I'd never wanted any kind of pet. My mother always said they made the house dirty and were such a tie, so I grew up in a house with no animals. Friends had pets but even when I visited them I steered clear of cages, tanks and beds just in case I 'caught something.'
My brother kept a caterpillar once, placing it in a jam jar with a few leaves. He hid it under the bed and took it out to watch the change from crawler to spun webbing to hard chrysalis by torchlight at night. Mother hoovered just before it hatched out and threw the whole thing in the rubbish.
At uni I shared a house with someone who won a goldfish at the fair. I fed it for her when she was away one weekend, so I suppose I did have a little bit of experience although it wasn't quite proper animal husbandry.
Then one evening as I arrived home from work, I found a small cat on my front door step. I didn't call it a kitten back then because I had no idea if it was young or that was a normal size for a cat. It mewed at me as I went in and again as I closed the door.
A little while later I noticed it sat on my kitchen windowsill, watching me as I prepared my evening meal. That was the first time I was guilted into feeding an animal. You try preparing salmon with gusto when two little eyes are pleading for a share. So I shared.
Every night for a week or more this little scrap was waiting for me when I arrived home. Mews felt more of a welcome, a 'hi, how was your day?' and I felt mean closing the door behind me. The cat was usually on the sill before I reached the kitchen though. Then one day, I arrived home and it wasn't there.
I was worried, disappointed, hurt and a little bit lonely, all from this no-show cat. How could a cat make me feel lonely after 10 days? Just because I'd been to the fish counter and bought us fresh salmon as a treat didn't mean there was any kind of relationship between us after all. No duty on it to turn up every day.
I went inside and headed for the kitchen thinking maybe I'd open a can of soup and leave the salmon until the next day. And there was Cat, sat on the windowsill but this time inside the house. It must have slipped in through an open window during the day.
The welcome mewing was loud and long and Cat climbed onto my shoulder when it settled down and purred into my ear. I told myself Cat was waiting for me as much as I was waiting for it.
After we'd eaten and Cat was asleep on my lap, I googled how to sex a cat, then rang my brother and asked him if he knew how to install a cat-flap.