"Someone has died!" cries Judi Dench's character, Barbara, at Cate Blanchett's, Sheba, in the film Notes On A Scandal. A few moments previously, we've watched Barbara take her dying tabby - and, apart from Sheba, only friend - to the vets for the final time in what is probably the movie's most harrowing scene, but now we're supposed to lose sympathy with her. Already she's been a prurient "confidante", taking rather too much interest in Sheba's affair with her pupil at the school where she and Barbara work, but now she's gone too far, putting unrealistic demands on Sheba's time. Besides, you'd have to be some kind of extreme mental case - someone who'd lost all perspective on reality - to call your cat "someone" wouldn't you?
Well, er... maybe. As many cat lovers will know, it's quite easy for "he" or "she" to evolve into "someone". Sometimes it's simply a matter of convenience: when one of our cats has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander and the piss is dribbling onto an easily-staining floor, it's a lot quicker for my wife or me to tell each other "someone has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!" (e.g. yesterday, 3.47pm) than it is to say "one of those little furry nobheads has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!" or "either Janet, Shipley, The Bear, Pablo, Ralph or Bootsy has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!". Obviously, that's only slightly quicker than saying "one of the cats has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!" or "a cat has pissed on the plastic bag containing our new sander!" but loose lips cost lives when you're trying to flea drop and feed six felines whilst simultaneously trying to cook some asparagus and unload the dishwasher (e.g. yesterday, 3.46pm).
However, I think it might be time for a different approach.
Two nights ago, I was woken up at 2am by my wife whispering, "There's someone in the room!". Instantly flashing back to last summer, when some drug addicts attacked the front of our house with secateurs, I leapt into action, reaching for the nearest weapon - a small plastic watering can - and was somewhat surprised to find that the "someone" in question was an indignant-looking Shipley, clearly wondering what all the commotion was and what precisely made it worth disturbing his industrial bottom-cleaning session.
Of course, it is quite frightening that Shipley is now so wiry and strong that he can effortlessly force open our oversized bedroom door, but it would be ridiculous to claim it was as frightening as waking up in the middle of the night and finding a stranger with secateurs in the room with you, with only a plastic watering can to use in defence of your lives. I wouldn't want this kind of misunderstanding to happen again, so for future reference I have provided the following easy-to-use guide, both for my own future reference, and for other anthropomorphically-inclined mog owners who have the same problem: