Meanwhile, I've spent about half my free time in the last week or so mopping up puddles from my carpet. The main problem is that the cat keeps refilling them as soon as I've dried them off (I'm getting through rolls of kitchen towel like nobody's business). I hired a carpet cleaning machine from the dry cleaners yesterday, which did a good job, and I was hoping that this would get rid of the smell too (if that's what makes her repeat the habit), but no luck. I've also tried putting down a litter tray in that spot, but she's continued to ignore that. I'll see if I can get some kind of odour-eradicating spray from a pet shop or something.
On Friday evening, I got home to see that the RSPCA had put a card through the letter box. They were asking whether we'd seen anybody from next door recently, or whether anyone was feeding their cat. I haven't seen them lately, but as far as I know they don't have a cat. Our cat often sits outside their front door when I let her out in the morning (since they have a doormat and we don't, so it's presumably more comfortable than the pavement), so I'm guessing that the RSPCA were talking about her. Thinking back to the fate of Cruiser, I was concerned that they might take her away. So, several phone calls back and forth followed, on Friday evening and Saturday morning. I gave them a description of our cat, and it sounds like the same one. I told the RSPCA that I was happy for them to pass my details on to the person who contacted them (I'm assuming that they can't give me that person's details due to confidentiality issues). So, they phoned that woman back, and asked her to come over. She then apparently did come round when I was here, but I didn't hear her knocking on the front door. So, I then went downstairs and sat there with the cat for the next 10-15 minutes, waiting for this other woman to come back. I then had another call from the RSPCA saying that she wasn't answering her mobile. So, we've left it at that for now.
I think I now need to get a microchip sorted out for the cat; it's something I've considered before, but never got round to. But it now seems like a higher priority. If the RSPCA think that I am being cruel/negligent, then that's a separate problem to deal with, but I think that resolving any confusion about identity is a good first step.
The woman who phoned the RSPCA said that she thought the cat had been abandoned. A side note to this is that I bumped into the neighbour from number 17 (the cat's former owner) a couple of months ago, just after I started back at my job. She said that she thought I'd moved away (presumably because the cat was meowing outside during the day), and that she's moving soon (she may even have gone by now). She also said that if I had moved, she was going to have the cat put to sleep. So, I'm quite glad I saw her to straighten things out. People round here seem to be a tad trigger-happy at times... I'm reminded of the old "Mary Whitehouse Experience" sketch (referring to the Bentley "Let him have it" trial) - "Oh, sorry, I thought you meant 'put him down' in the sense of 'kill him'..."
I dunno - I like having the cat around, but there's got to be a better way of handling the situation than this. The problem is that it's all a balancing act. E.g. I'd like to go to bed at 11pm in the evening (so that I can get 8 hours of sleep before I get up for work the next day), but that's not practical since I have to wait until at least 1am before the cat's ready to stop prowling around outside. I could just keep her inside (not let her out after a certain time), in the hope that she'll eventually get used to the new pattern, but then her loud meowing would annoy all my flatmates, which isn't fair to them. And I don't like leaving her outside all night, because there are at least 2 foxes roaming around.
Ah well, on the plus side, I'm sure that this is all good practice for taking care of a baby...