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The trouble with ginger cats...
Story and illustrations by Nelan Womack

Once upon a time there was an English lady who lived in- Moscow. She was a bit batty, if you know what I mean. She was always having bad hair days and she ate too much cake. And she had a terrible weakness for ginger cats.

Her first ginger cat had been called Minky. Well he wasn’t really ginger, more an apricot colour, if you know what I mean. As a kitten, he had been awfully cute. He used to stand up on his hind legs and beg for slices of ham.

But when he grew up, all he wanted to do was go out. He stood by the door and howled, “Let me out.”

The English lady was desperate to keep him. She tempted him with all sorts of treats. She fed him on best steak and turkey. Imagine that!

Minky got disgustingly fat but he still wanted to go out. Determined to keep him, the old bat even gave him crumbs of her chocolate cake but he didn’t say thank you. He just stood by the door with his back to her and howled, “Let me out.”

And one day, when the door was open a crack and she was not looking, he slipped out. Indeed he did; out he went.The batty lady was very upset. She cried for a week. All the neighbours noticed.

Next door, there lived a cheerful young lad called Vova.

“If you ask me,” said Vova, “ginger cats are nothing but trouble.” But his ginger cat had just had kittens, so he gave her one to make her feel better. The lady called the new kitten Scooter because he was always scooting about.

Scooter was a real gingery ginger, if you know what I mean. He was a jumping sort of cat. He ran up the curtains and jumped down again, making everybody laugh. But the most amazing thing was that he loved water.

When the lady took her bath, he walked round the edge, sniffing the scented steam. He put his paw into the warm bathwater. Perhaps he was hoping to catch a fish.

Because of this, the batty lady called Scooter her “aquatic cat” and of course, she was desperate to keep him.

But Scooter was having none of that. Before he even grew up, he jumped out of the window and ran away. It was spring time and he had ideas of his own.

Now the batty lady was really upset. She cried for a fortnight. All the neighbours noticed. “I told you ginger cats were nothing but trouble,” said Vova. Unfortunately, he did not have another ginger kitten to give her.

After two weeks, the English lady dried her eyes and decided to be brave. She would try to live without a cat from now on, she decided. To cheer herself up, she bought a cushion for the sofa in the shape of a tiger. She went to the hairdresser and had her hair done, which made her feel better. And she bought a healthy cake with strawberry yoghurt topping instead of real cream.

But life was not the same without a cat. It was like life without real cakes, dull and sad, if you know what I mean.

Then things got seriously bad. One night, the lady couldn’t sleep. She got out of bed to go and fetch a glass of water. In the kitchen, she saw a rat. There! Bold as brass, running across the floor from the cupboard to the fridge.

She would have to do something about that, she thought.

“Try poison,” said one neighbour.

“Try putting broken glass down on the floor,” said another helpfully. “The rat will cut its little feet.”

“Broken glass, indeed,” thought the lady. She might be batty but she was not completely bonkers.

The only answer was to get another cat.

And it was at this moment that a little black kitten magically appeared in her life. He was all black, black as the ace of spades, if you know what I mean. She called him Blackjack or Jack for short and she felt he would be lucky.

When he was tiny, he was awfully cute. He would chase balls of wool or playfully jump out at her from under the bed. She called him her “dancing panther” and of course she hoped to keep him.

But with Jack, things would be different, she decided. If he really wanted to be free, she would not stop him. She deliberately left the door open for him but he showed no interest in going out.

“Come on, Jack, let’s go out,” she said one summer day. And she carried him in her arms to the woods. “Look at the birds, look at the flowers,” she said.

But Jack did not seem to care about life outdoors; in fact he howled until she took him home again. It turned out that Jack was a stay-at-home cat. I don’t mean he was boring. On the contrary, he was very bright. Perhaps he had already done his travelling in one of his other lives.

He was a creature of habit, if you know what I mean. He preferred his biscuits fresh and his milk cold; he liked his little routines. Every evening he would pad to the kitchen and make sure there were no rats. Then he would lie down quietly on the bed and guard the lady while she slept.

Early in the morning, he expected his breakfast. He batted her with his paw if she overslept and forgot that. Then through the day he would sleep himself. He slept first on one chair, then on all the others, spreading his sweet dreams through the whole apartment.

When he woke, he would go to the kitchen to see if there was anything tasty in his bowl.

Jack helped the lady with her writing. When she sat at the computer, he jumped up onto her knee and tapped on the keyboard with his paws. And if guests came, he always made sure to welcome them on the doormat and he politely saw them off again when they left.

Then he would check there were no rats under the bath before disappearing into the dark wardrobe to listen to the radio that only cats can hear. Or if the sun was shining, he would stretch out on the red carpet in a patch of sunlight and show off his unusually long paws.

He was very beautiful and very clever. At last the lady felt at ease. She had found the cat that was right for her and it seemed Jack was happy too. He was the true spirit of her home. His purring warmed the flat. And when he was asleep, all curled up on the newly washed laundry, the linen looked like a creamy white page on which Jack was a black full-stop.

....better get a black one!

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