When I first met lovely hub, I was living in a studio flat with my cat Sam. Sam was a rescue cat. A bruiser but very loving, he used to bring his mates in when I was out at work and reward me with a dead rat whenever I made liver and bacon casserole for dinner. I preferred it when he brought the rat straight to me rather than leaving it under the sofa or in an obscure corner.
Lovely hub moved in and as he’d never been able to have a pet due to allergies in the house, we acquired a rescue kitten called Elmer Fud. Sam and Elmer eventually got on – although Sam wasn’t averse to giving this tiny black upstart a warning swat when he got too uppity. We moved into a little terrace house and the cats settled in. Three months later Sam became ill and had to be put to sleep when they found a tumour in his throat. Through various means when we moved Up North six years later, Elmer Fud had been joined by four more rescue cats and Uni Boy.
Muffet died first; she and her sister Callie were rescued from a drunken pub singer called Imelda. With her wild curly black hair and an aura of booze, she blessed us for taking the last kittens from a litter of six born to an elderly mother cat with cat ‘flu. The vet told us they’d lost several of their seven lives already and that they probably wouldn’t live more than a couple of years. Muffet achieved seven years and managed to make acquaintance with College Boy the year before she died – neither of them were particularly impressed. We buried her under the lilac tree in the front garden.
Tigger – as ginger, mad and bouncing as his namesake – was run over the day before we moved to a bigger house on a quieter road. He would have loved the new house and garden, so we took him with us and buried him under an impressive magnolia tree.
Then there were three; thin rangy black Elmer, tiny calico tortoise-shell Callie and Sylvester – a human in feline form. Sylvester attached himself to us before Uni Boy was born. A stray with a dirty matted coat, who smelled to high heaven but decided that he fancied living with us. After he’d been washed, had his doormat of a coat clipped off and been taken to the vets to have the op and stop him spraying everything in sight, we discovered that he was a pedigree Maine Coon cat; big, fluffy and incredibly lovable. He single-handedly saw off any dog that dared to wander into our garden but would just as happily sit on your lap, a huge black and white purring chunky lump.
Sylvester was the next to go; falling victim to FIV and fading very fast. He’s under the pine tree that Father Christmas in the Delamere Forest gave us. It was once a five-inch sapling and now it towers over the house. I miss all our cats but Sylvester will always hold a special place in my heart. Not long after he died we were asked to take in a pedigree Persian Blue called Sean. He looked beautiful – if you liked squashed faces – but had the most unsociable personality. He also came to us already under a death sentence of kidney problems. We had a year of his scornful company before his kidneys failed and left us with another dead cat and hefty vets bill.
Elmer disappeared one day. Always prone to wandering far afield and not being seen for a while we had grown used to this but when he failed to return after a few days we started to worry. His black fur had turned a rusty-brown and with a digestive system that was never brilliant from the start, we eventually found out that he had crawled into a garden, died and been collected by the RSPCA.
Callie soldiered on until 2000 and we found her curled up and as peaceful in death as she had been in life. We have a birdbath now in the middle of the lawn where she liked to sleep, and she lies underneath it.
‘No more cats!’ we both said. Uni Boy and College Boy gave us looks. A week later, on Father’s Day whilst lovely hub was working, my parents took me and the boys to the Cats Protection League. Just to make life more exciting, the fire alarm went off and a fire engine turned up. Much joy for two small boys: loads of cats AND firemen. We found Abba and Dexy on death row. A not particularly cute looking tabby brother and sister who were weeks away from being put down because they were six years old and no one wanted them.
A week later they were ours. Abba was obviously the bossy big sister, she had an umbilical hernia which made her white fluffy stomach hang down and swing from side to side if she broke into a trot – which was rare. She was my female ally in houseful of men and she was a feisty female who would lash out at anyone or anything that annoyed her – usually little brother Dexy or College Boy but she caught both me and lovely hub occasionally too. She was with us for eleven years, ruling the roost but always purring, and she became deeply attached to my Dad when he and Mum moved Up North to join us.
Abba was a judge of good character and was very useful in helping us choose a double glazing company. She sniffed at the first two reps and walked away in disgust, but when the third arrived, she sat on his feet purring and dribbling so he got the business. She was right; his company did a good job and within a couple of years the other two companies had gone bust leaving disappointed customers.
Abba started going downhill last summer; she lost a lot of weight but seemed happy and still had a good appetite. She chose to die on September 11th – 9/11, on the day that lovely hub, my Dad and I were seeing Uni Boy off on a trip to Berlin. Having waved him goodbye, we went on to a food festival but curtailed out visit because College Boy felt worried about Abba. He was very good with her, sitting next to her on the sofa as her breathing became more laboured. he told us to take Dad home first so that he wouldn’t be upset by Abba’s deterioration.
She died that night and I bought a lavender bush to plant on top of her grave. After she died Dex became very vocal and very deaf. Always the skinny cat, he never stopped eating and yelling – unless he was purring. He and College Boy forged a bond so that hub and I became mere food providers and second best if College Boy wasn’t around. He committed GBH on me when I tried to remove a vole from his mouth. His incisor went through my finger, right to the bone and necessitated a trip to A and E. The tingling in the finger remains, nerve damage from his very effective gnashers.
We’ve known he was living on borrowed time; he got thinner and more whiny, scavenging anything and everything that we left in his reach. He survived College Boy’s party, and nine months to the day his sister left us, hub and I found him, stretched out on the path by the front door in the late afternoon sunshine. He just looked as if he had fallen asleep.
I howled and was hugged by lovely hub and College Boy. We wrapped Dexy up and put in the garage for now. My Dad is dying in hospital, hub has Norovirus that he caught on the ward, and College Boy has tonsillitis and drugs, We’ll dig a grave by the buddleia and plant some more lavender bushes.
Dexy was a very fine cat.