Lockdown with Debussy, my cat. An essay by Deirdre Powell

This weekend, I took the opportunity to re-watch an old DVD entitled “Marley and Me,” the movie based on the book by American journalist John Grogan about his golden Labrador. It’s a story that journalistic dreams are made of – John starts off as a reporter at a Florida-based newspaper, graduates to being a columnist, all while writing entertaining material about his fantastically badly-behaved dog called Mar ley. The material gets published by his newspaper, the editor loves it, and Grogan is really well paid. Ultimately, he writes a book about Marley, and, lo- and behold, the book is turned into a film. All of this happens while he gets married and has three children into the bargain.
This prompted me to wonder if people would be interested in my cat called Debussy. I gave her that name because I love impressionistic music and while she is a joy to behold, she is not without her little ways. I got her as a kitten from the DSPCA (Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) about five years ago. She proved to be particular in her tastes – she will only eat a special brand of cat-food (one of the more expensive kinds, of course – did I really need to tell you that?) and she will only use the litter that is provided by the DSPCA – this particular brand is not available from the vets or pet shops in my local area and so it is necessary to travel a journey of about forty-five minutes every four months or so (I stock up on cat litter when I can). Now, you might say I could order it online – true but delivery times do not always suit. As things turned out, it was a good job I had stocked up on the cat litter prior to lockdown, as I had plenty of it in reserve as the DSPCA was also closed due to COVID-19. So, as you can see, pussums is fussy about what she eats and about her litter tray. Enter the lady who minds the cat when I go on holidays (this may not happen this year) – Debussy eats all the food that she gives her and does not seem to worry about the litter tray. The cat always returns from holidays looking well-fed and playful. I enquire from the lady how she does it, and she says that the cat is influenced by the presence of other cats in the cattery and that the animal is playing on my emotions (seemingly they do this). As soon as the cat is back in my care, she starts to pick at her (expensive) food and requires the rather unusual brand of cat litter.
So what else has been happening during lockdown? One of the things that I attempted to do was some much-needed household chores. When Debussy was a kitten, she used to escape from the kitchen (I keep her as an indoor housecat, as we live close to a main road and she might get into trouble with passing cars) and run into the hallway, where there is a net curtain that hangs on a full-length window next to the hall-door. Although I tried to stop her, she managed to shred the curtain (quite badly, in fact) with her claws, and the curtain looks a mess. Not only that, but she repeated the experience a number of times as a young kitten and shredded the curtain in an upstairs bedroom and the downstairs sitting room as well. Goodness only knows what the neighbours think. I never got around to replacing the curtains, as I figured that she would simply shred them all over again, and my time, effort and money would be wasted. However, during lockdown, the curtain in the hallway was really annoying me, and so I set about repairing it. My abilities with a needle and thread are, to say the least, modest, but I did manage to fix the curtain. And so far, the cat has not r e-shredded it – this is a surprise as I had expected her to attempt to claw the curtain again.
So, what other joys has Debussy had in store for me during lockdown? Well, as I mentioned, I was busy doing housework, which included doing the laundry. When it’s done, I carefully fold the clothes in the kitchen, place them on a chair, or sometimes place some of them on a radiator to dry. The cat manages to find the clean laundry and to ensconce herself on top of the clothes –she really enjoys clawing my clean clothes but fortunately in this case, she has never done any damage. She has been known to pounce on my (clean and dry) vest and run around with it in her mouth before she decides to sit on it but apart from that, there is no harm done.
Now, I’ll bet you don’t believe that cats “talk.” Well, they are vocal, if nothing else, and my little one is no exception. I had an interesting “conversation” with her yesterday. I told her she was a very good cat – she meowed appreciatively. I then told her she had a beautiful tail – this was greeted by another purry meow. Next, I told her that she was a real “lovey-dovey” – more mews of approval. I mentioned her beautiful tail several times and was met with an appreciative response that was accompanied by several perky swishes of her appendage. I was rather disappointed that I could not video the entire conversation, as it might have proved to be a hit on YouTube. Seemingly, it is possible to have animal sensations on YouTube, which have previously included washing your dog (as far as I can remember this is known as “Barry the Pug in the Tub”).
As I write, the cat is sleeping quietly on the chair beside me, a picture of domestic docility. Debussy has been delightful company during lockdown, and I would have missed her if she had not been there. I will close by asking you to let me know if you are interested in my writing a cat column for you – who knows – maybe I will have another sensation like “Marley and Me”!


Irish writer Deirdre Powell has previously published articles for a variety of Dublin-based magazines.

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