Mum’s cooking, carpets underfoot, safer driving… we all have one little thing we miss the most about life back home, wherever it may be. Mine is not going to win me any man-points. It’s my cat, Rory – a hard thing for a 6ft 5in Yorkshireman to admit. But I miss every tuft of his unkempt ginger fur, his whiney, somewhat pathetic meow and his penchant for expressing his affection by attempting to remove my toe, should I ever make the mistake of walking past him while wearing socks.
There are not enough pets in Dubai. Okay, we all know someone with a cat or a dog, but they are few and far between. I’m so starved of feline attention that I’d happily cheat on Rory with a cat belonging to a friend or colleague. I’d even gladly ruffle the head of a slobbering, smelly dog – sacrilege in the cats-over-dogs household in which I grew up.
The cats-versus-dogs debate is as prevalent here as it is anywhere in the world, and the absence of the animals themselves does little to abate our allegiances in one of the planet’s oldest animal rivalries. It’s one of those staple nice-to-meet-you conversations, right up there with ‘which was your favourite cartoon as a kid?’ and ‘Oasis or Blur?’ (For the record, my Saturday mornings were spent watching Thundercats, so deep runs my affection for anything feline. I was also an Oasis man; but that was nothing to do with Noel’s adopted stray cats, named ‘Benson’ and ‘Hedges’.)
People will argue the merits of cats or the pluses of pooches until blue in the face. For me, what puts a cat head and shoulders above a dog is that if a cat feels like a cuddle, he will come and get one. If he doesn’t, you sure as heck better leave him alone. They have moods, much like we do. The indiscriminate love of a dog does not appeal to me.
I thought long and hard about bringing my pointy-eared rascal with me when I moved to Dubai three months ago. There’s no need for quarantine – all he needs is a ‘pet passport’ (cute), a microchip and vaccinations, although it can be expensive to ship pets as cargo.
If it was up to me, he’d have been sitting right next to me on the aeroplane (I’ll have the chicken, he’ll take the fish). But the thought of him being stuck in a high-rise apartment or having to cope with the searing heat of summer brought me to the sensible decision to leave him behind, with my mum. Now I look forward to August and my first return trip to the UK, when I’ll be united with my favourite ball of fur for two weeks. I can’t wait.