The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - February 5, 2015

Steve Canavan's cat Percy
Steve Canavan's cat Percy
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It was the cat’s third birthday the other day. We were thinking of having a party but his friends were busy; Stan, the grey and white moggy at the other end of the street, was sleeping, while Morris – next door’s cat, who walks with a limp after being hit by a Ford Fiesta in a hit and run incident – was killing a sparrow.

We did buy him a gift though (the cat, not the sparrow; buying the latter a present would have been pointless – it was lying motionless on the pavement).

Now I know what you’re thinking, it’s a bit odd to buy an animal a present and you’re right.

I mean, they take forever to get the wrapping paper off and they never, ever say thank you.

But the thing is, I have to buy my cat a present, out of guilt.

This guilt dates back to the day we got him three years ago.

We went to a local animal sanctuary and were shown a variety of kittens in different cages.

We stopped at one cage where three scampered around.

“They’re from the same family,” explained the cat sanctuary women.

“He’s a boy and those are his sisters.

“Someone is about to take one of them, so it’s just brother and sister left.”

Now I immediately liked the lad because, whereas all the other kittens we’d seen were incredibly cute and lovable – in other words, perfect pet material – he was ugly and misshapen and looked as if he’d been dropped on his face from a great height at birth.

As we watched, he spent a full 10 minutes chasing his own tail, so clearly had slight mental issues, too. In short, he was just what I was after.

However, there was the issue of his sister.

“Let’s take them both,” Mrs Canavan implored.

But we’d come to get one cat, not two, and we’d just moved into a new house, a house I liked and didn’t want to see destroyed by two cats scratching and vomiting on every surface they could find.

So I held firm and we took home the lad only.

Now I’m not the soft type. I haven’t cried since 1983 when Clark Kent lost his powers in Superman II (very upsetting, he gets beaten up in a bar and loses his glasses), but that night I couldn’t sleep.

All I could think of was that poor little female kitten, sat alone in her hutch, whimpering and scared, pining for her lost brother.

At about 3am, I sat bolt upright, switched the light on and announced to Mrs Canavan “we’ll go back for the other cat tomorrow”.

But, and much to my eternal shame, when we arrived back at the animal sanctuary the next day, it was too late.

Percy’s sister had gone to another home.

I had split a family, and to this day feel terrible about it, which is why – though granted it was a rather long-winded way of telling you – I buy my cat a gift each year.

And this year’s we were really excited about.

Mrs C and I had been on the internet and discovered a device from America that is essentially a toy bird hanging on a long string.

You attach it to the ceiling, press a button, and it starts whirring round.

The promotional videos we watched showed excited cats going wild, jumping up and down trying to get to the bird.

It looked great fun.

The price was a little steep – 19 quid – but what the heck, it was going to be worth it to watch our Percy have hours of endless fun, those sad thoughts of his long lost sister pushed to the back of his mind.

We gave it him on his birthday.

I excitedly attached the device to the ceiling, pressed the button and stood back – camera in hand, ready to record his reaction, like 
a father capturing his son’s first steps.

Percy, clearly still slightly annoyed that I’d just carried him down the stairs (disturbing his morning routine of four hours’ sleep on a pile of clean washing in the back bedroom), looked at the bird, looked at me, looked back at the bird, then turned on his heels and walked out of the room.

I have tried the bird device about 20 times since, and not once has he showed any interest in it whatsoever.

I checked the small print on the packaging and they don’t do refunds.

So if anyone wants a toy bird that attaches to a ceiling via a piece of string, please let me know – I have one spare.

Brave Jak is a true inspiration

If you are having a bad day and are feeling sorry for yourself – something went wrong at work or you got stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway – I implore you to go on the internet and do a search on the name Jak Trueman.

The 15-year-old, from Scotland, died this week from a rare form of blood cancer, but not before raising £35,000 for charity.

Since he was diagnosed last August, Jak has been documenting his battle with illness on Facebook.

Despite the grim outlook, he wrote about his situation with humour and unflinching optimism.

When he asked if people would be willing to donate to lymphoma and leukaemia research, the money flowed in.

On Saturday he went to a school prom that had been organised in his honour.

Former Blackpool manager and Rangers captain Barry Ferguson went to meet him – Jak had been a keen footballer and supported Rangers. Jak lasted only 10 minutes at the prom before he felt unwell and had to leave.

“I was gutted and really sad as I never spoke to anyone, but I took really unwell really quickly as I had been lying in bed for three days without hardly moving,” he later wrote on his page.

“Thank you to everyone who organised it and came along.

“Even just knowing it was all happening for me makes me smile.”

He died less than 48 hours later, on Monday, his mum writing: “God bless. Jak I am the proudest Mummy ever.”

The internet, and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, have many, many downsides. But they can also do a heck of lot of good.

In Jak’s case, not only has it raised a large amount of money for charity, but it has brought a lot of pleasure, comfort and meaning to the life of an individual and his family in the bleakest of circumstances.