“It can’t be a cat out here, miles from anywhere, it must be a bird.”
“I’m sure it’s a cat.” I wandered off the pathway and into the long grass under the trees. I heard it louder than ever. Not so much a cat but a kitteny mew.
“I heard it too,” said my daughter who was six at the time.
“Sounds like a bird to me,” said the others. I know a cat when I hear one, I was thinking, extraordinary though it was for one to be right out on the edge of the marshes, no houses around.
I heard it again, long and strong. I looked around harder and there he was down in the grass. The most vociferous and charming black and white kitten I’d ever seen rushing through the stems to greet us, as happy to see a human being as you’d expect a dog to be. And he had two siblings there with him. Definitely cats!
That’s how Blackie came to us. He’d been dumped in the wild by some thoughtless owner obviously wanting rid, left to a fate by foxes no doubt, or starvation. After a check in at the Cats Protection League for a while I caved in under intense pressure from the children and we adopted him. Well, he adopted us really.
He was a people cat right from the start. He loved company, cuddles and remained as chatty as ever. Whilst the children grew up he tolerated their over zealous attentions and always curled up where they were. He put up with the puppy who was introduced at a later stage. Brought us regular presents – dead things – to show us how much he cared. And the minute anyone ever sat down he was on our knees, a constant hot water bottle.
Fifteen years later, after finding us like that, the poor old boy has gone. There’s suddenly a gap on the settee, on the garden path under the flowers and no cat conversation or greeting when you go in. No fussing round my legs when I open the fridge.
And although I bemoaned him stressing me out when the girls used to fight over holding him, got irritated with him walking across my face purring in the middle of the night when I’d forgotten to close the bedroom door, or sticking his head in my muesli when I wasn’t looking to get at the milk, it’s left a big hole now he isn’t here any more. There’s a little hairy hollow on the cushion that’s heart-rendingly empty.
You learn a lot having animals. The hardest lesson of all is letting go when the cycle of life demands it as we had to do last week. He’s buried in the garden. I shall miss him and his attentions even the ones that sometimes caused me grief. And so too will the children who have become young women whilst he purred a lifetime through our affections.