In the 1930s, an Austrian physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, came up with a paradox called Schrodinger’s Cat. You put a cat in a box, and it may or may not be killed by a random event with a 50/50 chance of happening. So at any one time the cat may be alive, or it may be dead. Since both states are equally likely, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. You can only tell when you open the box. But when you open the box it changes the conditions, so the cat may have been alive, or dead, before you did. Weird, huh?
Weird or not, I’ll tell you this. There are practical problems with the experiment. I may be the first person in the world to find a basic flaw in Schrodinger’s paradox.
A cat won’t go into a box without a fight. It just won’t. If you’ve ever tried to get a cat into a pet carrier, you’ll know this. We have to tip ours headfirst into the armour-plated container and bang the door shut very quickly.
Then when you open the box you risk losing an eye. Dead or alive, our cat would come out fighting. She’d be really pissed off about the whole being put in a box thing.
Our cat is of unclear but exceedingly furry moggy lineage. Named Peeves after the ghost in Harry Potter, she is the very essence of peevish. Most cats are snotty, but she’s raised snottiness to a very high art form. Spayed females are supposed to be docile. Not Peeves.
She and Charlie have a lot in common. Not that Charlie’s been spayed, but I’m sure you get my meaning.
Peeves fights dirty. She always has. Ever since she was a small, adorable, fluffy, big-eyed, psychopathically violent kitten. If she can’t bite or scratch because you’ve got her wrapped upside down in a bath towel, ready to give her some medication – a process that requires planning and execution of special forces precision if you don’t want to lose a finger – she’ll try and headbutt you. Having a row with Peeves is like rowing with a savagely animated hank of wool studded with razorblades and with a rock at one end.
Even the vet is wary of her, and she sees some bad animal behaviour on a daily basis. Generally we take Peeves to Dr Jordan after she’s caned the crap out of the semiferal tom from the farm next door. Bloody but unbowed, limping, missing clumps of fur, Peeves does not like having her temperature taken, and she lets you know. It takes three people to restrain her.
‘OK, a dirty fight, she’s been bitten and scratched to buggery; that’s a technical term, by the way.’
‘You should see the tom from next door. He won’t be sitting down for a day or so. Not till the swelling in his bollocks goes down.’
‘She’s a real scrapper isn’t she? I’ve met some scrappers in my time, but she takes the gong. Hang on a sec. Hold her down! All our lives are at stake!’ This last bit to the struggling assistants. ‘She needs antibiotics. So, I could prescribe orals, but I imagine you’d prefer something less life threatening. I’m talking about your life here. So a depot injection while we still have her in lockdown.’
Dr Jordan and I understand each other very well. I like her.
‘Ninety quid. Plus forty for the consultation.’
‘Bloody hell. How’s the holiday home in Mustique?’
She and Terry will probably be neighbours.
When Charlie and I go away and have someone catsit for us, we issue them with welding gauntlets and facemask, a stabvest, chainmail armlets, those ballistic trousers that chainsaw operators wear, steel toecap boots, a comprehensive risk assessment, and an indemnity agreement. Then when we return, the first thing we hear as we come through the door ready to do some suturing is the irritated slamming of the catflap as Peeves disappears for two days to teach us a lesson. She really is a snotbag.
She’s a cunning snotbag too. Charlie and I have an annual Superbowl gathering, where we all sit around the television, watch big American footballers crash into each other, drink beer, and eat good food. Peeves will wander in looking uncharacteristically amicable, lull us all into a false sense of security, then snatch a lamb chop from someone’s plate and be off like a bullet.
She’s also fireproof. She once managed to get a tuna steak off the barbecue.
And heatproof. She once yanked some chicken giblets out of the pan as I made some stock.
And waterproof. Charlie and I were having fun in the bath one day, and Peeves came to make our lives a misery; she’s extremely disapproving of our love life. She jumped on the edge of the bath, lost her footing, skittered about briefly, and fell in. I swear she rebounded off the surface.
Apparently some cats enjoy water. Tigers are very strong swimmers. Even on cold days they’ll take the plunge like those mad buggers who swim in the sea on New Year’s Day for charity. Peeves is not a tiger if I’m to judge from the time she fell in our pond while trying to catch a frog. She came out vertically. Peeves hates water. When it rains, it’s our fault.
She’s also brickproof. Our opposite neighbour hurls these at her when she defecates in his garden, since she’s much too fastidious to shit on her own turf. They just bounce off. It’s like watching The Incredible Hulk stopping a stolen car with his chest.
Maybe even atomic bomb proof. I suspect that after the holocaust, Peeves would prowl about in the deep dark of nuclear winter preying on the cockroaches.
Something just occurred to me. Maybe she’s Mexican. That would explain a lot.
So a cunning, fireproof, heatproof, waterproof, brickproof, possibly atom bomb proof, maybe Mexican, feline snotbag. Yet she adores our friend Haydn. He’s the only person in the world she’ll curl up on and be stroked without turning into a whirling ball of hairy barbed wire. Stone me, she even purrs whern he’s around, as opposed to snarling when anyone else encroaches on her universe. When she arches her back and fluffs herself up to look menacing, she really fluffs up, and you do feel menaced. But she is putty in Haydn’s hands. We let him comb the knots out of her fur. She justs purrs at him and lets it happen. Amazing.