I AM auntie Cat to a brace of toddlers and a cat auntie to a brace of cats.
I was surprised to find how similar these roles are. For two weeks I've been left in charge of Widget, feline elder statesman, and Dexter, a velveteen rascal who has the looks of a kitten and the manners of a pup. The wee fellow is Italian and has recently emigrated to Glasgow from the glamorous environs of Marche. I imagine he's finding it a little chilly. Not only has the wee boy had to adapt to the diphthong miaows of west end felines and the street level aroma of discarded chippies, Dexter, the soul, has had to contend with me.
Widget, I know from experience, can care for himself. Dexter has been in the world but months – every sneeze is a feline flu, every trip outdoors a potential clashing with foxes or, worse, students.
My friend Janet is reassuring: "It's just like looking after a toddler. But easier."
On the first morning the bathroom looks like a snow globe, or would if I could pick the room up and shake it. Four rolls of toilet paper are clawed into irregular strips and scattered. A shoe is slightly nibbled about the edges. Is there a naughty step for kittens?
Morning two: four breakfast rolls – intended for fried eggs and potato scones as a back-to-work treat – are scattered to the corners of the hallway. There is a tiny toy mouse in my handbag. The kitten is nowhere to be found. Can you Time Out a kitten?
I tell Ma Stewart about the toilet roll. She tells me there is a photo of me, aged two, at aunt Anne's house having done exactly the same thing. Ma Stewart is reassuring: "It's just like looking after a toddler. But easier." Widget and I survey the damage and eye each other. He stalks away, elegant and aloof.
Morning three and the scamp has been in the plant pots, spraying soil everywhere. Morning four and I find an unwanted surprise in my suitcase. I need a kitten Super Nanny.
On New Year's Day a neighbour phones. "I've got your kitten. He's eaten my cat's food."
The problem is, Dexter's really, really beautiful. And he miaows like a baby bird chirps: "Brrrup!" It's impossible to be annoyed. Impossible. I'd let him away with anything.
This is not like looking after a toddler. It's worse.
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