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House Exchange

by Beverley, Napier, New Zealand


I don't know about you but I always worry about pets when we're away. I try to cover every eventuality, having people coming in several times daily, having house sitters, oceans of extra food etc. (I remember years ago when we had a small chihuahua dog and went away overnight I used to worry about thieves breaking in and microwaving him!!)

When our cat Rum Tum died we decided not to get another pet as we wanted to do a lot of travelling. Enter Ollie, the spoiler. Last year we organised an overseas house exchange for several weeks.

I started to worry on the plane. "What if the people don't like cats."

John is not a worrier. "We haven't got a cat, remember. Ollie belongs to the next-door-neighbours and they feed him." (This was before the neighbours left.)

The exchangers greeted us at their home before they flew out for New Zealand. I took the plunge. "er, there's a cat called Ollie ....."

There was an instant reaction. They reared back as if I was dracula's mother-in-law and exchanged meaningful glances. The woman said frostily "There was no mention of us having to look after a cat!!"

I was getting more in the mire every minute and blabbed "No, no, you don't have to look after him, he's the neighbours cat and ....."

The couple fell silent. They were getting more alarmed every minute. You could see they had decided I was deranged. Instant dislike has a strange effect on me - I tend to get flustered in my attempts to get people to like me.

I blabbed on. "He comes over a lot, you see and he got a very loud voice. I've left a mountain of cat food - it will keep him quiet and you don't have to let him in, there are screens on the doors and windows. But you don't have to feed him if you don't like him."

John had turned his back to us and was gazing out the window. His shoulders were shaking suspiciously.

The woman said with loathing. "A cat's meowing won't bother us." Her attitude told me that hell would freeze over before she let that cat in or fed him. She stood up and jigged her husband's arm. "Time to go dear." It was obvious they couldn't wait to get away from this crazy New Zealander. I could almost hear them saying as they climbed into the taxi "hope they're all not like that woman over there!"

When we arrived home from the trip Ollie was sunning himself in the driveway and greeted us with a casual 'meow'. But there was something different about him - he had increased appreciably in size. Soon, it was easy to see why. Every morsel of cat food had vanished from the house. All the large tins had gone from the bench, the packets of cat biscuits had vanished and even the packages of gravy beef had gone from the freezer.

The neighbours all had fascinating stories to tell.


Editor's note:

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