The saga of the three-legged cat

There are a lot of things that I get from my mother - my hoarding tendency, my love of trifle and reading (not necessarily together, but not that I think of it, that's a pretty appealing combo), a strong tendency to root for the underdog, hair that's not an afro. I may also get from her my convoluted way of telling a story.

Never was this clearer than the time my cat had a rather unfortunate accident.

Now, it might come as a bit of a surprise to some of you to hear that I have a cat. Pickle, the feline in question, has only ever really been my cat in name. I paid for her to be "fixed" as a kitten and named her (after a jar of Branson's pickle - she's tortoiseshell) but she's always lived at my mother's house, has been fed by my mother's hand, and consequently been perched on my mother's lap.

About 10 years ago when I was still living with my mum (after coming back from my OE I was broke and ended up moving back in with my mother for a couple of years - judge me if you will) I came home from work one afternoon to find her a bit agitated. She had something to tell me.

My cat was okay...there was just less of her than there used to be.

This is actually a pretty good way to start a story if you are recounting a dramatic event from your past, perhaps around a campfire, or at the pub. It's a nice dramatic setup heavy with possibility which encourages the listener to hypothesise and ask many questions. What part of the cat might be missing that would still allow for the animal to be "okay"? How would the loss of said body part occur? It could be anything from full body shaving to the cat equivalent of an appendectomy. What might it be and how concerned should the cat owner feel? Where was the cat now? So. Many. Questions. Nice creation of suspense there, Ma.

This is not, however, the way to tell someone that their cat has had its leg amputated after a nasty lawnmower accident.

But it was a good five minutes before she got around to mentioning the amputation, because first she had to tell me about the process by which she'd gone about mowing the lawn that morning. The whole while I still have no idea which "bit" of the cat is no longer with us and am doing that circular motion you make with your hand and head nod that says "for the love of all that's holy, can you get to the point please". I imagine that's what you do while you're reading this blog. I know I can take a long time to get to the point.

Turns out that Mum had left the lawnmower turned on its side so that she could clear some garden debris from the undercarriage and had then gone inside to plug it in (it's one of those electric lawnmowers), in the meantime, Pickle, who was starting to live up to her name (by being in one), investigated this new object and considered it an adequate cat hidey hole, curling up inside the grasscatcher attachment.

Mum came back, completely unaware there was a small cat inside her lawnmower, turned it rightside up and started it up. I can't imagine what exactly a distressed cat inside a lawnmower sounds or feels like but let's just say it was "noticeable", so she stopped the mower and went to turn it on its side so she could look underneath it.

At this point, I'm aware that some of you may be feeling a touch queasy. Let me just remind you that said cat is still alive and well. Also at this point in the story, she's still uninjured, if not feeling particularly calm.

Okay?

However, as my mum turns the mower on its side the cat sees her chance for escape. Unfortunately the momentum means the mower blades haven't stopped spinning yet and one catches her low on the left leg, just above the paw as she leaps to freedom. This doesn't slow her down any though, and she disappears underneath a neighbour's deck for several hours before being found, dragged out, and taken to the vet. The damage to the ankle (do cats have ankles?) is determined to be so bad that it's unlikely they can repair it so the decision is made to amputate, which means taking off the whole leg.

And it's not until that part of the story that I actually know what the "less cat than there used to be" comment actually means. I still think "there was a lawnmower accident and the vet had to amputate her front left leg" should have been the second sentence of that story as told to me that day. In my mind's eye I am Prince Humperdinck imploring the impressive clergyman to "skip to the end!"

But as I say, the cat is happy enough (catches birds, climbs fences, gets up on roofs) and I imagine that Mum was feeling a bit flustered (and guilty) that day, so I suppose I shouldn't hold her dramatic storytelling technique against her.

Do you know anyone who can turn what should be a simply communication into a saga? I ask in the full awareness that I am personally guilty of this a lot of the time (the Silver Fox has been known to roll his eyes at my sweeping epics). Do you have any similar stories of pets in peril?

PS - I realise that so far this week both of my blog posts have involved unfortunate accidents. I'll try to write about something else tomorrow (unfortunate accidents notwithstanding).

» Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.