I'm not fond of cats. I have some sort of allergy. I get an itchy neck and a bit wheezy if I visit a house where one lives. But tell that to the half dozen or so neighbourhood cats who treat my outdoors as if it was their own. They come in all colours, sizes and breeds. They snooze on the balcony, stretch out on the sun-drenched tiles on my front doorstep and pad nonchalantly past my kitchen window on a daily basis.
Gareth Morgan was quite right to point out that many cat owners clearly do not contain their pets, oblivious to their whereabouts. I used to spray cat repellent around our exterior steps and outdoor furniture to keep these intruders away. I always thought it strange that it was displayed in the supermarket right next to cat food and cat toys. Technically it should be near the fly spray and mosquito repellent.
But once my animal obsessed daughter was in residence I ceased buying the spray. I turned lemons in lemonade and created a win-win situation. I'll give your cat the freedom of my section if you let my kid play with it. New World was the loser; sales of cat repellent plummeted.
It didn't all go swimmingly though. I was not impressed to discover a cat had vomited and/or defecated on my all-weather outdoor squab upholstered in some Moroccan-inspired Sunbrella fabric. I was almost sick myself as I hosed it down.
One particular neighbourhood cat made an impression on us all. Taz - a little cream- coloured Burmese with a gentle personality, very quiet purr and collar disc with his name etched on it - was a frequent visitor but he usually waited to be invited first. He'd sit on the dividing fence between two properties and we'd often coax him down onto our side.
My daughter grew up with him. She'd throw small rubber balls for him to chase or trail string for him to bat at. Ever patient, Taz would put up with the embarrassment of being wrapped in a blanket and given rides in the tray on the back of her pink tricycle. Sometimes I'd even pat him (he loved a tummy rub) and occasionally we would let him inside the house. There was something about Taz.
The other week I heard the man next door talking to my daughter around teatime. My first thought was that I hoped he wasn't telling her off about something. But, no, it was worse than that. He reported that while we'd been away for the summer holidays Taz had died. Our neighbour didn't give any details but we imagined it might have been a car. Taz would often saunter across the road without a care in the world.
My nine-year-old was really sad. I was gutted too. We had a good old weep to hear of the demise of this lovely puss. It was only after his death that we discovered that Taz, who we'd always referred to as a "he", was in fact a female cat. I don't know why but this made me cry even harder.
I still can't explain exactly what my connection was to this wee cat that played such a small part in our lives. I hardly gave her a second thought but I guess her constant presence had become something we unwittingly treasured. I just might put cat repellent on my shopping list once more. Those other random roaming moggies aren't a patch on Taz.
Are you a cat person? Have you ever formed an attachment with a neighbour's cat - or ended up adopting it? Have you ever invested in cat repellent?