Tuesday, 31 December 2013

When Your Cat Dies

My cat, Napoleon, was a part of my life for about 12 wonderful years. He slept on my pillow, stole my food right off the plate when I turned away, listened to my teenage angst and bellyaching without ever complaining. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that we had a mutual understanding, we were cool. If you're not a cat person, you might scoff at the idea that someone can love their cat, see them as a member of the family. You might wonder why a person would take the time to get to know a cat. To learn their personality, tolerate their moods and clean up after them when they make a mess, which, as you will learn, becomes unbelievably frequent the older they get.

The answer is because you love their mix of haughty persistence and cool indifference. You love how your lap is never more desirable to them than when they are completely soaking wet. And how they are basically sarcastic little humans covered with fur that get can into the most incredible mischief, and will show you that creatures you never knew live in your environs, such as bats and voles, taste best when consumed on the rug in the hall, or, shock horror, on your bed. They push your patience to the absolute limit, and they certainly aren't beyond peeing in the shower if the mood takes them.

Having a cat in your home gives you a unique joy. You can't jog on the beach like you can with a dog, and they certainly won't alert you to any intruders, but they bring their own distinctive blend of love and gratitude. This gratitude is especially evident when you give them tuna or liver, or when you scratch the special spot on their back that somehow causes them to start licking their leg. They have the best warm fur smell, and watching them having nightmares, moaning softly, it's hard to believe that they're just animals. Indeed, in that moment of furry perfection, they're so much more than 'just animals'.

Napoleon was very old, and completely deaf by the end. He would meow in long, gutteral moans, day and night. To calm him down you'd have to go right over to him and look him in the eye, or pick him up. He was obsessively determined in his pursuit of snacks, and got sick absolutely everywhere. He left our lives not with blood and organ failure and tears, the usual expectation when our pets get very old and start fading. He just walked out of the house, on the night of the 21st, and we never saw him again. Animals have that instinct to go die alone I suppose, and while I appreciate the sentiment, I'd love to have said my goodbyes, and give him a final home in the kitty graveyard at the side of my house with Tiger and Felix and Panther and Pushkin.  But, as always, he got his own way.

Thanks anyway for everything Napoleon. You were beyond sound.

Napoleon in his twilight years. The last picture I took of him, looking every inch the old man.



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