Hobson’s Choice

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In the untamed world of the domestic cat, the one thing that is guaranteed to get you in trouble in the neighbourhood is the name your human owner gives you.

***

Hobson opened his one remaining good eye, yawned, stretched and sat up before meticulously grooming his fur and licking his battle wounds.

one-eyed-catSince he and his human Geoff had moved into the neighbourhood six weeks back, Hobson had literally had to fight for his life almost continuously. His battle scarred ears and the missing fur on his back, along with the severely bitten end of his tail bore testament to the daily scrapping Hobson had to endure.

“Breakfast Hobson, come and get it,” Geoff yelled above the noise of the food-blender, mashing up his daily liquid energy diet before his morning run.

Hobson scampered down the hallway to the kitchen from where he slept on the end of Geoff’s bed.

As usual, his human had placed a delicious repast fit for a king in his bowl. Today it was a mix of fresh oily Sardines, and Hobson’s absolute favourite – liver.

“See ya later old fella. Now don’t get yourself into any more fights- OK?”

Hobson flicked the end of his tail in answer as his human went out into the world for his morning exercise.

What Geoff didn’t seem to appreciate was that it is a cat’s duty to fight for position within the neighbourhood cat hierarchy, a fact that despite all of his highly explanatory mewing to Geoff, Hobson failed to make plain. If only they both spoke the same language. Humans can be so thick at times. After all, if he can understand human, why can’t Geoff understand a language as simple as cat?

Hobson licked the final trace of his breakfast from the farthest recesses of his bowl and began to meticulously wash his face and whiskers.

It was time to take on the neighbourhood boss, and this time Hobson had to win no matter what.

When Scratch had found out the name Geoff had chosen for his feline pal, thanks to Miffy, the flea-bitten female cat next door, hearing Geoff call him in on their first night in the street, he had made it his mission to declare the feline equivalent of war on Hobson.

To Scratch’s way of thinking Hobson was not a name fit for a cat, any cat come to that. Claw or Fang, or even Puss was tolerable at a pinch, but Hobson?

In the dim past there had been a pure white male cat named Snowflake who Scratch had relentlessly and mercilessly plagued to the point that poor Snowflake had finally run away, much to the consternation of his humans, never to be seen again.

***

Hobson carefully pushed the cat flap open and sniffed the air. The only odour his highly sensitive nose detected was that of the mailman, the dog across the street and the unmistakeable sour tomcat odour of Scratch.

Scratch had become numero uno soon after arriving in the street three months ago, taking on all comers. He meticulously despatched some with his vicious claws, severely wounded and completely terrifying others.

To make it clear to all felines who was king, he left his highly pungent calling card declaring to all and sundry that this is his territory. No one knew where he came from, or where he lived, let alone dare to challenge him until Hobson arrived that is.

***

Hobson had decided that today would be the feline equivalent of High Noon. It was time to face down his nemesis once and for all!

Every fibre of Hobson’s being was tensed as he made his way up the street, garden by garden, constantly expecting to be ambushed.

He surveyed the area where he knew Scratch held court in the narrow path between number five and number eleven. Sure enough Scratch’s scouts lay in wait on the walls lining either side of the alleyway.

Hobson calmly strode to the entrance and issued his challenge. He didn’t have to wait long, nor did he have any choice.

All heads turned as Scratch confidently trotted forward down the alley to where Hobson stood sideways, tail rigid, legs tensed ready to spring into action, fangs and claws bared as his low guttural growls grew in intensity.

Both Hobson and Scratch followed the unwritten code of preliminary feline combat, growling, spitting, hissing, flicking tails, raising hackles, lashing the space between them with one clawed paw, neither closing for the kill. For a few moments, both cats warily circled each other, low angry growls rapidly transforming into loud constant wailing.

Then Scratch launched his attack.

Fur flew; blood flowed, neither cat capitulating. Honour and position was at stake.

Hobson felt Scratch’s sharp claws pierce the skin of his sensitive nose, but the adrenalin coursing through his veins masked the pain. In turn, Hobson seized Scratch by the scruff of his neck, biting deep. As both cats rolled around on the ground in mortal combat, biting, clawing, scratching, neither of them heard the warning cries of their fellow felines until it was too late.

Suddenly Hobson lay on his own covered from head to foot in dust and dried blood. The battle was over.

***

“Gerald, shame on you, you are a naughty pussycat! I’ve been going out of my mind with worry. You have left home for the last time my lad. I’m taking you directly to the vet to be ‘fixed’, do you hear me, Gerald!”

If cats could laugh, every one of them assembled there that fateful day when Hobson became the undisputed boss would have. Scratch’s human given name was Gerald – unbelievable!

They all saw the look of total fear on his face as he peered out from behind the bars of the cat-box, located on the rear window ledge of the car, as his mistress drove off towards the centre of town to deliver Gerald to his appointment with the unkindest cut of all.

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