I’ve been in hot water with the cats all this last week. You see, I committed the cardinal crime of going away for three weeks to visit my mum in Spain.

Some people think that animals are somehow above emotional wrangles that arise from breaking the rules of civilised behaviour but my three cats are particularly good at letting us know when we’ve messed up.

Mild disapproval is expressed with a steely glare and a flattened ear. It’s the cat way of saying, “Really?” in a Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, sarcastic drawl.

For heinous crimes, we get a flat-eared glare and then our pet will turn his back on us.

It’s the cat equivalent of saying, “Tell it to the hand” except you’re looking at a furry butt – which should tell you exactly what you are.

Our house rules state I’m supposed to be at home. As I clearly broke the pact, I was expecting trouble. So, in an attempt to appease my furry friends, I did some preventative shopping.

The supermarket in my mum’s village makes their own “cat salami” in various flavours.

You’d think that our spoilt fluffs would turn up finicky noses, but the truth is that they totally adore these. So I bought a huge stack, and hoped guilt gifting would work in my favour.

Cats

Target keeping a close watch over his treats (guilt gifts from his mum). Photo: Ellen Whyte

The night I came home, rain was lashing down, our street flooded and the living room was under an inch of water.

As I splashed in, Swooner took one look, squealed, “Meow!” and went completely bananas.

I scooped our kitten up, and he was giving me frantic furry head-butts, accompanied by high octane purring.

Guido was sitting on the stairs, disapproving of the flood and general chaos. But after a minute or so, he stepped down and let me stroke his ears.

Target was hiding. It always takes him a little while to adjust so, when I went upstairs, I wasn’t surprised to see him cautiously peering around a corner.

“It’s me, angel,” I said quietly. “How’s my kitten kersqueezle?” because he’s a soft fluff and he adores baby talk.

Target was hesitant, and I thought I might have to wait another minute or two, when Swooner appeared.

He head-butted my ankles, yelled, “Meow-ow-wow!” and then fell over, showing off a tummy that was in urgent need of petting.

Target is terribly jealous, so this display galvanised him into action. My senior cat flashed down the stairs, whapped Swooner out of the way, and claimed me.

We ended up sitting downstairs together, the three cats investigating my suitcase for scents of their Spanish cousin, Annie.

They all welcomed the cat treats and had some instantly.

While the bribery worked nicely, the fur pack went into action the second the dreaded luggage was put away.

All week, I’ve been getting the full gamut of flat ears and steel paws anchoring my ankles in case I tried to make a break for it.

In addition, Guido had me on my feet every two minutes, demanding to be let out to the garden and back inside, and out again and in – all day long!

Target hung around my neck, dogging, or rather catting, my every move.

Swooner went about his business but kept rushing in to check I was still here, with his panicky, “Meow?” ringing around the house.

I tried to remind them of realities. “Other cats are sent to the vet for boarding,” I said. “You cats stay at home and your other human spoilt you rotten.”

But flattened ears told me their point was that they had suffered, and it was reparation time.

While everyone enjoyed the salami, Target, Guido and Swooner went about their compensation in totally different ways.

Target loves treats when he sees them but he doesn’t ask for them. As long as he can sit with me, he’s happy. But he does waken me in the small hours for a special cuddle.

Guido is an uncomplicated character. Apart from making lots of extra demands, from ear rubs to concierge service, he sits by the treat drawer and demands salami.

He’s tried to cheat his way to getting more than his share too, the clever fuzz.

He fooled me into giving him double shares the other night when I was bamboozled by jetlag.

Swooner is divided by love for cuddles and food. Our kitten gets all the petting he wants but his quest to be clever like Guido failed because he pretended not to have had any while he was still chewing.

Still, he’s young and extremely clever so I’m sure he’ll work out some nefarious scheme.

All in all, my grovelling apologies and amends have helped stave off the worst of the recrimination. I have not been shown the furry butt of total displeasure.

However, I think I may have overdone the guilt. Checking the stack, I realised I can paw over two salami sticks per cat per day for an amazing 144 days.

No wonder Guido’s purring!