The saga of the three-legged cat

Last updated 11:53 13/09/2012

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.


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).

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Niri Tacen   #1   12:11 pm Sep 13 2012

Noooo! Poor Pickle!

It is remarkable how animals learn to live with serious changes to their bodies. Once the pain is gone (or at least manageable), and they've learned to get around, they are amazingly resilient.

Which reminds me: way to go NZ Paralympic team! I am in serious awe of you all.

I terms of saga telling, I think the very best were Ronnie Corbett (I would pay good money to have him sit by my bed and tell one of those stories), Billy Connolly (I've never seen anyone yet who can tell a tale as masterfully as him), and my Dad, who can take a simple joke or story and embellish it far beyond its humble beginnings.

EmJay   #2   12:18 pm Sep 13 2012

Yes.! my cousin does this too. stupid thing is at the end of his story, theres no point! hes simply just relaying what happened at such place. its not even anything interesting.

Karlos   #3   12:34 pm Sep 13 2012

That was both sad and really funny! It helps that Pickle is fine now and living a relatively 'normal' cat life.

My Mum once drove away from my sisters place in Auckland and was about to head onto the motorway when she heard a cat crying out. A bit confused, she pulled over and got out to find my sisters cat clinging to the roof racks of her car! Luckily she hadn't made it to the on ramp yet...

JCC   #4   12:44 pm Sep 13 2012

I know i am guilty of telling convoluted stories, but i blame genetics. My mum and grandmother also do this and are much worse, although since Granny is now 95, sometimes we don't ever get to the original point, but veer off again and again!

Noodle   #5   12:53 pm Sep 13 2012

Erm...guilty...I often get told I blather just like my grandmother. But you know, it's important to get the back-story and the details right. Right?

I also have an unfortunate tendancy to make my stories sound like they're going to be exciting, only for them not to be. It's like false advertising only far more awkward. You know that thing where you inadvertantly start your story off sounding all excited and you realise the person/people you're talking to are actually now expecting the story to be exciting; you feel like you can't let them down so try to desperately find a way to make it actually exciting only you don't succeed and the listener/s feel like they have to laugh just to make you not feel like a complete loser but it just keeps making things awkward? Yeah. That.

Uh, sorry for rambling. Shutting up now.

WH   #6   01:03 pm Sep 13 2012

My husband often feels the need to interupt my epic story telling with "Too many words, baby!". He just doesn't appreciate the need to set the scene when telling a good tale!

JacquiBee   #7   01:16 pm Sep 13 2012

My mother! Boy can she spin out a story with multiple side tracks into irrelevant back stories, never, never ask her for directions and my partner will tell you that I am an apple who fell not too far from the tree though I would say in my own defence that sometimes my stories are funny, eventually!

Sarah   #8   01:46 pm Sep 13 2012

Fun game- tell the longest, boringest story possible. Just when your captive audience realizes that there was never any point to the story, say "And then I found $5!" It makes every story better.

Lucky#13   #9   02:16 pm Sep 13 2012

Me. I do it. My mother does it. My father hates it. But I agree with my mum - sometimes you just need the background info. If your mother had just said "oh, fyi, a lawnmowing accident, cat is minus a leg", you'd surely want to know the full story?

boxi   #10   02:20 pm Sep 13 2012

MAWAIGE- uh, I got sidetracked as soon as you linked to that video.

My friend in highschool had a three legged cat, and one night while we were watching a spooky movie we weren't supposed to be watching it freaked out and started trying to climb the curtains (then falling off because it only had three legs and apparently that isn't enough to suspend a cat in curtains - funnier after the fact) and we all ran outside screaming like idiots and I'm still wary of three legged cats to this day.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand csb.

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