Our cat is called Cleo, not because it’s a popular cat-name (which it is) but because we think she definitely has Egyptian ancestry. Perhaps most cats do, who knows? Their pedigree goes back into the dark shadows of time just like ours. Her birth was actually pretty humble – she was found with her mother and tiny siblings, living on/in an old sofa dumped in a less than salubrious part of Bradford. Nevertheless she has the bearing of Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, and would certainly have looked good on Cleopatra’s golden couch.

She didn’t get on with our dogs so well, particularly the rescue spaniel who treated anything smaller than him as fair game. She hated walking past him to get to the cat-flap. We had to give in and let her use the bedroom window, reached via an ingenious cat-ladder specially constructed by Him Outdoors with much swearing and splintering of fingers. These days, as soon as the outside temperature gets above 5-6̊ C, the window is opened again, as she likes to do a complete circuit several times a day, in/out through the window, and out/in through the cat-flap. Now we no longer have dogs she is of course in possession of the entire house and garden, as well as our bed.

Food-wise she enjoys cheap dried crunchy stuff which she nibbles at frequently. She also likes wet food from extremely expensive pouches once a day, although it’s hit-and-miss as to whether she eats it, probably to do with phases of the moon. In the morning the delicious-looking chunks of meat, now shrivelled up, are not infrequently washed down the waste-disposer, and yet woe betide if the wet-food dish doesn’t appear on the cat-mat at 6.30pm sharp (or earlier if she can prevail on us to cooperate).

So, when we found the dish licked spotless every morning, and the dry food had also vanished, we were suspicious. After a few days we spotted a huge tabby cat disappearing out through the cat-flap. Bad enough feeding one fussy feline without stoking up another one, even though it saved power on the waste-disposer. Action needed. The flap was an old one, designed so that a magnet on the cat’s collar tripped the mechanism to open it. We had disabled it long ago after she kept coming in wearing miscellaneous bits of ironmongery like a necklace. Also we knew that marauding cats are sometimes provided with magnets for their own flaps. We decided to invest in a new cat-flap and settled on an infra-red construction with a unique key on her collar.

Brilliant, only the flap made such a loud click each time she went near it that she wouldn’t go through it. We stuck the mechanism down with sticky tape and left it for a week or two. Eventually she mastered it and all was well, except that the very large capsule thing on her collar emitted a bright green light every minute or so. In the dark we were now warned in advance when she wanted to check whether we were awake and on fuss-giving duty.

We tried obscuring the light with some opaque tape on the basis that the infra-red might still work. It did for a while, then stopped. After not very long the battery in the flap had gone and she could get out, but not back in. Then the battery in the capsule went. We changed it. It all worked for a bit then it didn’t; again she was trapped outside, forced to come and sit outside the bedroom window looking pathetic. We got the flap going once more but the clicking seemed to bother her again.

Where next? The mechanism is currently disabled with sticky tape but we’re hoping Trespassing Tabby has learnt his lesson. The waste-disposer is back in action most mornings and I’m trying to decide now whether to take the capsule off Cleo’s collar so we can get a decent night’s rest. It’s marginally above freezing, so the bedroom window sits open most of the time when we’re at home. And I’ve trimmed the foliage over the cat-ladder so she’s got a clear run.

I’m sure Cleopatra didn’t have all these problems with her palaces – I guess there would have been special slaves on duty all the time to look after the cats. Come to think of it…

Egyptian cat edit