Help! My cat doesn’t give a monkey’s

VG Lee adores her darling Tommy Thomson – even though he’s battle-scarred and blind. So why on Earth doesn’t he pay her the slightest bit of attention?
Where is Tommy Thomson? This is my refrain each time I come home and my handsome elder feline statesman is not waiting on the bench in my front garden or sitting next to his empty plate in the kitchen.

TT is a veteran of many battles, adopted several years ago when he was already middle aged. He is not a lap cat. He is a ‘butting the top of his head against any part of my anatomy’ cat, responding to a low-pitched, ‘Mr Tommy – my boy!’ or a jaunty whistle.

When TT first arrived he had deep scarring around his eyes. At first his sight seemed okay, but over a very few months recently it deteriorated and he is now blind. It was heartbreaking watching a cat who had always been confident and sure-footed patting the ground in front of him enquiringly, as if fearful that he might be stepping into a void. He is at least now able to find his way from the back garden, over a wall, onto next door’s conservatory roof and along another wall, to arrive in the front garden and his favourite bench – but still I worry.

The other evening, I’d worked late on the final draft of my novel. I was tired and ready for bed. Lettuce, cat number two, was ensconced on my duvet, cheerily giving herself an allover wash. She is predominantly white with black ears and a pretty pink nose – the sort of sweetheart you might imagine spends her day looking and being adorable. This is not so. Lettuce is a small bundle of fury. She hates cats, dogs, birds – sometimes I feel she’s not that fond of me!

Deirdre has suggested that Lettuce might be stressed. ‘We women are under the male cosh.’ (Since Ted has moved his allegiance to Allotment Alma, Deirdre has temporarily become disenchanted with the entire male population.)

‘But Deirdre, Lettuce is a cat. She isn’t under any cosh. The only time she ever purrs is when contemplating an attack.’

‘Tommy Thomson is an alpha male.’

‘He wouldn’t hurt a fly.’

‘He took a chunk out of Big Roger’s poodle.’ (Big Roger is our local dog walker.)

‘The chunk grew back.’

Returning to me being ready for bed, I opened my front door and called for Tommy. No sign of him. Several more times I called, shook biscuit box, made a particular kissing sound, which TT rather enjoys.

At about 1am, in response to my, ‘Tommy darling, where the devil are you?’ someone shouted, ‘For crying out loud, give it a rest. He doesn’t bloody well want to come in.’

The next morning, as soon as I heard Ted on the move (our walls are paper thin), I telephoned.

‘Ted, can you check your loft room for Tommy Thomson, please.’

Ted’s loft room is a favourite spot for the local cats to take an uninterrupted snooze, as he rarely visits it except to store newspapers for his winter hobby of papier mâché.

A few moments later Ted returned.

‘The ceiling’s damp all around my dormer window. Have you got the number of a reliable builder?’

‘Yes, but did you see any sign of Tommy Thomson?’

I hear Ted plodding back up two flights of stairs and then plodding back down again. ‘He’s not up there.’

With biscuit box, I traversed my street. On advice of tattooed man in vest, I traversed distant unlikely streets, as apparently his lost cat turned up halfway to Lewisham.

Returned home despondent. Deirdre called in to cheer me up, bringing with her an approximation of Mary Berry’s orange layer cake. I would not have enjoyed this even if Tommy hadn’t been missing as it had a soggy bottom and the layers were not clearly defined in approved Mary Berry fashion.

Ted, who can scent cake at a distance of two miles, appeared on the pretext of enquiring after the missing cat. He ate several wedges, looking at Deirdre in a more appreciative manner than he has since Allotment Alma came into his life with her exotic vegetables, and steakand- ale pies.

I was having an uncharitable thought that Ted was totally absorbed in food and himself, when he surprisingly squeezed my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t worry. He’ll come back. He always has done in the past.’

‘But he was never blind before.’ I wiped my eyes with a square of paper towel roll.

Ted and Deirdre exchanged looks. Ted said, ‘That cat knows when he’s on to a good thing.’

‘Mark his words,’ Deirdre said.

‘More cake, Ted?’

Evening arrived. Lettuce was in high spirits imagining that she was now in sole ownership of the sofa and food bowls. She curled up next to me and narrowed her eyes in friendly fashion. Suddenly she began to purr. Her ears flattened as she turned to face the catflap.

I couldn’t believe it.

Lettuce could believe it.

Tommy Thomson had come back!

Lettuce leapt off the sofa and rushed across the room to head him off. She went in low and lunged for his neck. Tommy snarled and batted her away. I yelled, ‘Lettuce, no!’ Adjusted my voice to pleased and welcoming, ‘Tommy, dinner?’

Later that evening, Tommy stretched out on the coffee table, which is normally frowned upon.

Lettuce gave me a meaningful glance, which seemed to say, ‘Aren’t you going to tell him off?’

‘No Lettuce, I’m not. In this house, Tommy Thomson is king!’