In common with most families we have had many pets over the years; rabbits (who, incidentally, ate their young despite being adequately fed), gold fish, gerbils, hamsters, dogs and cats. We even had a pony when our daughter was going through that stage.  All the pets have come and gone, some prematurely with tragic endings – the gold fish, for example, were all picked off by a visiting heron – and we are now left with an ageing rescue dog.

A few cats ago, we had a delightful kitten who appeared to be cheerful and well adjusted.  We never got around to giving the kitten a proper name so I used to call it Pretty Pussy. This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement but, as time went by, Pretty Pussy gradually seemed perfectly normal.

At the time we were fortunate in having next door neighbours, middle aged and childless, who were soppy about cats. Their mission in life was to take in strays and nurse them back to health. On the rare occasions we went away, they willingly looked after our kitten and regularly came in to feed it and check its well being. 

However, once, after being away for the weekend, we returned to find the poor kitten cowering under the bed. Inexplicably, in the space of 48 hours it had become a nervous wreck.  Our neighbours were mortified and mystified and we could only assume that the kitten had suffered some sort of trauma. 

When it was clear that the kitten was not making a recovery, I took the poor thing to the vet. I should explain that the vet had previously looked after our golden retriever.  Understandably, lots of people with golden retrievers call them Honey, but our dog was called Sophie. Every time we made an appointment there was confusion over names and the vet had to be persuaded that we were called Honey, not the dog.

When I arrived with the kitten, cowering in a basket, the vet was suitably puzzled and suggested that I leave it overnight for surveillance. Inevitably, the vet asked me the kitten’s name.  When I told him the name was Pretty Pussy he gave me a very odd look. I could see him thinking that it was no wonder the cat had had a nervous breakdown!

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