One cold winter's day, 13 years ago, I felt as fully prepared as any man could for impending fatherhood. The spare room, although not being used for a few months hence, had a fresh lick of paint. I had paid employment and we made plans to move to a new drum with a garden in due course. There was one aspect of the whole seismic life-changing event that I completely and utterly got caught short on however and have lost at every juncture in the preceding years: that of pester power.

Every parent fights this good fight, and many are better at it than me. I felt for a long while I could hold my own, but recently I have been soundly beaten on my home patch by a tag team combination of two daughters aged 9 and 13.

I had managed at least five long years in a war of attrition. "Dad, can we get a cat?" was batted back with a firm "no", before one day, and I’m unsure why, I responded with the "we’ll see". That was the day the pester power tap got turned to 11 and the floodgates opened, and it was only a matter of time before they got their own way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an animal lover, but I always found cat people strange: those who wear feline T-shirts and kiss their cats full on the mouth as they publicly proclaim undying love for tabby. I just did not get it and was firm in the belief that these oddballs were a sandwich short and in dire need of a hobby, or industrial sized sticking plaster with which to plug the gaping chasm in their lives of solitude.

The kids, after I held out for a few years, got their heads together and changed tack. "Dad, can we get a dog?"

"Absolutely not!" I explained, as I get up at 6am and wasn’t planning anytime soon on waking even earlier to walk it in all weathers, nor would I be picking up its faeces in a bag whilst retching. They would listen intently to my reasoning, waiting for their moment, before going in for the kill: "Can we get a cat instead then?"

Eventually during lockdown, and I remember it clearly, I was in the garden, covered in concrete dust and brutalised from alien manual labour when they went once more into the breach. Sensing my stress and weakness, they sidled up as I explained they would have to go indoors as I was about to use the angle grinder. "If we go indoors, can we get a cat then?" to which I, in the most exposed of moments replied "yes".

Cue a party where they spent days asking if I had found one yet, and their writing potential names down and planning where it was going to sleep, and eat, and go to school… until I could take no more. A few days later, 30 minutes after seeing an advert on an online pet page, we were in a lady's house in Welwyn Garden City, purchasing a georgious little black kitten.

Daugher MIllie, 9, with Kai the cat

Daugher MIllie, 9, with Kai the cat

Still dubious, my wife teased me why I had got him to perform a test walk before we handed the money over, before she asked "what if there is something wrong with him?" as the girls on the back seat made no attempt to hide their unbridled joy.

On day one he decided to stand on the bed headboard and pee all over my head, which only endeared him more to the household female contingent, prior to urinating on day two in the washing basket. It was then we were advised to move his littler tray away from his food as "you wouldn’t want to eat next to the toilet, would you?" and found it was a perfect fix for an initial complication.

And now, a few months on, we have a new kingpin in the house: a new alpha male, who is loved and adored in equal measure. Like many males, he is sweet, good natured, loves a belly rub and purrs like there's no tomorrow, and, peculiarly, I find myself apologising to the kids for not succumbing to their demands earlier.

We are now officially cat people and I was rumbled googling feline T-shirts the other night before I had a firm word with myself. Yes, Kai is here to stay, although I am hoping the pester power stage is not. Just give it time and I fully expect to hear soon "Dad, you know we have a garden… can we get a pet pot-bellied pig?"

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher