Cat power

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Though my flat is wonderful – bright, cosy and quiet – my building is another story entirely. I swear I invariably get a huge pang of envy on visits to friends who live nearby, specifically in the Žizkov-Vinohrady-Vršovice area.

Their corridors and stairs are so stylish and well kept, their letter boxes modern and not written on in marker. And their intercom systems don’t emit a continuous feedback sound that can be heard metres before you get to the front door.

Speaking of doors, many around our way are beautiful and ornate, either dating from the time the house was built or impressive replicas. Ours is bog standard to say the least, and bears graffiti attesting to the fact that Joha hearts sex.

There are pipes in the corridors that were evidently only added some time after the flats were built; left exposed, they create a kind of very poor man’s interior Pompidou Centre effect.

What friends buildings’ never have is a ground floor that one visitor to my place said smelled like the gorilla house at the zoo. A nose more finely tuned to animal odours might have recognised that the stench was actually caused by cats. A clutter of four or five feral cats treat the building as their own.

The felines are abetted by the správce, or custodian, whose husband’s family constructed the building in, I believe, the 1930s. She leaves food for them outside her apartment door. Access is not a problem, as somebody, I’d lay odds on Cat Lady, has knocked a hole in the back door, creating a type of cat-flap without the flap.

A couple of years ago some progressive, one assumes newer, residents decided they’d had all they could take of cat pee and occasional poo. They launched a notice campaign aimed at evicting the moggies, with one sign reading: if you see a wild cat, grab it and throw it out. After you, neighbour. And after I get that tetanus jab.

That hygiene drive had some success and for some time the cats were kept more or less at bay, forced to confine themselves to fighting one another in the courtyard. But eventually, with the apparent encouragement of the správce, they started slinking back, and now things are almost as bad as they were before.

On top of the cat problem, the building has often been permeated by the odour of rotting rubbish, as for some unfathomable reason the communal bins were located in the lobby. Until that is, a few weeks ago, when some bright spark decided to move them to the backyard. In the context of our building that can only be considered great progress indeed.