April 26, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 11°C

It's hard to love a chicken

By Lucy Brignall
Published: 2015-03-29

Jim's life began sweetly enough, only to turn... evil.

am sitting at my desk looking out into the herb garden as my malevolent cat sprays it with urine. I lament his furry presence. I bemoan the fact that not only am I cursed with having to share my life with a recalcitrant dog but I must also put up with the crossest, most evil cat to ever stalk Le Marche.

His name is Jim.

Jim, named after Conrad's "Lucky Jim," has quite a story. We adopted him after he his mother abandoned him at two weeks old. We lovingly fed him with a pipette at four-hour intervals throughout the day and night. We lavished him with love and attention and included him in our family. All was well when he was a kitten. But things changed as he grew. Even a loyalist and advocate would have noticed that Jim was turning positively grumpy and later downright aggressive.

Things had admittedly not always gone well for Jim. Living in a family with small children meant a certain amount of unpleasant interference. My daughter did carry him around by the scruff of the neck. He was dropped into a paddling pool from a height I shudder to remember. But since food seemed to be his principle preoccupation, Jim's life was pretty sweet.

Then came a fateful day.

Being an Italian cat, Jim clearly felt that lunch was an important part of his day. As a result, he took to hanging around in the kitchen when I was cooking, plunging his claws into my soon-lacerated legs if his hunger wasn't immediately satisfied.

I wasn't especially inclined to indulge him since his hunger coincided with a mouse problem. A small mouse had taken up residence behind the oven and each time I turned on the oven it made a dash for the fridge. I felt quite strongly this was an excellent occasion for Jim to earn his family keep. But Jim apparently felt differently.

My sister in law recommended a product called "Rat Glue," which, as the name suggests, is a very sticky substance designed to pin the creature down so that you can then bash it on the head, a ghastly business that no sane person should attempt. But I stupidly decided to give it a go. I set this sticky trap for my tiny visitor midway between the oven and the fridge. I turned on the oven and hoped for the best.

Rat Glue did Jim no favors.

It was at this point that Jim turned the corner feeling peckish and made an ill-advised lunge for the open fridge door. Unfortunately for him, instead of finding a snack he found himself hopelessly gyrating with a large piece of cardboard firmly stuck to his underside, collar to balls.

I won't distress you with the details of how we tried to unglue him. Suffice to say our efforts ended when he bit through my husband's chainsaw gloves. We took him to the vet where who immediately sedated him.

The poor chap was pretty sore for a long time afterwards, which may have been fortunate since it took his mind off the fact that we'd asked the vet to use the opportunity to castrate him. But cats do have a long memory, which is why Jim is now pissing all over my Rosemary.

I come from a country where animals hold an unimpeachable place in the fabric of society. To say you don't like them is tantamount to admitting devil worship. British dogs are welcome in more places than children. So, to set the record straight, I do like animals. I just don't like mine very much. There are people who can make a pet out of anything. I am not among them. I have a friend with a pet chicken. I would find it very hard to love a chicken.

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Lucy Brignall

Lucy lives on a farm in Le Marche and helps run a local summer school.

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