Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Cat-flap to Nowhere

We have a cat-flap through the lounge door – doesn't everybody? It is a simple, practical solution to our single-source heating, multiple-cat household. In the winter, the multi-fuel stove in the lounge is the only heating, so naturally we like to keep the door shut to keep the heat in. The cats would naturally like the door open for easy commute between sofa and food bowls in the kitchen. So, we have a cat-flap. So much easier than the alternative:

Scratch, scratch, yowl... (Let me out into the kitchen.)

Scratch, scratch, scratch, yowl, meeewwwwww. (I've done eating. Let me back in.)

Scratch, scratch, yowl... (Sorry. Fancied seconds.)

With four cats, this can go on all evening.

During the summer, the door stands open, allowing heat, air and cats to move freely... except there's still that cat-flap, with a strange and inviting dark space the other side. Behind the door, filling the the 14.5cm gap, is a bookshelf, with a reserved space for the door handle to slot into. So really, that tall, wide dark space is very, very shallow.

Piper (the flea-transporter formerly known as Black and White) had to take a look. To poke his nose where no cat ought to go. Of course, the door moves and the gap changes. He got as far as his shoulders before deciding that today was not a good curiosity day.

Oatmeal was not so lucky. Piper is tall, long-legged and agile. Oatmeal is short, stocky and wide. His progress through a catflap is a complex negotiation of lateral inches for every forward inch. It takes time and effort, including wriggling, shoving and the power of brute force over blubber.

Oatmeal went beyond shoulders into the mysterious gap, and once those shoulders are through, there is no going back. It's just too complicated. But forward meant face-time with book spines, whilst dragging the door forward, shrinking the gap ever more, requiring a tight ninety-degree turn, in a confined space, through a cat-flap... and for a long time, going nowhere.

He made it. Just. And discovered the last post delivery, a large parcel which his people had inconsiderately put down just inside the lounge, a final obstacle to escaping the mysterious space behind the door. A cardboard box... smooth... vertical... should I have mentioned that fat cats can't jump?

That's the trouble with the cat-flap to nowhere. Nowhere is a real place, not so much back of beyond but back-behind-the-door, and once you are there it is not so easy to return. Or manoeuvre. Nowhere is almost a two-dimensional space, and uncomfortable for a five-dimensional cat (the fat occupies at least two dimensions). The only escape from nowhere is the same determined scrabble and brute force that gets Oatmeal through the cat-flap in the first place.

Just think how different 'Alice' would have been if Lewis Carrol had had the added inspiration of a cat-flap to nowhere, and his very own Oatmeal, the cat that fills everywhere.

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