CAT by Chris Green

Ralph is at least nineteen years old. He is what’s known as a mackerel tabby. My ex-partner’s friend, Junko found him as a kitten at Catbrain Quarry and brought him round to the house.

I’ve got a new cat for you,’ Junko said. She knew our old cat had run away the previous week.

My daughter, Echo took to Ralph immediately. She laughed at the way he would run up the walls to chase a fly and she loved the way that he would nestle down on the dog’s head. It was Echo who gave Ralph his name, after Ralph Lauren Polo. Echo used to think that Polo was the designer’s surname. She was eleven.

What? You don’t believe there is a place called Catbrain Quarry? Look it up on the map. It’s near Painswick in Gloucestershire. Painswick has the largest number of cats per household in the country. No, it doesn’t. There are hardly any cats in Painswick. I made that up. How about this instead? This is true.

Following an online poll in 2013 the cat was named as the new Monopoly token, replacing the iron. The cat received the most votes on Facebook, beating the diamond ring, the helicopter, the guitar and the robot. It joins the wheelbarrow, shoe, race car, top hat, thimble, Scottie dog and battleship as tokens in the standard edition of the game. Other retired tokens over the years include the horse and rider, the cannon, the bag of money and the train.

There are variations. The world edition has a staggering twenty four tokens: a cowboy hat, a pretzel, an Egyptian head mask, a rickshaw, a Canadian Mountie, a kangaroo, a London black cab, a Chinese dragon, a safari hat, a NASCAR race-car, a boomerang, a windmill, a camel, an Inca mask, a Sumo wrestler, a matador, an Inca statue, a surfer, Russian dolls, a baseball glove, an African mask, an Easter Island head, a football, and a koala. Where are onion Johnny, the dreadlocks rasta, and the oil sheikh?

There are numerous collectors editions including the Shrek Collectors Edition, Nintendo, Coca Cola, Star Trek and The Muppets, not to mention The Simpsons and South Park editions. The John Wayne Collector’s edition has yet to adopt the cat as a token. It is singular in its focus. Its tokens are cowboy hat, belt buckle, cowboy boot, Duke the dog, John Wayne’s director’s chair and Stagecoach. In the spinoff, Ghettopoly, the tokens are: pimp, ho (whore), 40 oz malt liquor, machine gun, marijuana leaf, basketball and crack. The four railroad properties from the original are replaced by liquor stores. Other properties include a massage parlour, a peep show and a pawn shop. Promoting as it does ruthless capitalism most countries have adopted the Monopoly format and there is probably a localised Monopoly featuring the town you live in. Most likely it will now have the cat as a token.

John Lennon was a great cat lover and had hundreds of cats throughout his life. Growing up, he had a cat named Elvis. Not even when Elvis gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, did he rename the cat. In 1966, John named a cat Jesus as a sarcastic response to his the Beatles are bigger than Jesus, comment, Jesus being but a small cat. John believed that cats had a natural affinity for music.

I noticed early on that Ralph liked to listen to music. Along with bringing home mice and depositing them on the dining room table, musical appreciation seemed to be one of his favourite pastimes. He liked The Cocteau Twins especially and, quite surprisingly I thought, Led Zeppelin. He jigged his head to REM and Everything But The Girl and liked to sing along to Fleetwood Mac. A friend of ours at the time told us that his cat, Dave, liked listening to Handel and Vivaldi. We tried Ralph out on Water Music and The Four Seasons. His ears pricked up at first but as the music wore on, a bored expression came over his face and after a while, he slunk off to the corner.

Recently I discovered a website, They claim their music is based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats and is written in a musical language that is uniquely designed to appeal to the domestic cat. Kitty Ditties are playful and quick incorporating stylisations of some of the animal calls that are of great interest to cats. Cat Ballads are restful and pleasing. Feline Airs is based on the pulses of the purr. As the mp3s were really cheap I downloaded them all. Ralph was unimpressed. He didn’t so much as cock his head to listen. He knows what he likes. He established his musical tastes early on. If I want a happy purring cat I have to put on Automatic for the People or Rumours.

© Chris Green 2014: All rights reserved



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