Are you a 'cat person'? Are you a 'dog person'? Maybe a 'both' or a 'neither' person. One thing is sure, I think all of us come down into one of the camps - we don't seem to be neutral.
I am both a dog and a cat person (and, dare I say, if I had a pet rabbit I would be a 'rabbit person' too). When I look back over the dogs I have known in my life I realise that they have collectively given me hours of pleasure.
But it is when I look back over cats I have known that my memory throws up such characters. Maybe because dogs are rather servile towards their owners whereas cats live up to the saying "I am the cat that walks alone. All places are alike to me," they are certainly characters. So let me tell you about a few I have known.
My first cat, Tim, was quite literally a survivor. His mother was killed when he was about three weeks old - run over outside our cottage. I reared Tim on the bottle and he grew into a sturdy, stocky cat who rarely ate cat food, preferring to hunt and bring home rabbits, which he ate starting at the head end and working his way down over several days. When we moved we left him with the new owners of the cottage and he lived to a ripe old age.
The next cat I had was a Seal point Siamese. When we bought him he was so scared that he stayed behind the piano for three days, refusing to come out. Accidentally I left my sun hat on the carpet and before I knew about it the cat saw it, crept out, curled up in it and went to sleep and he never looked back! There was no question about what he should be called. He was immediately christened "Sam-I-Am" after 'The Cat in the Hat comes Back' - the Doctor Seuss childrens' book.
Sam was a wonder cat, popular with the neighbours, always 'the perfect gentleman' when he had to stay in the cattery. He lived to a ripe old age and after he died we had another Siamese - Puss.
Everyone knew Puss. He established a territory and went round it each morning lifting the metallic lids from any milk left on doorsteps and drinking the cream by dipping his paw into the bottle and then licking the cream off. A whole street of houses had wire milk racks fitted on to their walls as a result!
His final fall from grace was when our neighbour had a "Strawberries and Cream" party. She had a silver strawberry dish with a tiny shelf holding a silver cream jug. The guests arrived for the party. She took them on a tour of the garden. When she came back into the room Puss was sitting in the middle of the strawberries, drinking the cream from the jug.
When the farmer and I first married, seventeen years ago, we adopted three adult cats from Cat Rescue. Their names when they came were Onyx, Madiera and Ernest - and the names stuck. Onyx only stayed a short while as he jumped into the back of a van in the yard delivering feed - the driver didn't know he was there until he got back to the feed merchant and poor Onyx jumped out, never to be seen again. After two years Madiera got run over by a tractor. Ernest lived out a long, happy and faithful life here, only dying about three years ago.
He was a tabby cat, quiet, unassuming, a good ratter and mouser and not very friendly. Just occasionally he would honour you by allowing you to stroke him, but on the whole he was just self-sufficient. The same applies to the two farm cats we have now.
But there are two other cats I have known, cats which belonged to my friend, Joan.
Romeo was a large very talkative tabby Tom who ruled the roost completely so that Ellington, his black companion, was always in his shadow. Sadly about a year ago
Romeo had a brain tumour and had to be put to sleep.
What happened to Ellington? My goodness me, has he come out of his shell! Ellington, since he has been the only cat in the household, has taken it over. He greets all visitors, inspects them, jumps on knees, pawing your hand out of the way if he needs to. He joins in every conversation - loudly. He demands to be fed and will not take no for an answer. And this weekend he has excelled himself.
Sometimes he leaves an offering outside my friend's bedroom door - maybe a mouse tail, or perhaps a pair of mouse kidneys, or a bird's wing - you know the sort of thing. My friend accepts the gift, wraps it in tissue paper and puts it in the bin, taking it as part of a cat-owning life.
So, what did he leave outside her door yesterday morning? She opened the door and there on the landing was a mouse trap, complete with a piece of cheese and a dead mouse, just taking a nibble from the cheese. Knowing how clever cats are I am now sure that what Ellington was saying was - you need to get one of these, then you can catch my breakfast for me and save me an awful lot of trouble!
Have you a cat story to tell?