PUSS PUSS PUSS-IN-BRADFORD
We cats’ve come a long way since the days when humans claimed they owned us, that we were nothing more than entertaining animals rather than separate creatures in our own right, and that all we did all day was sleep, play with t’wool, scratch, purr, eat t’goldfish when they weren’t looking, and make a right mess, y’know. We do a lot more now, we’ve grown and we’ve learned from those humans.
Anyway. Let’s get going. Me name’s Puss. Last name’s Inbrains (‘in-brains?’ Get it?) for some reason or another, can’t quite fathom it meself. Must’ve been me last ‘owner’ or summat who gave me that stupid name; wanted to make me sound clever and it’s not even a good pun in my book, and I can’t tell a joke to save my fur. Lived on “Ilkley Moor baht’at”, he did, aye. Mind you, I’ve only heard the song once. It stuck with me, though, and all the other cats around me now call me Puss. I call meself Puss thus. We may have escaped from human control but we’re still all called cats, and even we call ourselves cats to make it all simple, even if “mankind” named us first.
And if you think fer a moment this is your typical cat book where they stand on their hind legs just like humans and hold things like humans, then you’re dead wrong, lad (or lass). I can’t stand on my hind legs for shite unless I’m trying to climb or pinch food.
You see, when I had my paws on that book down in that library in Bradford, as they call it, I scratched into it to read what was in it. Apparently them slaves took the last names of their masters when freed, and we kinda did the same when we cats and our deadly enemies, the dogs, got brighter and escaped the arms of our supposed owners. This did get us some useful results on both sides-across that huge pond on the west coast, a law in this place called “Connecticut”, I think it was, that said it was illegal to educate dogs, disappeared shortly after we all broke free.
That was only ’ bout thirty-six seasons ago that this all happened. I was just out of being a kitten then. Not many cats I know can remember it well enough, and most of those who took part died. I can remember it, I’ve been here long enough and grew up quickly, in their eyes anyway. I’ve lived 42 seasons so far, so I’m middle-aged for a cat already, and I still haven’t fathered kittens. It takes even longer for a human lad or lass to grow into a proper bloke or lady, but if you’re a cat like me, you go from kitten to tomcat in just 12 seasons. Queen if you’re a lady cat, I should add. The time it takes humans to proper grow up is more than our entire lives!
Still prefer to speak cats’ language, I do. So many moons ago, that was all we could speak, and mind you we didn’t do it all that often, not like those bastard dogs who barked and growled and whined all day long, and still do even though they know human lingo as well. We mainly like to keep ourselves to ourselves, and that still holds even though we can speak human language now. Them dogs also fuck like mad and shit all over the ground; we’re a bit cleaner and they say dogs’ noses are better!
Often this all comes from me, or my mate up the road, Thelonius. Comes from some posh place they call Cheshire, so he’s often Cheshire Cat to me. His name’s long and hard to pronounce anyway, not like mine at all, and we can talk but we sure can’t spell them bigger words yet! We can only barely spell by scratching with our claws, and more complicated words strain our tongues even when we only have to say them. He’s got lots of fur, he does, like me, except his is all bright white and I’m a ginger cat. Just the way we’re bred, and still breed. I’ve known him since we escaped from that house over in nearby Ilkley; we still live around Bradford though despite the fact we weren’t always treated well by the humans. That little girl kept bothering me and the little boy just didn’t want to know. Parents just wanted me for comfort-theirs not mine, and didn’t give me food I actually wanted. I can’t remember what all their names were; it was such a long time ago and I haven’t been back to Ilkley for many moons. I want mice, rats, fish, and other things I can grab and hunt for, not something that looks like it’s already been chewed up or spat out. Felt pissed off mightily.
Purr, purr, mew.
Mainly another of our chats, where we talk about our latest catch of mice and rats. This time, though, Cheshire Cat had some real good news for me-he and Molly, that white ball of fur he’d been mewing about for a while, were heavy with kittens and he wanted me to come over and see ’em. The playfulness of kittens delights me no end, even if they keep mewing for mamma all the time which can drive you fucking crazy sometimes. Haven’t found my queen yet, but I will, trust me, humans. Don’t know where, don’t know when. Probably sooner than you or even I might think.
We were just scouting around looking for something to scratch, something to tug on, some human to talk to once we could get on their lap. Some like it but some resent it; some say they get coughs and sneezes from our fur when we’re even near them. Fur is just fur, though-whatever colour it is. They should just deal with it, and they rarely gave us real respect. Why should we show respect for humans? Respect works both ways, always. Works that way with cats, works that way with dogs, works that way with all mammals, human or not human.
I ain’t the best growler, let’s be frank. But I sure can purr, yeah. Among the cats, there ain’t one ’round my street who’d give a better purr than I can. Fuck no. ’Eck no. Whatever swear word I can purr up with. I got me eye on Tabby, or Tabitha Whiskers, to give her proper name. She calls herself that ’cause she used to be tabby, though now she’s ginger like me. I don’t know if her former owners did as well. She’s a great purrer too, I can always hear it when I’m near her, and don’t I love it. I first met her some years ago when we just prowled around having escaped from the homes of our so-called owners and into the alleys of their city.
It was quite a frightful night, really-all these wheeled contraptions those apes call ‘cars’ could have flattened me like me flattening a rat or mouse when I pounce. Going so fast you wouldn’t believe it for a second, which is sadly how long our unlucky prowl-mate Purrcival met his end that very day. He just jumped for freedom, leapt and leapt across the road, wanting to escape. He just didn’t always look where he was going, which is why his last ‘owner’ never liked him much-always scratching, always sitting stubbornly. And at that moment-THUD!-the car wheels went right over his back, and he died there and then.
