Until very recently, I hated cats. I thought they were haughty, smelly, dirty and really rather evil. You couldn't train them, and they did their "business" indoors.
I was generally a "dog person", apart from one incident, when I was bitten at the age of five. That particular dog was massive (although my mother has since told me it was, in fact, more like a Yorkshire terrier). Whatever, I was quietly eating a chocolate biscuit at the house of a friend of my mother's when this huge, snarling, rottweiler snapped the biscuit out of my mouth, tearing a chunk out of my face in the process. A couple of Steri-strips later, I decided to treat dogs with caution.
But I still preferred them to cats. Aged 11, when we were housesitting for friends who had a cat, my hatred of felines was compounded when I woke up one morning with Ginger Snap asleep on my head. My immediate reaction of screaming and jumping up resulted in a nice, big scratch across the face.
In order to avoid an eventual face transplant, I generally continued to steer clear of cats and dogs. Our family dog was lovely and sweet, but I moved away from home soon after we got her, so had little to do with her day-to-day life. When she died nine years ago, I thought I was "done" with animals.
Until, that is, I moved to the UAE. The garden at the office was full of stray cats, always hanging around hoping for some food. I tried to ignore them at first, protesting to anyone who would listen that I hated cats and was allergic. But then a colleague discovered four teeny tiny kittens in the office garden.
Their mother had abandoned them and it was winter, so they were cold and hungry. I just couldn't resist the defenceless little creatures, particularly when the runt of the litter started to climb up my leg into my hands, shivering. They were too young for the cat charity to do anything about, so I informed my husband we would be taking them home. All four of them.
After we fostered that family and, through fantastic friends, managed to get them homes, I vowed, never again. No more cats. No more litter trays and worrying about being away on holiday. And I was as good as my word (apart from a one-off one-night kitten-sitting - but they were so cute!) until Charlotte appeared.
This three-month-old kitten made a beeline for humans. She would follow me around and sleep on my lap. I was finally persuaded to take her home when I discovered that she used to strut around the office in the evenings, looking for people to befriend and a comfortable place to nap - not a safe place for her to be.
Now she is our cat. She's part of our family. She is incredibly sweet, extremely loving, totally crazy, and just a little bit evil.