Real Fast Cats

I’m plodding along up a lane in South Oxfordshire on a mountain bike. There’s no-one else around – sensibly, as it’s another grotty day.

Out of nowhere, I’m joined by a small cat – I guess farm or feral – running alongside of me. I’m doing a shade over 12mph; he or she overtakes me, easily gains a few yards on me until it’s further up the lane where it dives into the hedge.

Now, I accept that at 12mph I’m not exactly scorching along, but this cat overtook me with ease – it wasn’t trying. I can’t say I’ve ever give it any thought at all, but if, before today, you had asked me I wouldn’t have said they could run that fast for so long with such ease. I’d have said they can do quick fast bursts, sure, but for a longer time was a surprise.

I hadn’t seen the cat earlier; logically, I must have disturbed it but it could have just remained where it was. And it came from behind … which means it must have decided to start running after I’d gone by, which made it a bit odd. Perhaps it was just showing off.

I heard it before I saw it. I didn’t realise a cat’s paws made quite such a noise on tarmac when they’re running. I’d have assumed they can run silently. It wasn’t a hard sound, not that scrabbling noise you can sometimes hear if you disturb a cat and its claws scrape as it tries to get a grip before running off. This was what I can only call a fast series of gentle thuds as each paw hit the ground; I could clearly hear the pattern of its running. It wasn’t even a large, heavy cat.

That’s all just slightly strange, completely inconsequential and all true; about the only thing of note on a mediocre ride. I guess what’s interesting about it is how well it demonstrates how easy it is to not think about the everyday. I’ve seen cats running hundreds of times in my life; I’ve never wondered how fast they’re going or what sound they make. I slightly dread to think how many other things that’s going to be true for.