The pet I’ll never forget: part mafia boss, part Artful Dodger, Julian the cat scorns society’s rules | Life and style

I grew up around different kinds of domestic cat. My grandparents had a cat. My parents had three. My sister has had seven cats over the years. So I thought I was pretty familiar with their behaviour parameters. That is until I met Julian.

Julian is a law unto himself, less cat and more Artful Dodger with mafia stirrings. We got him from an animal rescue charity in Hounslow, west London, in 2019 when he was presumed to be around two years old. All we knew about him was: “He cannot tolerate living with any other animals or with small children.”

I do not know what shady events had occurred in the run-up to this warning, but I now suspect it to be a gross understatement. Upon adoption by us, he was renamed in honour of Star Trek’s Dr Julian Bashir, a genetically engineered human with genius capabilities. It suits Julian better than Rocco, his former, charity-bestowed name.

Cats have a reputation for independence but Julian really does do whatever the hell he likes. His main activities are: patrolling a gigantic, ever-expanding area of territory; fighting anything and anyone (he has been neutered but is oblivious to that); befriending and/or menacing foxes and/or pretending that he is a fox. He will disappear for days and then reappear as if nothing happened. He is chipped but will not wear a collar. Julian doesn’t waste any energy negotiating with idiots. He allows a collar to be put on him but always disposes of it as soon as he leaves the building.

Despite all this – or maybe because of it – we worship him. His activities outside the house have led to an elaborate family narrative where his rejection of home comforts can only be explained by the existence of a burgeoning door-to-door sales empire. It is imagined that he must be running a chimney-sweeping business – “with sideline in fish recycling” — under the name J Grimbley Esq. Our suspicions about his true identity are widely shared. One neighbour calls him “the ginger and white gentleman”. Recreating his Dickensian sales patter consumes a lot of our time, a necessary distraction from the distress caused by his frequent absences.

His entrepreneurship may, however, be a front. There is some evidence that he tried to hold another cat hostage in a shed for a number of weeks – or at least patrolled the poor animal’s territory so effectively that it was too afraid to go home. (The owner asked us to incarcerate Julian for 24 hours. Their cat returned. Many embarrassing community WhatsApp messages ensued.)

Sometimes, he reappears with multiple injuries. One morning he was found sitting nonchalantly on the sofa with half of his face hanging off, having incurred £2,500-worth of damage to his jaw (luckily we have insurance). During his month-long recovery from surgery, we had to barricade and tape up all possible exits as he attempted to gnaw them open with his broken jaw. If he found any crack in a doorframe, he would press his nose up against it and inhale deeply, savouring the scent of the wild like a thwarted Hannibal Lecter. In January alone he was treated for puncture wounds by the vet on three separate occasions.

I asked the vet what she suggested we do to keep Julian safe. And to keep others safe from Julian. Should we lock him in more often? What would she do if he were her cat? She looked at me wide-eyed and replied sadly, “Oh, I could never have a cat like this. I would be too anxious.” We hope and pray the capo di tutti capi will live long and prosper. But we also recommend getting your chimney swept sooner rather than later.

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