Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do you stop a cat from sneaking next door?

16 April 2022

9:00 AM

16 April 2022

9:00 AM

Q. A great friend is in a terrible state regarding a cat foisted on her by a close relation. She has become very attached to it but it keeps going next door through her neighbour’s cat flap and eating the neighbour’s cats’ food. The neighbour is a high-profile elderly lady who is getting annoyed. My friend, who is supposed to be getting on with her next book, is now reduced to standing with a water pistol ready to squirt her cat if it tries to enter the neighbour’s house. My friend has offered to pay for a digital cat flap but the neighbour has replied that in the warm weather she will be leaving her garden doors, not just the cat flap, open. Moreover she leaves ‘wet’ food out all day and apparently this is very tempting. Any advice, Mary?

– E.S., London W11

A. A professional cat expert has lent his intelligence to this query: ‘Most cat-lovers/owners relish and respect the fact that cats are ungovernable and unbiddable, and that is their charm. Lion/tiger dung spread around a property is said to deter visiting cats but I don’t know how thrilled the neighbour would be to receive a delivery. I would have thought a copy of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats – with its celebration of feline individuality – might be a better offering.’

Q. I’d like to know how you seat a dinner party when you don’t know, and can’t ask, how guests are identifying themselves on the gender spectrum.


– E.H., by email

A. Just cut to the chase and seat the guests in alphabetical order, as at kindergarten. Do this by first name so married couples are not adjacent to one another.

Q. I suffer from various symptoms of Parkinson’s. When people meet me with the greeting ‘How are you?’ they clearly mean more than the standard ‘How do you do?’. How can I respond to this without going into detail and, at the same time, move on to another topic? To reply with ‘I’m fine’ would be manifestly untrue.

– L.A., Norfolk

A. Why not reply by saying: ‘I’m what they call stable, thank you.’ In this way you acknowledge that you both know you are not ‘Very well thank you’, but there should be no need to enlarge on that before changing the subject.

Q. May I offer a tip to readers? It’s related to people with OCD or neuroses about leaving the iron or oven on or candles lit when going out of the house. The solution is to take a photograph on your phone of the candle/iron/oven and then, if you feel anxious, you can look at the photographs to confirm that you did switch off/blow out.

– A.G., London NW10

A. Late arrival by these sufferers can be a nuisance for all concerned so thank you for this useful tip.

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