Pet Peeves

For the last few weeks, I have been keeping a small pet – or, rather, a growing army of them.  I think they were introduced by some sort of super-insect which managed to sting (or bite) me in the snow-covered days of December 2010 (when I might have considered myself safe from such unwanted attentions)  – and left some guests behind.  They have been living just above my right ankle, and have been pretty disappointing as companions – offering little more than some serious itching and a growing red ring of irritated flesh. To be frank, single celled animals do not make good pets – and the time has come to evict them.  I did consider a celebrity-fronted, public vote-based television extravaganza – but I decided this could take rather a long time to evict all my squatters if only one were allowed to leave each week, so decided to give the medical profession a chance.

My local pharmacist wouldn’t give me anything and told me to see my GP – so I made an appointment and then waited the obligatory two weeks the NHS allows for me to either (a) recover or (b) die for the date of the appointment to arrive (or perhaps the appointment was fixed, and it was me who arrived?).  Rather inconsiderately, I took neither of the NHS’s preferred options – so today I had my seven minutes under the medical spotlight.  Well, the average appointment with your (or in my case, a random) GP is seven minutes – but mine barely made it to one (I was in fact out before my appointment officially began).

I left with a prescription (all £7.20’s worth) for the wonderfully named Flucloxacillin – a beta-lactan antibiotic closely related to penicillin (though I did not have to scrape it off any mouldy bread – to be honest, at the price I would have expected fresh bread and lots of it).  I have to take four of these tablets per day, spread across the day for the next week.  Simple enough you might think, but I have to take them either on an empty stomach or at least an hour before eating.  Since I rarely leave as much as an hour between meals, this is going to be quite a challenging regimen – I can have one on waking, but how I will fit in the other three I’m not too sure at this stage.  I think some of my meals are going to have to bulk up, to absorb some of the surrounding grazing – or I’ll have to utilise my insomnia and take some in the middle of the night.  Any better ideas gratefully received…

My other pet problem is the neighbourhood cats (or maybe cat – I have yet to involve SOC Sawston to confirm the culprit) using my planters – and especially my strawberry planter – as a latrine.  I am rather fond of strawberries and less than fond of feline excreta – and while some animal manure makes fine fertiliser, so far as I know this is limited to that of vegetarian (or maybe, omnivorous) critters (and even then, may require some period of rotting).

As a result, I want to discourage cats from using my patio in this antisocial way – but without using overly extreme measures as I have nothing against cats in theory (or in pipeline form).  Checking out my local garden centre, there seem to be a number of commercial options.

  • I can use very expensive sonic devices (or hire a human scarecat – scaredycat? – as my contribution to the Big Society) but have my doubts as to the effectiveness of either.
  • I can use various forms of non-lethal spikes to surround my soft fruit – but knowing my ineptness, I fear these are more likely to injure me then to discourage Felis catus (I have seen one cat navigating spikes on a neighbour’s fence with no difficulty, as do the local pigeons who I think may have been the target).
  • The third option is to resort to chemical warfare – there seem to be a range of granules on offer, or I’ve heard that lion dung or garlic can be effective.
  • If I had more space, and were a Member of Parliament, I could try a moat – as cats have yet to develop either flight or artillery which rendered such defences out-dated in the military sphere.

I think I am probably leaning towards the chemical approach – which seems appropriate in this, the International Year of Chemistry.  However, it has been about 13,000 years since lions last stalked the Fens – back in the Pleistocene – and I’m not sure that the fossilised leavings of play-doh giant cats would be much of a deterrent to their smaller, domestic, modern counterparts. I’m also rather fond of Allium sativum, and so any that enters Fish Towers, fairly promptly thereafter enters the Fish.

I’m thinking of a plant-based solution (rather than forking out for shop-bought chemicals) and apparently cats are less than fond of lavender, rue or penny-royal.  Penny-royal is related to mint – which I believe is technically described as mildly invasive (in rather the way Poland in 1939 found the German Reich “mildly invasive”) and so may become a problem itself.  Rue is quite a large plant – and, as previously established I have no regrets – so that leaves me with lavender.  I rather like this option (assuming it works) as it will repel feline invaders whilst pleasing me – but most importantly, given its planned function, it decomposes to produce the phrase “lav ender” which is exactly what I am aiming to achieve.  Fate has spoken – I shall hie me to nursery (hopefully the type without small children) and return laden with Lavandula angustfolia.

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2 thoughts on “Pet Peeves

  1. Semibreve says:

    My experience is that lavender will not work. I had a garden full of the stuff (much utilised in my now famous lime and lavender cake). I also had two cats. Bluebottle, the larger and fluffier of the two, was extremely fond of sleeping. He was also extremely fond of sleeping amongst the aforementioned bushes. Then, fortified by his naps, he would come to bed for his proper sleep – and act as a lavender-scented hot water bottle that doesn’t lose its heat overnight. Unlike chewing gum losing its flavour on the bedpost.

  2. matathew says:

    My Dad has done some research into this (the cat-free zone problem), and has discovered that cats (well the cat in question, anyway) will not cross a strip of “chicken” wire laid flat on the ground, with a mesh size slightly bigger than a cat’s paw. But as far as aesthetics are concerned, it’s somehow less pleasing than a moat.

    If all else fails, you could always consider getting a cat yourself, which I believe would fiercely protect the grounds around Fish Towers from of any four-legged soil dropping interlopers, whilst discreetly using neighbouring premises for its own deposits.

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