Press-ups, folding clothes and not bingeing on family bags of cheese puffs – there are lots of things I’m fairly terrible at. Now, I can add temporary cat homing to that list.
Almost exactly a year ago, I signed up to foster a four-week-old kitten roughly the size of a Belgian waffle, and every bit as biteable. Tiny, squeaky and adorably bald, we were terrified we’d break him, or lose him down the side of the sofa.
And sure enough, what he lacked in stature, ‘Kitten’ made up for in stealth. On the second day of our fostership, I spent 15 panic-stricken minutes convinced I’d thrown him down the garbage chute with the rubbish. Like a ninja Furby, he quickly learned how to get under the oven and behind the skirting boards, and hide between the pillows of a made bed. For the first four weeks, we lived in constant fear that he’d a) died b) escaped and died c) been eaten by our building’s cat-sized cockroaches, and died.
But our furry Houdini prevailed, possibly partly down to a highly specific diet of garlic bulbs, flatbreads and feta cheese, furtively liberated from the kitchen. We soon learned not to leave Marmite on toast unattended, and that halloumi is not just for humans.
We learned that extremely pricey, top-of-the-range, vet-prescribed kitten food is made to have little pink noses turned up at it, and that bottled water in a dish is no match for running, desalinated tap water from the sink.
We learned that duck-flavoured treats are a poor cat’s confit de canard, while rubber bath plugs, flip flops and even stress balls boast their own unique gourmet appeal (the latter discovered during one particularly financially crushing trip to the vet).
Six weeks, three bath plugs and two X-rays later, the rescue organisation called. They wanted to take pictures of Kitten and put him up for adoption. At ten weeks, they had found a family. But we weren’t ready to say goodbye to our culinarily confused cat. At ten weeks and one day, we officially became Failed Fosterers and signed up for life.
Two weeks later, clearly in the midst of a feline-loving frenzy, we adopted Kitten Number Two – a doppelganger of the same age, albeit skinnier, needier and less determined to force his way into the fridge – and doubled our losses on the footwear front.
On the upside, we’ll never oversleep again. The shrillest alarm clock in the world is no match for eight little ice-cold feet pressed firmly onto one’s head at exactly 4.58am. And while I might never be able to do a proper press-up, or neatly fold so much as a pillowcase, at least I’ll no longer binge eat bags of cheesy snacks by myself. Two tiny, hungry Houdinis will make sure of that.
Holly Sands is our deputy editor. She loves cats and crisps equally.