Chewing the cat…

“It looks a bit like something has been biting this cat’s ears”, said the perplexed vet, looking up at me with an expression which melded curiosity with accusation… The walk home provided time to ruminate…

The kitten hasn’t been allowed out yet, we don’t have mice or rats, and certainly not the sort that can subdue a cat while they gnaw its ears… We only have one small creature capable of such an outrage. Suspicion fell immediately upon my five year old daughter… Under interrogation, she cracked. She had indeed been chewing the cat’s ears. Which, even as I write this, I find somewhat dark… There is now an exclusion zone surrounding the cat, which had – it’s now dawned on us – been fleeing the room everytime the baby-faced cat torturer entered. As ever, all the warning signs were there, as they say… Aside from the restraining order, one Barbie has also been confiscated. (Is Barbie a relative of Klaus Barbie…? Does that explain the imp’s fascination…? It’s too sinister to wonder at...)

Anyway, this brings me to my subject. There were lots of articles and radio phone-ins about proposals to introduce lessons in parenting. At the time, I rolled my eyes, and you know, to a degree, I still do. I, and millions of others, don’t need to be advised against feeding the baby chicken nuggets or stubbing out Lambert and Butlers on its head. But then again, perhaps my own upbringing and the influence of various bluff, rigidly traditional male archetypes, makes me prematurely dismissive of such worthy proposals?

My Grandfather was a former Desert Rat, and his idea of child-rearing was to take us on a very, very long walk and then confide in us, somewhat glassy eyed, the emetic stench of burning human flesh or the devastating wounds caused by German dum-dum bullets. And when our nurturing wasn’t influenced directly by Grandfather’s PTSD, it was very much a Victorian regime. ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ etc. And whilst I often say, ‘it didn’t do me any harm’, regarding the present situation, I wouldn’t mind an alternative perspective. I have to say, I would readily cock a lug in the direction of any child psychologist who could tell me what you do when routine questioning reveals that your angelic daughter takes the cat to a secluded spot and sinks her little teeth into its velvety ears… To you and I, dear reader, it’s patently bad form to nibble on the cat’s extremities. To a mature person, there are any number of reasons why one wouldn’t do it. It just seems starkly logical not to bite the cat. However, for a four year old, with her moral parameters still in flux, her compass still spinning, who’s to say it doesn’t seem eminently reasonable to bite the cat? I mean, I do say myself, ‘try everything once’… Perhaps I’m missing something? Perhaps I’m too conventional?

But gnawing personal doubt aside, to someone who doesn’t readily appreciate that you shouldn’t clamp your teeth onto a kitten’s ears like a French prop forward, I’m not sure where you start to explain the protocol.  “Look, darling, my advice is, try not to think of the kitten as Evander Holyfield..” 

If you don’t already get that it hurts the cat, will an assurance from Daddy really transform perceptions? I mean, let’s face it, while you’re in the act of actually biting the cat’s ears, proximity alone dictates that you must have a fair idea of whether it’s causing discomfort or not. Actually, it’s quite a feat, when you think about it. Given most cats’ febrile temperament, how many people could pull that off? So, I’m left somewhere between admiration and horror…

My only scheme so far is to get a pig’s ear from the pet shop and paint the cat with anti-nail biting ointment, but if there’s a more sophisticated approach, I’m happy to hear about it. So, parenting lesson? Sign me up…

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