LIZ JONES’S DIARY: In which I witness a shocking incident

Two weeks before I moved out of London, I discovered a small black cat in my kitchen, eating the others’ food. On examination, he had torn and bloody ears, and was really thin. I took him to the vet where he was pronounced about nine months old. He was neutered, microchipped, patched up, and I took him home. I called him Leo.

As I was about to relocate to Somerset, I then barricaded the cat flap with a huge, heavy pile of Vogues. But, the night before I left, Leo escaped: Kate Moss’s face was everywhere. I left a note with the new owner of my house, asking him to let me know if the cat turned up. He never did.

Five years later, my mobile rang. ‘We’ve found your cat.’ He was a starving stray in North London, miles from my old home, but because he was chipped, the lovely couple who found him were able to track me down.

I took him home and he turned into a fantastic cat: really solid and sturdy with the fur of a mole. He would kiss me on demand, and when I’d take the puppies for their evening walk, he’d jump out of the kitchen window to land as gently as a butterfly to come along too. He’d tippy-toe across cattle grids, jump streams and keep up really well, which with border collies is no mean feat. Gracie adored him: she has spent the past six years staring at him and, if we’re out, and I say, ‘Where’s Leo?’ her ears shoot up and she scans the horizon, frantic. She can never wait to get home to see him, scrabbling the front door with her paws.

On Monday I was slumped, exhausted, at my laptop. I’d been in London for three days and hadn’t yet put in my hearing aids. The front door was open as it was hot. I was checking the hundreds of emails I’d been unable to look at, as I’d been covering the royal wedding. There was a dreary one from David – ‘Listen to Thought for the Day on Radio 4’ – which I ignored. Mini was looking at me strangely. She ran to the hall, then back; she was panting. ‘What is it, Min?’ I followed her. I could vaguely hear a commotion coming from the downstairs loo. I put the light on and there was Gracie, jaws clamped around Leo’s neck, shaking him like a rag doll, while he was slung beneath her tummy, his claws deep in her belly, drawing blood.

I pulled Gracie off him and shut her in the garden. I rushed back to Leo, who was now flat on his tummy on the floor, all four paws splayed. His mouth was open, and I could see tufts of fur missing from his rump. I gently picked him up, placed him on a towel in a cat basket and sped to the vet. I am always speeding to the vet. I had all three dogs in the back, but I couldn’t look at Gracie. Leo must have come in the front door, then got cornered in the loo. As I drove, all I could think of was how many times I have shut Gracie in the kitchen with not just Leo but with Susie and Sweetie, who are old and frail, and Minstrel, who is so huge he’s not agile at all. But Leo was totally fearless. How and why did this happen? The dogs normally bark when they are about to do something naughty, but there had been no warning. I should have heard. I should have had my hearing aids in.

I ran into the surgery, and was shown to a room. The vet opened the cage and lifted my brave black puss out gently. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he said, listening to his heart, ‘but he’s already dead.’

I drove home in shock. I called Nic, who came straight away, face ashen, to bury him. I don’t understand Gracie. She has such a lovely life. She is never left on her own. She sleeps on the pillow next to me. She has the best food: nothing with additives. I’ve lost count of the things she has destroyed: sofas, chairs, walls, wellington boots, dog beds. She has started to chew her way through my car: despite a dog cage, she has eaten ten seat belts, and I now have no back seats. Nic says that anyone else would have returned her to the rescue home where she was born. I blame the person who abused her mother on a farm in Ireland while she was pregnant with Gracie.

I know she’s the dog and I’m the human. But I’m finding it very, very hard to forgive.