In the world of the domestic cat, the one thing that is guaranteed to get you in trouble in the neighbourhood is the name your human owner gives you.
Hobson opened his eyes, yawned, stretched and sat up before meticulously grooming his fur and licking his battle wounds.
Since he and his human Geoff had moved into the neighbourhood six weeks back, Hobson literally had to fight for his life almost continuously. His battle scarred ears and the missing fur on his back, along with the severely bitten end of his tail bore testament to the daily scrapping Hobson had to endure.
“Breakfast, come and get it,” Geoff yelled above the noise of the food-blender, which was mashing up his daily liquid energy diet before his morning run.
Hobson scampered down the hallway to the kitchen from where he slept on the end of Geoff’s bed. As usual his human had placed a delicious repast fit for a king in his bowl. Today it was a mix of fresh oily Sardines, and Hobson’s absolute favourite – liver.
“See ya later old fella. Now don’t get yourself into any more fights – OK?”
Hobson flicked the end of his tail in answer as his human went out into the world for his morning exercise. What Geoff didn’t seem to appreciate was that it is a cat’s duty to fight for position within the neighbourhood, a fact that despite all of his highly explanatory mewing to Geoff, Hobson had failed to make plain. If only they both spoke the same language. Humans can be so thick at times. After all if he can understand human, why can’t Geoff understand a language as simple as cat?
Hobson licked the final trace of his breakfast from the farthest recesses of his bowl and began to meticulously wash his face and whiskers. It was time to face the neighbourhood bully, and this time Hobson had no choice but to win.
When Scratch had found out the name Geoff had chosen for his feline pal, thanks to Miffy, the flea-bitten female cat next door hearing Geoff call him in on their first night in the street, he had made it his mission to declare the feline equivalent of war.
To Scratch’s way of thinking Hobson was not a name fit for a cat. Claw or Fang, or even Puss was tolerable at a pinch, but Hobson – really?
In the dim past there had been a pure white male cat named Snowflake who Scratch had mercilessly beaten up on a daily basis to the point where he had finally run away, much to the consternation of his humans, never to be seen again.
Hobson carefully pushed the cat flap open and sniffed the air. The only odours his highly sensitive nose detected was that of the mail man, the dog across the street and the unmistakeable sour stench of his nemesis.
Scratch had become numero uno soon after arriving in the street three months ago, taking on all comers. He meticulously despatched some with his vicious claws by ripping open their throats, and severely wounded and terrified others.
To make it clear who was king of the neighbourhood, he left his highly pungent calling card on every surface declaring to all and sundry that this is his territory. No one knew where he came from, or where he lived, let alone dared to challenge him, until the day Hobson arrived that is.
Today would become the feline equivalent of High Noon. It was time to face Scratch down once and for all! Every fibre of his being was tensed as he made his way up the street, garden by garden, constantly expecting to be ambushed. He surveyed the area where he knew Scratch held court in the narrow alleyway bounded by the fences of number five and number eleven. Sure enough Scratch’s scouts lay in wait on top of the fences.
Hobson calmly strode to the entrance and issued his noisy challenge. He didn’t have to wait long. All heads turned as Scratch confidently trotted forward down the alley to where Hobson stood sideways, tail rigid, legs tensed ready to spring into action, fangs and claws bared as his low guttural growls grew in intensity.
Both cats followed the unwritten code of preliminary threats before combat began by growling, spitting, hissing, flicking tails, raising hackles, lashing the space between them with one clawed paw, neither closing for the kill. For a few moments they continued to warily circle each other, their low angry growls rapidly transforming into loud constant wailing.
Then Scratch launched his attack. Fur flew; blood flowed, neither cat capitulated. Honour and position was at stake. Hobson felt Scratch’s sharp claws pierce the skin of his sensitive nose, but the adrenalin coursing through his veins masked the pain. In turn Hobson seized Scratch by the scruff of his neck, biting deep. As both cats rolled around on the ground in deadly mortal combat, biting, clawing, scratching, neither of them heard the warning cries of their fellow felines until it was too late.
Suddenly Hobson found himself on his own covered from head to foot in dust and dried blood. The battle was over.
“Shame on you! You are a naughty pussycat. I’ve been going out of my mind with worry. You have left home for the last time Gerald. I’m taking you directly to the vet to be ‘fixed’, do you hear me young man!”
If cats could laugh, every one of them assembled there that fateful day when Hobson became the undisputed boss would have laughed till they cried. Scratch’s human given name was Gerald? Unbelievable!
They all saw the look of total fear on his face as he peered out from behind the bars of the catbox, located on the rear window ledge of the car, as his human drove towards the centre of town to deliver Gerald to his appointment with the unkindest cut of all.