I still miss him to this day, even though I only knew him for a few human days. He was a great mouser, you know, a mouse catcher. He could surely catch them before I can and I think I’m quick to pounce, but he put me to shame. He was probably the first cat to escape at the time of the Claw-Out, the day we and so many other animals became smart enough to escape the control of hairless apes and their dwellings. From what I heard from listening to them humans, it was one of the biggest events in human history since the “great pandemic of 2020”. We prefer the wilds, and there’s many on Ilkley Moor, as well as nearby Wharfedale. We ain’t as good as digging as those fucking nasty canines, but we can hide.
No, we don’t have to worry about them humans interfering with that as long as we don’t hurt them. This thing I heard about called “UNCOSAR Article One” states that: “No member state of the United Nations shall interfere with activity that occurs between non-human animals and other non-human animals, regardless of sentience or lack thereof, except strictly in accordance with exempted UN Conventions specifically noted within this Charter.” I don’t know what UNCOSAR stands for or even is, and I don’t understand all them fancy words in Article One, but at least it means I can be free, having not been born free.
Thelonius and Molly are over all the way in Cheshire, and I need to make the long, long trek through those wilds. They call ’em Pennines whatever the hell that means; to me they’re just long fields of grass stretching for miles and miles around us. I don’t even know how long it is, I can see them maps but I’m no good with judging distances. What I need to do is avoid feeling those wheels like a certain Purrcival once did…
Fucking hell, that was close. I could easily have been squashed. I hiss and scratch at whatever that was but it’s already sped off up the road. I’ve made it across, that’s one small step for me, and a giant leap for cats.
The car had skidded left just after missing me and crashed straight into a tree, side on. They had it coming in my book. Serves them right for trying to flatten me on the road. They’ve been doing this for hundreds of years and no one but the cats seemed to mind. Dogs even barked happily at this sight despite the fact many got run over themselves, just for food or an excuse not to listen to humans. Before we broke free, dogs just obeyed humans without complaint, whatever one word command was issue, ‘sit!’, ‘fetch!’, ‘down!’, ‘heel!’, ‘come!’ etc. or ‘good dog’ or ‘bad dog’. They still did some strange feats on their own, though, like when a dog attacked a shark a long time ago; apparently the video of the dog attacking the shark has been watched 14 billion times.
Not anymore they don’t. Now they come after us cats, and like their primitive wolf cousins, they sometimes come in packs although the talking dogs I encounter are often alone. They rarely ever see them, but that’s far more often than we see wildcats, lions, or tigers, certainly here where it rains and rains, where the summer’s never warm enough, and where the winter’s cold but not snowing.
Them clever crows-ravens, rooks, jackdaws, the thieving magpies, you name it-are equally annoying to us even though they’re not as nasty to us as the dogs. They’re the smartest of all the animals who gained human intelligence we meet-I once heard that a raven across the pond even made it onto this game show called “Countdown”-and don’t they show it off to us. Given that they can fly too, every crow we manage to get hold of in our claws or in our jaws is a real victory.
Finally, we’ve got those humans who think we’re some sort of figment created by what they call the “Establishment”, whatever that is. They think our speech is just a series of figments caused by what they call “5G radiation” and that our newfound intelligence was made up by “animal rights extremists” to control them. I find most humans a right nuisance but this lot of humans who claim we don’t exist really get on my paws!
I do hear useful snippets from them, though,
Neither us cats nor them fucking dogs can ‘swim’, as they call it, at all-many of us have drowned trying to eat goldfish out of ponds, and sometimes these little glass houses. They call them ‘fish tanks’-do they look like tanks to me?
Recently, I climbed into one in that shop up there, Prime Pets, they call it. These goldfish really bring back them memories of when they and tuna were just placed in these little bowls, feeding bowls, I think. I just crawled in when the human opened the door, walking silently as I always do. I’m loud because I like to be loud, it’s not in my nature. I did my best to be quiet when I sneaked in; many humans still don’t get or see our new freedom. Goldfish haven’t got it yet; unlike us, the dogs, crows and suchlike they haven’t yet learnt to talk human. We don’t have much interaction with sea creatures, apart from when we’re eating them, and according to them humans we’ve got more complex brains anyway.
I went in that day, yeah, and saw many beautiful goldfish, the likes of which I’d not tasted in many weeks. Just tantalising, they were, swimming in the tanks with no idea I was coming. After I sneaked through, I saw my chance, decided to climb in to see if I could grab one. Pity the shopkeeper were watching that time.
He shouted right at me, “Hey! What are you doing? Bad cat!”
Knowing he was a human and not a cat, I mewed, “just wanted a fish. I may be a cat but I can talk your language now!”
“Well listen ’ere. You can’t just come in here and grab things that aren’t yours just ’cause you’re a cat. There’s people out here who want to buy those goldfish, not just stuff them in their mouths like you always do!”
He whisked a long stick out to make his point, (“Bad cat! Shoo!”) and whacked it at me to get me out of the fish tank. I was quick to dodge it, but needed to scarper without the fishies. “Piss off!” I hissed at him. He shouted after me, but I leapt before I could hear anything from him. Good news too, really. I’ll have to find those fishies another time-but where?
Anyhow, going back to what’s happening now, I’ve finally got across the road without being knocked over, and I’m finally about to start my journey over to Cheshire. A long one it will be.
I’m just over that road, having dodged those cars, when I hear this frightening noise:
That’s the sound I least like to hear in all the world-even worse than any car sound. If you can guess why, then you really know me.