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The Good Life: How did we end up with seven cats?

Mar 20, 2024

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Gratuitous picture of a kitten in a bucket. Photo / Greg Dixon

Petrolhead-turned-pretend-farmer Jeremy Clarkson is talking, or rather writing, out of a hole in his rear regions again. In his Sunday Times column, he poses the question: “Which livestock make the best pets? (Spoiler: it isn’t sheep.)”

He claims sheep have a death wish. “They will spend all day hunting around in their field for the most unusual and revolting way of achieving this, and if nothing comes to hand, they will simply stand there and rot.”

Total rot. Sheep make the best pets. They learn their names. They are loyal and smell lovely and are always joyously happy to see you. If you happen to have a pocketful of cashew nuts. It is true our pet sheep have an assortment of ailments. Elizabeth Jane has no ears. Xanthe has hardly any teeth. Speri’ment, born unable to walk, lumbers about like an unbalanced washing machine. Her daughter, Becky, failed to have a lamb last season. Not having a lamb usually means being turned into a lamb chop. So, we have taken her in.

Goats are the go, according to Clarkson. It is true that goats are awfully sweet. If they are a nanny goat. You could happily stroke a nanny goat’s ears all day long. They are as soft as cashmere. I met a baby goat at the vet’s clinic. She was only a few weeks old and was sitting on her mama’s lap. Oh. Oh. Oh. Could I please possibly hold her? I could. Could I please possibly have her? I could not.

Just as well, really. There is an old farming saying about goats: if you can chuck a bucket of water through a fence, a goat can get through it.

Our neighbour’s boy wanted a baby nanny goat. The baby goat arrived and was named, ominously, Curry. The goat grew and grew, as goats are wont to do, and turned out to be … a billy goat.

You would be mad to stroke any part of a billy goat. They pong to high heaven and they butt like billyo.

Curry got out of his paddock on a day when Miles the sheep farmer was moving the flock up our road. Curry got into the flock, much to the displeasure of both the sheep farmer and the sheep. The sheep did not like Curry. Miles did not like Curry. Curry, however, was having the time of his life. He may have been heard singing Born Free. He was later returned to his owner, and mysteriously disappeared soon after.

We were at the vets because we were taking our now-deceased chicken, Little Linda, to once again have her bumblefoot treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics, for chickens, cost as much as a goose’s golden egg. Also, when a silly bumblefooted bird is taking antibiotics, you cannot eat their eggs. So, you have to somehow identify which eggs belong to the bumblefooted bird and which eggs belong to her sisters. Is this possible? Of course it isn’t. So, you end up biffing all the eggs. Which entirely defeats the purpose of keeping the evil, crapping, garden-digging-up, sunflower-sultanas-dog-roll-guzzling birds. Chickens are at the very top of the list of the worst livestock pets. After goats.

Our neighbour, Marie, sent a text: Would we like some venison? Yes, please. She arrived half an hour later with a bag of steaks, mince, a stew and a child. The child is Lucy, who proceeded to do forward and backward rolls on the carpet. Then she said: “Have you got kids?” We don’t have kids. We have cats. We now have seven cats, I told her. She pretended to faint. I told her I knew how she felt.

How the hell have we ended up with seven cats, including a kitten? They just moved in. The matriarch, Nora Batty, despite getting three square meals a day – the cost of which will see us in a home for destitute animal owners – hates us like poisoned jelly meat. A dialogue with Nora goes like this: “Hello, Nora.” Nora: “Hiss. Growl. Hiss.” Maybe we should get a goat. We could call it Nora Butty.

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