THIS STORY IS FROM OUR ARCHIVES
Beatrice shares her home with three males: her husband George, her son Gerard, and her black cat, Sooty. While it’s true that Sooty was castrated as a young adult cat, he has still always been a masculine animal, and he is definitely a “he” rather than an “it”.
Sooty is an indoor cat: Beatrice lives on a busy road, and she has lost cats to road accidents in the past. She knows that he’s likely to live for longer if he stays inside, so he’s always been encouraged to stay indoors. He sometimes steps out into the front yard, but Beatrice always watches him carefully, bringing him back in so that he has never learned to enjoy the freedom of an outdoor life.
Beatrice is retired now, so she spends much of her time at home, and because Sooty is an indoor cat, they spend a lot of time together. She’s the one who feeds him and looks after his litter tray, so you might expect that Sooty would look on Beatrice with special favour.
SOOTY IS A MAN’S CAT
In fact, the reverse is true: Sooty is a man’s cat. He gives special attention to George and Gerard, taking his main carer, Beatrice, for granted, and even treating her with disdain.
His attitude started when he was young. He’d happily sit on the laps of George and Gerard, purring as they petted him. But if Beatrice approached him, after an initial period of calm, he would growl, hiss and lash out at her, attempting to bite and scratch her.
Over the years, Beatrice has tried to make friends with Sooty, never getting cross with him, and trying to calm him, but he has always maintained his pro-male bias. He has grown less grumpy in recent times, but he still turns a cold shoulder to Beatrice. He happily jumps up to sit in the men’s laps, rarely showing affection like this to Beatrice. He sometimes sits beside Beatrice, but he stays a couple of feet away, refusing to come close to her.
Sooty is particularly fond of Gerard, and every day, he eagerly anticipates his return from work. Gerard’s due back at 3pm, and at 2.50pm, without fail, Sooty goes to sit by the front door, waiting for his arrival. In some uncanny way, he knows the time of day, so whenever Gerard gets home, there’s always a happy, purring cat to greet him. Never once has he been at the door to greet Beatrice.
SOOTY IS A SMART CAT
Sooty is a smart cat: he has learned to open doors by jumping up and pulling downwards on the handle, so he tends to do what he wants around the home. This doesn’t usually cause problems: Beatrice is happy to let him have the free run of the house.
There is one occasion when this independence does cause issues: at night time, he insists on letting himself into Beatrice and George’s bedroom, refusing to let them sleep. Beatrice shuts him out, but he lets himself back in by swinging on the door handle to open it. He leaves George alone, instead focusing his attention on Beatrice, jumping up onto the bed and pawing at her, waking her up.
Beatrice has learned that the only way to get any sleep is to actually lock the bedroom door with a key: Sooty has not yet learned how to twist the key to unlock it. She sometimes sees him watching her using the key, and she wonders if he is trying to work how to do it, but however intelligent he might be, she knows that his cat’s paws will never be able to grip the key. Cats don’t have opposable thumbs, so even if he had the intelligence to work out what needed to be done, he wouldn’t have the physical ability to do it. Beatrice has Sooty beaten on this one.
Despite his cantankerous attitude to her, Beatrice is very fond of Sooty. She shares breakfast with him every morning. He sits on the table while she eats her own breakfast cereal, waiting until she is finished, and she then serves him with his own favourite treat: natural yoghurt. She puts a dollop of yoghurt into a small dish, and he licks it clean. He obviously likes this, but it doesn’t seem to endear him to Beatrice: as soon as he’s finished, he heads off to the bedroom where George is still sleeping. He doesn’t bother George in the same way as he’d wake Beatrice up: he just naps on the end of the bed, as if he enjoys being close to his master.
Sooty’s male chauvinistic attitude isn’t confined to Beatrice: when there are visitors to the house, he has also been known to show favour based on gender. Male visitors are allowed to pet him, and he’ll rub the top of his head against their hands in an affectionate way. Female visitors, in contrast, tend to get a cold, silent shoulder from him. He quietly slips away, ignoring them. If they persist in seeking him out, he’ll respond with an angry hiss. Beatrice is afraid that he might lash out with a his sharp claws, so she warns her female friends to keep their distance.
Beatrice loves her cat, but she does sometimes wish that he’d return her affection in a visible way. If Sooty was human, she’s convinced that he’d be a sports-watching, sofa-hugging, self-opinionated traditional male. Poor Beatrice has just had to get used to this fact.