I heard something on the radio today about a woman who paid several hundred pounds for a cat "off the Internet", but on inspection she had decided it wasn't really for her. The supplier had gone to a lot of trouble to get the cat, and had refused to give the lady her money back.

Well, I was amazed. Why pay for a cat?

I grew up with kittens crawling all over our house. The wild cats nearby were always procreating. Mum had some of them caught and put down, with help from the RSCPCA and like-minded neighbours, and some were taken in, weaned, and passed onto good homes after their earliest weeks of life.

I am sure that some were splayed before being passed on. Goodness only knows what the RSPCA and vets bills were, though to be fair, I think the RSPCA may have reduced their bill or didn't always charge.

Then we kept three of them; Patch, Whisky, and Hoppy. Patch was the oldest, wisest and cleverest cat I ever knew, and he lorded it over his wild cousins. A short haired black and white, I would encourage him to walk around the perimeter of a disused bowling green with me. He would trot around, sniffing in the side bushes, as we went. Indoors, I trained him to sleep on newspaper on a bed settee. You could practically have a conversation with him, and he seemed to make appropriate head nods.

Patch also took great care to keep an eye out for the other two house cats; if there was ever any likelihood of a fight with the  outsiders, he'd sort it out. He only had to sit in the middle of his yard, and the outsiders would go away.

The three house cats would preen each other, licking each others parts that they were unable to personally reach, like the back of the head. Whisky was a long haired, ginger and white, cat, and by comparison to Patch, was quite dopey.  His fur used to get very tangled up, and Patch used to help him try to sort it out. Licking and licking. There's no doubt in my mind that the long hair made Whisky very hot in summer.

Finally, there was Hoppy, so called because she hopped around on account of (probably) having had a paw chewed off by her mother at birth. She was forever cutting the stub, so requiring lots of anti-biotics and bandaging at various times. If she hurt that paw, you really felt it with her; it must have been so much agony. Because of these injuries, we rarely let her out, although she would often try to get out. Unfortunately, one day, Hoppy made off through an open window on the first floor. There was an old chair about 4 feet below the window, and in turn, that chair was on the roof of a ground floor building. I saw her go, and of course, I should have had the window closed. On the roof of the ground floor building, I think she whacked her stub again. She then panicked and leapt about 12 feet down towards the front door, where presumably she had decided to re-enter the house. Well, that leap finished her. She fell onto the very hard surface, causing so much damage and injury, that it was decided it best to end her life.

Grandma was the name given to the female wild cat that was ALWAYS pregnant. She was Patch's mother, probably Hoppy's mother, and the mother of his sister, who I called Trixie; Patch and Trixie were so alike, except Trixie had a bit of ginger in her. But Trixie always stayed wild, and had her own share of litters. So sooner had Grandma dropped a litter, than she was wailing for another mate.

The kittens we took in were a lot of fun, at times; we set up obstacle courses with cushions and cardboard boxes for them, for their amusement and our entertainment. So interesting watching them creep around corners, and pounce on one another. But the downside was kitten-poo and wee to clear up. Obviously you contain the area to be messed by not allowing them everywhere, and you train them by putting their nose into their mess and then plonk them into the cat-litter box. But it all takes  a while to teach and them to learn. No sooner were they trained, than it seemed they were sent off to new homes, and within a few weeks another batch of kittens were brought in from the wild.

The day Patch died was quite sad for me. He was probably about 10. I had been living away for a couple of years, and had missed him. Then I moved back to my parents for a couple of months while my flat was being sold, and waiting for a house purchase to come through.

It was while I was back there that Patch had started staying out all night. He was in a neighbour's open access garden, just sitting on the pathway. Normally when I called him, he would come, but this time he wouldn't. A couple of days passed. He would do a low growl if you tried to move him. I even persuaded Whisky to go and sit with him for awhile!

Eventually, with great difficulty, he was maneuvered into a vet-box made of cardboard, and I started to carry him along the road to the vet's. I'm sure he sensed where I was taking him. Suddenly, the cardboard box was soaked, as he had done a wee. I struggled with the box, to keep him contained, but once at the vet's, that was that, unfortunately. Too ill to be recovered, you see.

So, with memories of cat hairs all over the house, recollections of school trousers always having pulled threads from crawling kittens, the ghastly smell of cat food on saucers, and cat-litter always spreading out of the cat-litter boxes, please forgive me. I'm afraid I couldn't put up with having a cat again.