As those of you who live with cats will understand cats rarely do anything they don’t want to. So today was quite a special day for me. We currently have two cats Annabelle, a tortoiseshell also known as ‘the aloof one’ and Alexei, mainly white with grey markings, ‘the friendly one.’
We have had them both since they were eight-week-old kittens, we’ve treated them the same, but they could not be more different in temperament and personality.
Annabelle is elusive, shy, a shadow of a cat, who then demands to come into our bedroom and sleep with us.
Alexei is relaxed, friendly, laid back he will bound onto a vacant knee sure of a welcome and lie back in my arms like a baby.
Today, after almost ten years together Annabelle decide she liked me. When I journal each morning, she keeps me company, usually at arm’s length but present.
When I am allowed to, I stroke her ears and tell her how pretty she is. Her green eyes survey me with an amused detachment as she takes this praise as her due.
Today, I was bumbling about doing the early morning chores when she stopped and meowed. Did she want to go out? I opened the door, but she did not follow. Instead, she stood squarely in the doorway to the room where I sit to write in my journal and meowed again. A royal command! She wanted my company.
I settled down to write and felt her head bump my hand, Annabelle wanted a stroke, she wanted attention. I held my breath as she put two paws on my knee and started to knead. Her purr was loud as I stroked and complimented her- and then elusive as ever she was gone.
I’d love to see your pets- I do like dogs too, but at this stage its more practical to have cats
When we take an animal into our homes, we don’t think of the hard reality that their lifespans are much shorter than ours
There is the joy of a new companion whether a puppy or kitten or of an older rescued animal who needs a home. We grow together, learn their personalities, their food preferences and their interactions with other family members and animals.
We develop bonds of trust with them, we are their carers and protectors, the leaders of their pack. In simple terms, we grow to love them.
Although I used to have a dog, these days our animal companions are cats. Until last week I had three cats two girls and a boy. As previous cats have lived to a ripe old age of twenty-one I confidently expected many more happy years together.
Then, I noticed that Freya wasn’t eating, and this went on for a couple of days. Unlike the other two who we had, since they were kittens, we think that Freya had a tough early life.
When we first saw her, she was living in a neighbour’s shed and had just had kittens. He had no plans to feed her or offer her water. We asked for his permission to feed her and gradually earned her trust. Despite looking like a kitten, herself she’d had seven kittens. An animal rescue organisation took the kittens as we managed to catch them, one by one. We knew no one would want this skinny Mamma cat, so we kept her.
She was skittish and distrustful for a long while spitting and striking out at our other cats. At times I was sorry that we had kept her as it was so stressful. Gradually she mellowed, and we won her trust.
I worried about her as she grew inexplicably and enormously fat, the vet had no explanation for this. We cut her food down, but the weight remained. She looked like a fat wombat. Then as unexpectedly as it had started she lost the weight, returning to the petite size we remembered.
She was still wary of men but grew to trust me and would curl up beside me in an armchair. Gradually trust was created and over time an armed neutrality was established between our male cat and her. She seemed to be a settled and contented cat.
It had all taken time and I realised that she had been with us for nearly eight years. When they had their check-ups in June the vet had mentioned she needed some dental work done and I was convinced that this was causing her problems now.
We went in at 9am on Wednesday morning and the vet examined her and said she needed hydrating and she would put her on a drip and conduct blood tests prior to doing surgery.
When the phone rang at eleven I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. I listened to words like fluid on the lungs, possible heart failure, cancer or other problems. The vet mentioned it might be kindest to let her go. I heard the words but could hardly comprehend them
We agreed to go back at I pm to say goodbye. We went in and. the vet explained more and assured us we were acting in her best interests Freya was brought in still with her drip attached and tried to get up. We stroked her and talked to her, and gently, gently the vet gave her the injection that would send her to sleep forever. I held her paw and talked to her, looking into her eyes and watched as her eyes slowly closed.
Only then did my tears fall as we stayed with her for a while. I grieved for all the life she might have had, all the time we could have spent together. I hated myself for having to make the decision although I knew it was for the best and in my heart, I asked her to forgive me.
When we take on a pet we take it all on, the good and the bad, the happy days and the hard days. Allowing an animal to end its suffering after a long and happy life is hard but saying goodbye to one who should have had so many more happy years ahead is heart-breaking.
