In Sickness and in Health: The adventures of Badger the cat (aka Santa claws)

They say curiosity killed the cat, but it only made mine incredibly sooty

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The Independent Online

Earlier this year, Rebecca’s husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

It’s not been a vintage year in the Armstrong/Grange household. Nick nearly died, I’ve nearly killed on a number of occasions, and we have both cried so much that it’s amazing that dehydration hasn’t finished either of us off. As for the cat, he’s had a pretty rubbish 2014, too. Badger went from having a stay-at-home owner in Nick (who wasn’t working at the start of the year), lots of attention from both of his humans and a cosy home filled with toys, company and regular snacks to a dull day-to-day existence.

These days, Badger is a latch-key cat. He still has toys, and a place to call home, but more often than not he’s fed by the cat sitter (Chantelle from FluffBall Cat Services, his fairy – hairy? – godmother) or by my best mate, Sophie. That’s because when I’m not at work, I’m usually miles away with Nick at the care home. When I am home from the office, I give Badger as much love as I can, although occasionally, when I’ve been particularly careworn or weary, I have wept into his fur, thereby turning him into cat Kleenex. Like I said, not a great year.

So in order to give him a bit of company over the festive period, I came up with a plan involving my cat-mad little brother, Max. Badger would spend Christmas at my dad’s, where Max would look after him, and where he would have a bigger house to roam in and lots of love and treats. The best part of this plan? I would hand him over to my stepmother at the care home when she came to visit Nick, so that man and beast could see each other for the first time in 10 months.

I put Badger in his travelling box and off we went. When we arrived to see Nick, the cat stayed in his box. “Do you remember me, Badger? I love you,” said Nick. “I used to look after you.” My eyes grew damp at this point. Not as damp as the towel that I’d put in Badger’s box to make it a bit more comfortable, and on which the cat had had a wee. After a few strokes and a bit of quality time, Nick said goodbye and Badger continued his Christmas journey.

On the day that I went to see how Badger was getting on, my siblings informed me on my arrival that the cat was up the chimney. Ho ho, I thought. A seasonal jape. Then I saw my sister’s hands – black with soot – and the chunks of fake coal littering the carpet around the gas fire. A quick peek up the flue revealed a feline face peering out, so I coaxed him out with gentle words. My fluffy black-and-white cat had become a fluffy black cat and the bath beckoned. I have never in my life seen water that colour, although my stepmother has – the next day, Badger legged it up the chimney once more and had to have his second-ever bath.

As I write, he’s still in residence in his holiday home. Still, lavish leftovers, a visit to his erstwhile owner and all that company aside, I rather wonder if Badger isn’t looking forward to the boring life next year, after all.

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