Kitten Please: Part One
I've split the first installment into three pages for aesthetic reasons only.  This will one day be a trilogy, or perhaps something else.  For now, it's an epic short story, with top illustrations from Johnny Mingo.

It’s hard to imagine what inspires your cat to leave home, but many do.  Often cats disappear from their loving owners and vanish, presumed dead.  Humans are keen to believe that some misdemeanour has stopped their beloved feline from returning to them, as if they are creatures without free-will.  It would be harder for a human to accept that their cat had a better offer, than it would be to assume that they have been splattered by an articulated lorry, or locked in a garage and starving to death.

            It is sheer human arrogance that prevents them from investigating what happens to our cats after they go missing.  We put posters up and we search around for them, we rattle boxes of biscuits and call their name as loud as we can.  But there’s only so far you can look, and most of the time it’s with many a cursory glance at the side of the road, for after a day or two we start to believe that they will probably never come home. 

            Of course, we can’t fill the newspapers up with tales of missing cats, or assign teams of police officers to join in the search.  A missing cat will never grab the heart of a nation.  Besides, owners don’t possess their cats in the same way they own their parents.  There’s no birth certificate for Tiddles.  And nor should they be – an owner should remember that they choose their cat, and their cat has to choose them.  There are times when cats don’t take to their owners – not everyone can get along.  If you didn’t like your housemate, you’d move out wouldn’t you?

            So don’t be too shocked to hear that some cats have enough.  Either they decide that they don’t like their lives, or they suddenly get a better offer.  It’s not that hard to believe when you think about it.

 

Occasionally at night, when he was trying to get to sleep, Jimmy Little would hear some terrible caterwauling filter into his room from the street.  Cats make such a racket when in combat – the wails sound like the worst pain imaginable.  It would always make Jimmy pat into the darkness for Gary, his own cat, who would always be there.

            Jimmy Little was a conscientious cat owner.  He didn’t let Gary out for long, and certainly never went to bed without Gary coming home.  There was a routine in place between the tabby and his owner, and it was that Gary would be fed upon his safe return from any adventures that he may have encountered in the small area that he was allowed to venture from the house.  This was pretty much the alleyway behind his house and the adjoining gardens.  Living in the middle of a row of terraced houses gave Gary simple boundaries, that in no way involved traffic.

            For many cats, it was enough of a life.  Many cats wouldn’t mind being called a distinctly human name for comedic purposes.  Many cats are happy with a routine and a small amount of roaming.  Some cats like to be spoken to as if they are retarded, taunted with endless answers that they simply can’t answer, unless a meow was some universal truth.  Some cats don’t mind being indoors at night, not knowing what the world is like after dark.  Some cats just aren’t ambitious.

            It took Gary eighteen months to discover that he wanted more from life.  He understood that if he behaved, he was fed easily.  And if he didn’t go inside he would go hungry, and that wasn’t part of his plan.  He had fallen into the entertainment business too easily, doing tricks for meals and pleasing a human to gain unadulterated affection.  He feigned interest in guarding his patch from other cats, and growling at other feline intruders.  Humans were always proud of a territorial animal, and that generally made life even easier for Gary.  But it did stop him from making any new friends.

            Gary’s disaffection with his universe manifested itself in paranoia.  He began to believe that maybe he wasn’t in control of his life after all.  This made him feel trapped, a slave to Jimmy Little, a lonely man in his thirties who probably only ever co-habit with animals.  Any man willing to make a cat his best friend had real issues, Gary thought.  And not only that, but he wants to stop me having my own life.  It was an epiphany for the young cat, that turned his life into existential turmoil.  His every day was at the mercy of his captor.

            In the morning, he would wake up on Jimmy’s bed having had a perfectly comfortable night of sleep that he wasn’t entirely sure he needed.  Jimmy shut Gary in his room whilst he went to sleep, so there was really very little he could do   The moment Jimmy woke up each morning, Gary had to respond.  He had to greet him in a friendly fashion were he to get some milk and biscuits.  In return, Gary would eat and visit the litter tray whilst Jimmy got washed and dressed, and then Jimmy would head out for work.

            Gary would then be stuck in an empty house for nine hours at the very least.  It was only once he thought about it that he realised how terrible this was.  He roamed the house and sat down, slept a bit and thought about nothing.  Then Jimmy would come back, expect entertaining and then let Gary be free to roam for about two hours maximum, before he returned home for his food.  Two measly fucking meals a day and Gary was completely subservient to Jimmy.

            That was how Gary saw things the night he was sat on Jimmy’s bedroom window-sill, staring out into the street, observing a cat fight, having his epiphany.  I have no idea why those cats are fighting, he thought.  I have no idea why a cat would need to fight.  I know nothing about cats because I have been kept away from them.  I am kept away from my people, he thought, and thus I am barely a cat.

            Gary was eighteen months into his life and he had no idea who he was.  He knew nothing of his heritage, or what his lineage were good at.  He had no idea how he was meant to behave – he was built up merely of trial and error learning.  I am classically conditioned to not be myself, Gary thought with a sense of realisation.

            From this point on, it was only a matter of time.



 

Like anything, progress could only take place after a few tentative steps.  Gary learned nothing about the world by roaming a little further afield into unseen gardens.  There was the mild thrill of stepping over his boundaries, but there was little else to see.  No cats seemed willing to entertain him; they were as territorial as he was about his own garden.   Being a house-cat made Gary fundamentally anti-social, and humans don’t like their pets hanging out with other animals.  It is rare for humans to accept these friendships, and at best there may be other pets at home that they can communicate with.

            Jimmy never thought to provide Gary with a playmate.  Typical selfish Jimmy, Gary thought in light of his revelation.  There was no real affection, it was merely purrs equal meals, and many humans would adore a life that easy. 

            Gary grew quickly bored with his evening ventures – he could never explore very far before Jimmy rattled the box of biscuits to beckon him back to his life of entrapment.  He knew that he had to break the chain, this endless circadian cycle of his life was killing his spirit.  He was still young enough to start again, if there were a better world out there.  Either way, he had to know.  He had to stay out overnight.

            But Gary wasn’t instantly brave.  It was a big decision he was making and he wasn’t entirely self-assured.  Maybe this was all his life was, but at the same time he was sure that those cats on the street had something to fight about – and in a perverse way, Gary wanted something to fight about.  His dissatisfaction was the first issue he had had in his life, and although it wasn’t pleasant, he was compelled to want more.  With self-loathing, Gary ran back to the house and his performance, and of course his reward.  The same bloody reward every bloody night.

Gary went through the motions upon his return – purrs and licks, spot of dinner, relax on Jimmy’s lap and then it’s off to be locked in a room with a farting, snoring human being for far too many hours.  Gary didn’t sleep that night – he lay awake thinking about what life could be like for him outside of his little bubble.  He thought of all the things he could be doing, and that gave him the courage to skip a meal.  Gary believed that he couldn’t sleep until he knew, and so he resolved to stay out the following evening.

“Good night, Gary,” Jimmy said as he was drifting off.

Fuck off Jimmy, Gary thought.