“Come and stay,” I said to Crumpet and Maneki’s mum, our cat friend in Cambodia. “We’ve got a spare room and you can finally meet Target and Guido.”

It was a casual invitation, and I had no idea that I was starting all sorts of trouble.

First of all, I realised that our spare room was a bit of a mess. So we spring-cleaned, which the cats loved. They explored the cupboards, messed about on the bookshelves, and when I took down the curtains for washing, they sat on them and got a tug ride across the hall. It was pawsome.

In a fit of housewifely fervour, something that strikes about once every five years, I decided I’d finally get around to painting the doors. I wanted to replace the boring grey with a more exciting purple that matched the bed linen. Unfortunately, I had this brilliant idea: I’d paint the edges and then spray paint the centre – In my mind, this was a neat way to avoid drips and splatters.

Right.

I bought a beautiful colour of royal purple, taped the frames carefully, spread newspaper on the floor, shook the tin, and went for it. The dratted thing sprayed left and right but magically missed everything right in front of it.

Of course, Target and Guido were sitting on the bed behind me, watching with awed fascination.

At my swearing, their ears flattened but by their twitching whiskers, I knew they were laughing at me.

We finished the project in traditional style with a paintbrush, and although both cats snoopervised, we managed to avoid getting the stuff on paws and whiskers.

When Crumpet’s mum pitched up, we were totally prepared. And that’s when plans went somewhat awry.

Target is a nervous Nelly, so I wasn’t surprised when he took one appalled look and then dashed upstairs. “He’ll come round,” I said nonchalantly. “He’s made friend with our neighbours. It’s just a matter of time.”

Guido, I was convinced, would be all over our guest. He’s sociable and steady as a rock, and I was sure he’d notice our guest came with a sprinkling of cat hair, courtesy of Crumpet and Maneki.

To my utter surprise, Guido stiffened, gave a kittenish squeal of horror, and promptly left home.

Crumpet’s mum took it well at first but after two days of being cold shouldered, she was beginning to feel the effect. Target was totally histrionic, sneaking around the house on paws two inches tall and sitting on me while keeping a very obvious weather eye out for trouble. Honestly, he was a poster cat for “stranger danger”.

Guido had to be enticed indoors and then he spent his time guarding our bedroom. Every time Crumpet’s mum walked past, he’d stiffen and growl.

“I’m a bad person!” she cried with a fine sense of drama. “Cats can always tell! I must be the worst person in the world!”

We had to laugh but secretly I knew how she felt. You see, when I cat sit for our neighbours, their fat cat Happy is all over me, purring and demanding cuddles, whereas their pet Joy treats me as though I’m the devil incarnate. I’d understand if he only saw me once in a blue moon, but last year I kept them company every day for three weeks while their mum and dad were traveling, and Joy spent the entire time peeking down from the banister and from underneath the curtains, growling at me. I felt as if I had an inner serial killer that only Joy could see. So I sympathised with Crumpet’s mum.

The visit was a short one of just three days, and the second our visitor was out of the house, Target and Guido were all over her room, sniffing and growling, their tails straight up with curiosity. They insisted on rolling all over the sheets and then slept in her bed, looking as if their snooze was some kind of moral victory.

I gave the cats a lecture about hospitality, pointing out that not only had they been very rude but that it meant they had missed out on hours and hours of ear rubbing, whisker stroking, and tummy caresses.

As for Crumpet’s mum, she went to stay with more cats, Gus, Dixie, Shadow, and 21, all of whom adored her. Feeling totally vindicated, she e-mailed, “It’s overcome my fear that Target and Guido had revealed my inner horribleness.”

I’ll not expect the cats to be welcoming from now on but one thing I am grateful for: Target and Guido just cold-shouldered the human unwanted guest but when Charlie, the cat from across the street, marched in uninvited yesterday, Guido went over and whapped him.

I wonder if I can persuade the cats to extend their strategy of icy aloofness towards cats? I have the suspicion, though, that I won’t get very far.

Next: How to befriend a cat