Cats aren't for everyone. Nor dogs. Nor any animals, sometimes. It's no secret, if you know me at all, that I adore animals, especially cats. A few hours ago on this Sunny, warm Saturday morning, we had 6 cats. Now, we have "only" 5 and it feels cold, and empty in this home of ours. Our family has lost one of its integral parts. It's missing and grieving one of the components which made our home a home, not just a house in which we all reside.
We welcomed the orange twosome, Cyril and Charlie, into our home in 1992, a few weeks after we moved in. They were about 10-weeks-old and upped our feline count to 6 bundles of purring furriness. Gilly and Guinness (brothers), Sidney, Thomas and Cyril and Charlie. Most were rescue cats: Gilly and Guinness were no longer able to stay with their previous owners; Sidney was abandoned on a rubbish tip and, despicably, had his nose set on fire; Cyril and Charlie were born and not wanted. Only Thomas was a pet shop cat. Marmaduke, his brother, decided to live next-door-but-one before we moved. Probably, being fed by the neighbour helped to lure him... THANKS.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis struck soon after. It's a terrible disease, extremely distressing for the animal and owner, alike. Sometimes, these things happen. They just do. It's never pleasant and always heartbreaking.
Gilly was the first to show signs. His breathing very quickly became laboured. He wouldn't eat. He was tested for FIP and it was confirmed he had it. The others were promptly tested and the results showed that Sidney, Thomas and Charlie has contracted it, too. Their lives would get worse, rapidly and it was an horrendous decision to make but we all knew the least cruel way to deal with the situation was for Gilly, Sidney, Thomas and Charlie to be put to sleep. How Guinness and Cyril didn't catch it is astonishing. They all mixed together, ate together, cleaned each other, slept in the same beds...
Having only 2 cats around was so peculiar. So empty.
Then, along came T.C., another rescue cat. He was hit by a car, the vet reckoned. He came home, crawled under my brother's motorbike and went to sleep.
Our 2 girls, Emily and Rosie, were the next fluffballs to live here. So, then, we had 4 cats. A better number.
A few years went by and ohh, shall we have another cat? Yes. Let's. In Summer, 2000, Ma and I went to the local rescue cat sanctuary. We saw a stunning ginger cat called Harvey. Homeless, on the streets for months, at least. So timid, so frightened. There was a bouncy black and white boy called Fritz, with the most charming of meaows. And there was a little black cat called Wallace, who was incredibly friendly. I was warned to not put my hands near the cage in case he scratched or bit but I knew he wouldn't. And he didn't.
So, after going there to get A cat, we came home with Fritz (soon after, Fitz - connotations regarding a sort of bestial feline didn't sit well with us) and Harvey. So, we had 6 cats! Lovely. So lovely. But we couldn't help thinking of Wallace. He was an immediate darling of a cat. SO friendly. SO affectionate. SO. CUTE. SO ours. My Little Brown Bear. I'm a cat person. I have to have stupid names for my cats. It's the law.
Pieman was an over-the-road cat. His lovely, kind owner, our neighbour, had become very ill, indeed, and could no longer live on his own, so had to go to hospital and then, to a residential home. So, we took Pieman. Pie. Pieface. Chunky Pie. Fat Pie. Poi maaaan. He loves it.
And so, our collection of cats numbered 8, until Harvey suffered a cardiac arrest and died in my arms in 2005. Guinness was 15 when he died in 2006. And now Mummy's boy Cyril, my little lion, our Squirrel, has gone, too. Just this morning. At about half past ten.
Despite having felt this so many times, it never gets easier. So then, why do we do it? Why do we have animals when we know, when they have to go, it'll be as heartbreaking as ever it was? It hurts. It's so horrid, when you want them to walk in, to jump up on the sofa and nudge you with their face, to make you let them sit on your lap, even when you have no room. You expect them to be there, at the door, asking to be let in or out, drinking out of the sink, eating grass they really shouldn't, clawing the carpets and looping the curtains.
Cyril was 17-years-old. The vet reckons it was cancer of the stomach/intestine. Cancer gets everywhere. I still hate it. And I miss Cyril so much already, even though he's only been gone a few hours. The comfort we have now, is that he's not going to hurt. He's back with Charlie and Guinness, whom he utterly adored.
We have Emily, Rosie, Fitz, Wallace and Pieman. They each know something is wrong, that something is missing. They know we feel sad. They always do. Cats are clever. Sometimes, though, they are stupid. Emily is a good example of this. She is dim. But I love her more than words can say. She is a beautiful, friendly, fluffy bundle of joy and she is sort of clever, really, despite her crossed eyes. She's doing OK, for a 14-year-old, likewise Rosie.
But I want to hear Cyril jump up on the worktop, like he did yesterday. I want him to stop me typing by walking over my arms and resting his head on my hand. I want him to sit across my legs, awkwardly, so I can't move.
G'night, Little Squirrel.