We didn’t get off to the most auspicious start, did we little fella?
I was still reeling in agony from the death of our first cat, Mojo. But there was a void I needed to fill so M said ‘come on then, let’s get another one‘. The deal was it couldn’t be anything like Mojo. It couldn’t be ginger and white.
Unfortunately, the little black and white kitten we chose ran and hid as soon as we arrived at your house. All that was left was you; a skinny little ginger and white tom, sprawled on your back, exposing your impossibly fluffy white belly. Pick me! Pick me!
You didn’t move a muscle for ages, just reclining on your back with your paws in the air; I thought there was something wrong with you. I had to pick you up and put you on the floor to be sure that you could actually walk.
We paid our twenty and left, with a strict warning not to leave any food lying around or you’d eat it. ‘That’s ridiculous‘ I thought ‘he’s just a teeny, skinny little mite‘.
How wrong I was.
I found it impossible to love you at first. You weren’t Mojo. Where he was independent, you were fiercely needy. And it drove me insane.
You’d constantly meow for food. You were never, ever sated. I’d never heard anything like it – on and on and on you’d meow. And you never let me sleep through the night, such was your neediness and hunger.
One day I had enough. I’m ashamed to say that in a fit of tired rage, I told Mark to get rid of you, that I couldn’t cope with the constant meowing and sleepless nights and scratching and hunger.
My outburst shocked me so much, I made a decision. I had to make myself love you.
It wasn’t your fault you were needy, it wasn’t your fault you ended up with such giant paws to fill, in the home of someone who really wasn’t over their first cat. I had made a commitment to love and protect you for the rest of your life when I took you home. So that’s what I had to do.
I forced myself to be extra loving. I ignored the chronic sleep deprivation (which eventually drove you to more and more inventive ways of waking me up). I was calm, and affectionate, and attentive to your every need.
And then something miraculous happened. I fell in love with you.
Your creativity when it came to waking me up at three in the morning no longer angered me, I was impressed.
Your anatomical knowledge of the pressure points in the human body that would create the most pain with a well-placed paw was efficient. Your ability to create the most irritating range of noises, from purring angrily (how does one purr angrily???), to loudly demonstrating your range of scratching techniques, was awe-inspiring.
I mean, come on – you learned to use a computer for god’s sake. That’s pretty amazing.
Your need to come between me and any book/movie/work I was attempting to engage in made me feel loved – ‘well heck, I needed to take a break any way, come here little man, let’s snuggle‘.
You made me laugh and smile every day.
The way you’d spaz out when I brewed a cup of valerian tea; your meows – so long, and with such range, they were operatic; the way you’d run to greet me after work, every single day, with your not-so-little, but even more impossibly fluffy tummy, swinging back and forth (hence it’s nick name: The Sporran); your obsession with our friendly neighbourhood blackbirds and your little chirps whilst you watched them; your love of red hot vegetarian Sri Lankan curry and sea bass sashimi – you really had impeccable taste; your very vocal outrage at any closed door anywhere; your complete inability to climb stuff.
I’ve never known such a loving cat. I’d hold you on my lap and you’d stare into my eyes for what seemed like ages. And it wasn’t weird, it was a real connection between two sentient beings. You let me look into your soul, and what I saw was beautiful.
I loved the way you pretended not to love me. You’d sit on my lap and stretch out your arms ‘Ooooh, I just need to stretch… mmm. Oh. How embarrassing. I appear to be cuddling you. Not sure how that happened.‘
Or just wanting to be near us all the time ‘I’m not following you around, by the way, I just s0 happened to want to hang out in the garden too. It is but mere coincidence’.
You’d try and stroke my face the way I was stroking yours, and inadvertently scratch me. But I let you, because I could see that you were simply copying this curious human display of affection that you couldn’t quite fathom, but that felt really rather nice, actually.
You weren’t much of a hunter. Moths were your favourite snack, followed by a fresh butterfly or two in the summer months. For such a chunk, you were an agile little fucker. You could take out a red admiral five feet in the air without even bending your legs. You cornered a mouse once, but I think you were actually more scared of it than the other way around. In fact, the only thing of note you ever hunted and brought home was a hamburger.
Then there were the sick-note years, and your part-time career as a lamp. You developed allergies that meant you had to wear the dreaded cone for weeks at a stretch to stop you scratching your ears so much they bled. The cone made you even more needy, and the noises you made when you licked it were infuriating; plus it acted like an amplifier to further enhance your constant vocals. We couldn’t open any windows or doors, and the three of us lived cooped up like fugitives, all through the summer.
That’s when we decided to try you on steroids. The vet said there was a chance the medication might shorten your life, but we didn’t want you to be a furry lamp of a cat – it wasn’t fair on you to keep you locked up with a cone on your head for the rest of your life. We wanted to you to be free to run around and kill stuff. You know – enjoy being a cat.
So we decided to give it a go. I suppose neither of us thought about it, what it would mean, how much it would shorten your life. I think we believed you were different, that it wouldn’t affect you. After all, the power of your ability to annoy was formidable, so I figured that in an ironic twist of fate you’d live a really long life, so you could annoy us for all eternity.
Recently, you started to chill out. The annoyance/loveliness ratio started to swing very much in favour of loveliness. We thought you had just matured, but I guess there was something else, something more sinister going on inside you that impacted on your ability to be the most annoying cat in the world.
Your hunger was replaced by thirst, but only from a glass; and only one which I had poured for myself. The signs were there, but I just thought you were being idiosyncratic. After all, idiosyncrasy is one of the most charming aspects of any feline. Cats are weird by nature.
It’s when the hunger stopped that we started to wonder if there was something wrong. We thought maybe you’d just become sick of the hypoallergenic food you had to eat – dry, tasteless biscuits for every meal would become tedious for anyone, but especially for you, my little gourmet.
The vets didn’t pick up on it either, but that doesn’t make me feel much better.
You started vomiting on Wednesday; by Friday you were clearly uncomfortable in your own fur. You tried to sit on my lap, but couldn’t find a position in which to relax. You didn’t want your glass of water (laplaps). That night you didn’t come to bed.
That weekend was one of the longest and most painful I’ve ever experienced. I don’t want to go into details. Needless to say, the prognosis wasn’t good. Your little kidneys were failing, and what lay ahead for you was painful decline. A decision had to be made.
How I wish it had been different; that surgery or tablets could have sorted you out. The hardest thing to accept was that we caught it way too late to be able to help you. I wish I could have taken you home with me, wrapped in your favourite blanket, and stroked you to sleep. I’m so sorry I let you down.
This morning the frost and autumn leaves have turned the whole world ginger and white. I saw signs everywhere: trucks with slogans such as ‘Cloud 9’.. and ‘In Safe Hands’. I hope it’s your little soul; finally free of your failing body.
I miss you so much, my little man. I hope your spirit finds it’s way back to us – in one form or another – so we can be together as a family again.
Thank you for finding us, thank you for trusting us, thank you for loving us, and thank you for being the most annoying cat in the world. We’ll love you forever, Chili.