pup go.

Tuesday, September 19

Martyn has returned from a fleeting UK visit with a suitcase full of goodies. First out was an MP3 player (broken). Next came a portable CD player (skips and jumps). Numerous squeaky toys were extracted from the case by the dogs (all now destroyed). Tea bags followed, along with 30 new pairs of socks.

Friday, September 21

Eggs, our non-pregnant pig, is becoming somewhat of a liability. She gave us a healthy litter last year, but has been quite unproductive ever since. The last insemination was unsuccessful, evident by her amorous behaviour during the last few days as she has come into season again.

Her seasons can not be easily ignored on account of her grunting raucously and excessively, refusing to eat and soliciting for immoral purposes in the most indecent fashion. This can range from head butting and mounting any male of any species, to standing firmly in front of a nervous pig-keeper and reversing at an alarming speed.

As our insemination skills do not seem to be up to scratch, we will be having our local pig vet visit and do the deed for us. On her last visit she was somewhat amused by my scant knowledge of a sow’s anatomy and will be appalled to learn it has improved very little.

Sunday, September 24

The autumn rains have thundered down in Monchique, turning the summer dust into a slippery mud bath. In a few days we will witness the arrival of the green winter carpet and normal life will resume. The pig’s self-build mud bath is now occupied by an army of frogs, who appear to be very adept at leaping out of the way whenever Eggs takes an afternoon dip.  

One downside to the arrival of the rain was a few kilos of animal feed being ruined as the lid had been left off the containers. The all-consuming, putrid smell of rancid grain has to be experienced to be believed. We heaved the containers into the back of the pick-up and emptied them straight into a municipal bin. Regrettably the odour lingered and, as we trundled through Monchique, heads turned, young children gagged and numerous people checked the underside of their shoes.

Friday, September 29

A neighbour has been on holiday for a week or so now and left us with detailed instructions on how to feed his pampered pussy cats. One elderly, grumpy tabby (born 16 years ago in my bay tree) needs her Whiskas (she eats nothing else) mixed with water and mashed with a fork. Another timid feline has to have her food taken to whichever cupboard she is cowering on, and gently encouraged to eat, she is terrified of a violent stray. Well, I like animals as much as the next person, but come on.

On day one I realised the violent stray causing most of the problems was in fact my cat – a quick slap cured that. On day two it became apparent that nine out of 10 cats that live in the immediate neighbourhood all arrive for the Whiskas feast as regular as clockwork, resulting in an astronomical, as well as gastronomic, food bill (two of these cats were mine). On day three I noticed ‘Grumpy Tabby’ eating perfectly ordinary cat food at another neighbour’s house, before taking a leisurely stroll in for the ‘care home’ product I was tenderly preparing. Five days of my erratic pet-sitting has resulted in a startling change in the dynamics – all cats now seem to eat anything, anywhere, alongside any other cat – another job well done.

Saturday, September 30

Martyn has just emerged from the bedroom asking what happened to all the odd socks. I told him how I’d found their partners and put them in the sock draw. He wandered off muttering something about something not making sense.

Paul McKay can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]