Thursday, April 30, 2009
Cats no less liquid than their shadows, offer no angles to the wind
It was about 20 years ago that my brother, my sister and I went down to the Shenton Park cat haven with one thing on our minds. Mum and Dad - presumably sick of our whining and having extracted a promise that of COURSE we would clean up after the wee pussies - had caved in to our catty demands. On the shopping list: two adorable kittens.
The first one was easy: the cutest little Russian Blue puff of grey fur and blue eyes you've ever seen. We called him Templeton and his pastimes, we would soon learn, included walking us kids to the bus stop in the morning and being groomed. Impossibly good-natured, beautiful and affectionate he was the sort of cat that even cat-haters could not help loving. His companion, our second cat, would spend hours licking his fur, their little paws all tangled up together in apparent bliss.
Which brings me to Tikki.
For the second kitten we were,inexplicably, determined to choose a ginger one (I still have no idea why). Crouched down with our heads against the bars, watching a handful of ginger kittens gambolling about like demented pixies, we nearly missed the scrap of black and white fur high above our heads: the tiniest kitten you've ever seen halfway up the side of the cage and heading for the roof. Only her little cries (loosely translated as What The Fuck Have I Done?) made us look up to see her gamely clinging on with three paws, while the fourth scrambled for a toehold.
20ish years later Tikki has seen off Templeton and his short-lived (and, I’m sorry to say it, generally unpopular) replacement, Squeak. She has patiently tolerated the arrival of two poodles in the house, the trauma of moving out with me to a strange home, for which she became the protector against the neighbourhood cats who liked to nip in through the cat-flap whenever they damn well felt like it. She has earned her reputation as an escape artist by an as-yet-unexplained ability to get out of locked rooms, grown plump and lazy and earned the grudging respect of the household's two dogs, via a series of perfectly-timed nose smacks.
At least, that was the state of affairs up until a year or so ago. Now she shows every sign of, Martin Amis is fond of saying, growing old painfully. She is rail thin - I can feel practically every bone of her body when I stroke her - and her limbs are stiff. Her coat is still shiny in most places but there are now rough patches where she can no longer reach to clean properly. For a cat whose favourite pastime has always been lying down, she now takes what feels like a freaking eon to even sit down, and twice as long to get up again.
For all these reasons we’ve decided to have her put down tomorrow. And given that I’ve been expecting it for months I’m quite amazed at how sad I feel about it. I’ve lost grandparents before, and pets, but never anybody who has been in my life for as long as Tikki has. Now - predictably too late, of course - I feel incredibly guilty for not lavishing more attention on her, not visiting her more now that she is living with my parents and for all the bitching I did about the long stretch spent cleaning up after her in the months and months where she lost control of the more disgusting of her bodily functions. More than anything else I will miss her dreadfully.
NOTE: Apologies for the sap factor. Next time: some jokes.