On the whole having Serafina join our little group was a good thing. We’d all upped our game somewhat. I certainly hadn’t embarrassed myself in the catnip again and Squeak had not only lost his winter coat but had put himself on a self-imposed diet. It seemed to be working although it was hard to tell. When Serafina was around he either seemed to be holding his breath to suck his stomach in or he would retreat to the nearby shrubbery so that she could only see his face which was carefully arranged into a sultry, smouldering look. The stomach-sucking was rather amusing as he could only manage a high-pitched squeak when he was holding his breath in like that, something which caused me to wonder if this might be how his name had originated. Ron on the other hand, was relaxed as usual although he did say ‘pardon me’ after one of his eye-wateringly evil-smelling far- … bouts of flatulence.
The only problem with Serafina was that she was continually trying to rope us into some socially responsible cause and wanted us to form committees and distribute leaflets. We were normally able to divert her but on this particular occasion, to coin a rather unpleasant phrase – she was like a dog with a bone.
“I take it you’ve all read this,” she said thrusting a well-manicured paw onto a picture that looked to be a feline family tree. Before Ron or I could answer in the negative or Squeak could, well … squeak, she continued earnestly:
“Did you know that if one unspayed cat has two boy kittens and two girl kittens, then eight months later there are twelve new kittens. Then after sixteen months when those twelve kittens have had kittens, there are thirty-six kittens which added to the twelve kittens and the four kittens makes fifty-four kittens from one unsprayed cat!” She paused triumphantly as though she had just successfully made all of us understand a complicated point beyond all possible dispute. Which she hadn’t. My brain had turned to wool whilst Ron’s was turning elsewhere.
“Who is this unspayed cat?” enquired Ron, as if hopeful of procuring a name and address.
“It’s hypothetical, Ron,” she said rolling her eyes skyward.
“I suppose you got this from the Bay Harbour News?” I said, knowing that she read every edition thoroughly from cover to cover.
“No, it was put out by the SPCA to illustrate the importance of having kittens de-sexed. A lot of humans give kittens as Christmas presents who end up homeless, or if they aren’t neutered or spayed, have kittens who do, so we need to create awareness in the lead up to Christmas to prevent this happening.”
“We?” I said nervously. I had a horrible premonition of where this was going.
“Yes US! We are in a unique position within this community … no, you are in a unique position to really make a diff-“
“Me?” I looked to the others for support, but Squeak was in the shrubbery looking like a porn star and Ron was yawning as though he was overdue for his afternoon nap.
“Yes you,” she hissed. “You’re the one who’s had his picture in the Bay Harbour News!”
She said this as though it were the ultimate pinnacle of success for a cat and that anything I did from hereon out would be insignificant in comparison to this triumphant moment of glory. I was tempted to tell her that Squeak had actually had his picture featured in The Guardian but I didn’t want to have to make an emergency visit to the vet to resuscitate her after that particular revelation.
I opened my mouth to speak but was unable to secure any airtime before she hastily gabbled: “We need to get the word out … and quickly. Before the Christmas rush. We must urgently set up a working group and organize posters, flyers, letterbox drops. We need to build up a platform on social media to promote our cause – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,” she said, counting potential platforms on her paws. “What about getting your owner on board?”
“Er, possibly not? I’ll try but I’m fairly certain she’s taking a break from that for a while,” I said knowing full well that I wasn’t even going to attempt this. I was enjoying an increased amount of lap time since Mummy’s social media respite and I was very desirous to see a continuation of this happy state of affairs.
“No matter,” she said and to my relief started to make a move to leave. “I have a friend whose owner does a bit of graphic art. I’ll ask him to help us with some posters – handout material, that sort of thing.”
“What friend?” I said indignantly, wondering why Serafina had never invited this friend to meet us.
“Oh, um … Stewy is very sensitive,” she said rather sheepishly. “He suffers from anxiety. Doesn’t like meeting new people. He might feel a bit, er … out of place with us.”
“Invite him to our Mindfulness Group next Wednesday!” I shouted enthusiastically to the grey ball of fluff that was now skipping off into the distance.
We didn’t see Serafina for a nearly a week after that and I fervently hoped that this was just another social issue that she’d conveniently forgotten about. But it turned out not to be …
“Right!” she said after springing up on Ron and me lazing on the deck in the mid-morning sun.
“What?” I panted from the depths of a confused state. My heart was pounding and I had that awful feeling of being woken from a deep sleep that wasn’t taking place in the usual location.
“We’re the talk of the town!” she said triumphantly. “Cats all over Diamond Harbour are standing on street corners talking about SPUNC.”
“What?!” This time there were three of us saying this in unison. Ron, myself and Squeak who had miraculously appeared from the shrubbery and appeared to be taking notes for the upcoming choir practice regarding the harmonies we had used in our unrehearsed exclamation.
“S.P.U.N.C. (DHC). The Society for the Prevention of Un-Neutered Cats (Diamond Harbour Chapter)” she pronounced and laid the remainder of the flyers out in front of us. A picture of my smug, contented face lurched at me like something from a B grade porn movie.
“Serafina, when were these flyers delivered?” I said urgently, my heart sinking like a stone. “Is there any chance of a recall?”
“Two days ago. What reason would you have to recall them?”
I couldn’t think of a single reason why I wouldn’t want to recall them. Our Society’s name for one needed a re-think, but they were out there now and I was clearly going to have to deal with it.
“Has there been any, um … response to this ‘Awareness Campaign’?” I asked very tentatively.
“Oh, there have been the usuals,” she said breezily. Some are really positive, some that I’m not sure of and some, well not so much. And a few from what I think might be lobby groups.”
“Well, give me the worst,” I said mournfully but was cheered when she told me that the majority of responses were from supporters.
“Right, well there’s one from a guy who thinks this is an outstanding initiative but talks a lot about providing hessian bags for the homeless cats.”
“Well that’s an extremely generous and heart-warming gesture!”
“Um… maybe not,” she winced. “He then goes a bit off topic and starts to air his personal views about cats preying on native birds. There are a lot of pictures and I’m not sure that you’d want to see them…”
“I caught a keruru once,” said Ron emerging from a deep sleep.
If Ron had caught a keruru then I was up for the lead role in the next Broadway show of Cats. It was so obvious he was just trying to impress Serafina although I seriously suspected his wild exaggeration would be more likely to have the reverse effect.
“Has he signed his name?” I enquired.
“No,” said Serafina. “There’s no signature. All it says at the end is ‘Let’s Do This’.”
“Hmmm … cryptic,” I mused. “What’s the next one?”
“It’s from a guy who has just sent us a lot of pictures of sheep.”
“Really? That’s interesting.”
“Not really,” said Ron sleepily. “Some humans have an unusual interest in sheep.”
“Golly. I never knew that. What else is there? This is quite entertaining.”
“There are a few from the aggrieved and offended. Some people think we’re trying to create a Nanny State and interfere too much in cats’ private lives, blah, blah, blah. There’s a guy who wants to tear your claws out one by one and do something to your kneecaps. This one’s interesting,” she said, handing me over a message.
It was from a large Marmalade cat called Oscar. Oscar it seemed knew everything there was to know about everything and I was genuinely surprised that he hadn’t been elected Supreme Ruler of the Universe. I disregarded his unsolicited advice however when I learned that Oscar hadn’t ever lived in Diamond Harbour. Our aim was to keep it local.
Then there was another one from someone who wanted me to spearhead a campaign to legalize medicinal cannabis. I set this aside, presuming they must’ve read about the catnip incident – something I was very keen to forget!
The last one was an invitation to join a political party. It was signed by someone called Gareth?