The pet I’ll never forget

The Grauniad are running a nice series of people sharing about the pets they’ll never forget. As soon as I started reading, I knew I’d have to put my twopenn’orth in.

I’ve lived with cats all my life, please note – none of their names are used as passwords!

Susie was the first one, a black and white longish haired cat that my parents gave a home to when her owners emigrated. She used to sit under my pram or baby bouncer, was forever getting in the coal hole (I’m that old), would climb out the bathroom window to sleep on the sill, on the second story of our house. She lived a long and happy life.

Sooty came next, I wanted to call her Midnight, but Sooty was her name and the only thing she answered to. She was a rehome from the Cats Protection League. I can still remember Mum and Dad opening the cardboard box at my grandparents’ house and her jumping out. She was beautiful, would forget what she was doing in the middle of washing herself, see picture below. My brother and I could have a couple of biscuits in bed over the weekend, anything to help our parents lie in a bit, I used to put my two under my pillow, as you do. Sooty would wait for me to give her bits of the biscuits to eat when they’d softened up a bit. She also lived a long and happy life, but struggled with polyps in her ears. She had a couple of surgeries to help, but when the vet suggested to remove her entire ear canal to stop them growing back, I made the decision to have her put to sleep. That was a surgery too far. We took her to be buried at my Grandparents’ house, as they used to look after her when we went on holiday.

Beaky arrived while we had Sooty, she was advertised in the newsletter at Mum’s work as being free to a good home, otherwise she’d be euthanised. Mum decided there and then that was not on, so sent Dad to get her on his way back from work one day via Brighton. She yowled so badly in the box on the passenger seat on the way home, Dad opened it to put his hand in. Beaky spent the rest of the trip back paws on the box, front paws on the dashboard looking out the windscreen. She was our first tortie, and got her name from the orange patch down her nose which made her look like an owl. She was Dad’s cat through and through and tolerated the rest of us. We took her to the vet when she was licking her belly clean of fur, to be told she needed HRT. We struggled daily to get the tablet down her, until Dad dropped it on the floor one night, and she just ate it. From there on, he’d come home from work, open the packet, drop the tablet on the floor, she’d eat it.

I moved out of home, moved back, moved out, moved back. In and out like a fiddler’s elbow. On one longer stay at home, I went to the Cats Protection League and asked for a female cat, the house felt odd without having a cat charging around. I went to a foster home that had a whole series of pens in their garden. Only one female cat was there; as I walked in to one oversized rabbit hutch I squeezed past a male British Blue kitten. Then I met Fluffy. She clung onto me like I was a life-raft, refusing to let go as I reversed my way out the hutch. I took her home, opened the box and she fell in love with Dad. We didn’t know that she’d been rehome from someone who lived almost directly behind us. They found her in their nursery, sleeping in the cot. They were worried about her sleeping with the baby, so surrendered her. One night, Fluffy went to visit them, almost like to say ‘I’m just over there, and I’m OK.’ She was another black cat, fluffy, like her name would suggest.

I moved out again. I got married, we rehomed Branston and Pickle from another branch of the Cats Protection. They were tiny, Branston used to curl up in a six-egg carton. When she’d outgrown it, she would push it around the floor as it made a good sound. Both were torties, Pickle was white with patches of colour, Branston the whole tortie shebang. My first husband was in the Army, so we moved a lot. Branston wasn’t fazed, but Pickle couldn’t cope with it and was really stressed. It broke my heart to rehome her, but she found the stable home she needed. When the marriage imploded, I went to live with Mon Bears, who had a house rabbit. Not wanting to come downstairs one day to find a pair of ears and a tail on the floor, I asked Mum and Dad to look after Branston until I’d got myself back on my feet again. She promptly decided she was now Dad’s cat. They got a pet passport for her, and took her all over Europe camping as they went from kite festival to kite festival. She would travel happily around, secure under the caravan and wherever Dad was. I went back to the UK for my brother’s 40th birthday. (That was a palaver in itself, I’ll put the blog post up under Revisited and link to it). I opened the door to their house, called out ‘Branston’ and she came flying down the stairs. A few months later, she woke both my parents up in the middle of the night with a yowl; made sure they were both there and slipped away.

Dad’s decline into Alzheimer’s sees him asking about where the cat has gone, wondering where she is, why did Mum get rid of her. It’s heartbreaking for both of them.

Then we get to the real reason moggie for this post. But I need to stop typing for a bit.

OK, I’m back.

Chief Brody was another rescue. We went to the Cats Protection League in the town we lived in with our son, who was 18 months old. I wanted to get a kitten he could grow up with. They only had two kittens in; it was the tail end of the season, but we’d been interstate over Christmas and wanted to get the cat when we’d got back home. There was another couple walking through on the left side of the room, we opened the door and got yelled at by an indignant medium haired champagne tabby on the right side of the room. As he climbed up the cage to get to us; our son, A pointed at him. That was settled then!

I’d never had a male cat before, but Chief Brody (named for the movie Jaws) was the most loving, softest, stupidest, daftest cat anyone could wish for. I’d call him in at sunset, (there’s a cat curfew to mitigate them hunting native wildlife), he’d come leaping across fences, yelling at me. He’d sleep on my pillow at night, curled around my head, would sit on my shoulders as I walked about the house and despite his bulk and his fur, was fastidiously clean. He had a litter box upstairs and downstairs in our old house, but barely used them, only when it was too hot for him to go outside, and only after much yelling, would he begrudgingly visit.

Right at the beginning of the pandemic, he’d came back inside one Sunday morning, was sitting, licking his belly with his leg stuck in the air. I took a photo and posted about him having an existential crisis. When I picked him up, I realised his tummy was swollen. I called the vet to ask for an emergency appointment. I took him in and was told to wait in the car. This was at the height of, we don’t know what’s going on, but we’re keeping people apart as much as we can.

I had a phone call with the vet, alone in my car, who told me that he had crystals in his bladder, because he wouldn’t use the litter trays, we hadn’t seen that he’d not peed for a couple of days and was now backed up. If we wanted to, we could try surgery, but she wasn’t sure it would work.

I called my husband, in hysterics. We made the decision to put him to sleep. I was allowed in the room with him as he slipped away in my arms. I miss him still.