Midnight was a rescue cat, and we shared a deep bond.He would accompany me everywhere- even to visit our neighbours. People said’ he’s more like a dog than a cat.’ He was a tough veteran when we got him, but he displayed the sweetest nature. Sadly ,after only being together for three years and three months, he was killed in an accident. I felt as though my heart was broken, and that I’d never love another animal in the same way.I had never shared such a deep connection with any animal.
Three years and three months later the black cat who I would call Mystic walked along our driveway and demanded to be let in. When I saw him in the garden under the tree that Midnight used to sit under I wrote this poem
When my cat died on March 20th, I stopped blogging entirely. The only reason you’ll see I posted blogs on that particular date (and after) is because I always schedule my blogs about 1-2 weeks ahead.
I would like to let you all know that I have been reading every single comment left on this blog – even if I never replied. Your comments have been little sparks of light in the darkness. Thank you too, for all the lovely, heartfelt emails and for being so understanding and sharing in my grief when I posted about losing Sven last month.
I’m not embarrassed to admit, that I, the ever optimistic happy go-lucky crazy cat lady, finally reached the end of her tether after my pet died. And we should not be ashamed of feeling sad. If we do, we help perpetuate the stigma of depression that stops people reaching…
Would you go into a relationship knowing that it had to end?
* How about if you knew that one of you were going to die?
* What if you even knew the likelihood of which of you it would be?
* Could you still commit wholeheartedly to the relationship?
By now most people are probably shaking their heads and saying “No, no way”.
Yet this is exactly what pet lovers do when they decide to share their home with a companion animal.
People have animals for many reasons – Practical reasons such as to boost their security, or the need for a working animal, such as a farm dog.
For others, it is as simple as an animal in distress or turning up in need of a home. Others choose to have a particular breed of pet – “We’ve always had West Highland Terriers” – feeling an emotional link to a specific breed.
Pet Lovers Form an Emotional Bond with their Pet
The strong emotional bond that some of us share with our pets, and the feelings of grief and loss when our beloved pet dies. It is unrelated to the cost of the animal.
Moggies are mourned as much as pedigrees. Mutts are missed with as much intensity as the Champion of the Breed.
For us, our companion is a champion, whatever others think.
What matters is the expressive bond and the feeling of closeness. Here is a confidant who will never break that trust. Here is someone who is always pleased to see you, who thinks that you are tops.
While animal lovers often have more than one pet, each animal has a different yet totally unique bond with its owner.
Our Pets are not Interchangeable
When my beloved cat Midnight was killed, others suggested I get another cat.
It is not that simple.
Yes, cats of all kinds need homes, but cats and dogs are not interchangeable any more than people are. I was in deepest mourning; a unique family member had died. Nothing in my world would ever feel the same again.
My life held a Midnight-sized space, as the fabric of daily routine wove on. The gaps were evident and poignant.
Classic Stages of grief
I went through the classic stages of grief – including denial and anger. No one seemed to comprehend that I would not “get over it”. Indeed if “getting over it” meant forgetting Midnight, then I did not want to get over it.
Few would be so insensitive when dealing with a human death. It is many years since Midnight was killed. I still think of him often, even find his name on my lips. He was irreplaceable, and although I was tempted from time to time by thoughts of a black kitten, I knew that it would be unfair to both of us. You cannot be what you are not, I could not take a kitten and expect it to behave and interact as Midnight had.
Midnight was a jet-black tomcat, estimated at about three years when he strolled into my life. He was solid muscle and power but possessed a gentle nature. Soon, he became my shadow, following me to neighbours if I went visiting. He waited to accompany me home. His miaow had many different tones for greeting, food, milk, and chat. He was never a lap cat whilst indoors. It was different in the garden. There he would perch on, and overhang my knee, all the time purring loudly. His sudden death, at age six and a half, deprived us both of so much. Another of my cats had lived until almost twenty-one years old, so I had expected many happy years together.
Strangely, I did eventually get another black male cat. He walked into my life exactly three years and three months after Midnight’s death. He looked like Midnight, tried to get into the cat flap and finally crossed the threshold as our clock struck midnight. Chance? Coincidence?
Whatever the reason, I believe it was meant to be, and Mystic Midnight enriched my life. I knew he was not the same cat, although he shared many characteristics with the original Midnight. He was as talkative and affectionate and wound his way into my heart. Sadly he too became ill and died much too soon.
We fools for love cannot help but accept that our loved animals will die before us. Meanwhile, we try to forget and cherish every day as precious and special, as indeed it is.