The first time we came to view the house he was there: sitting in the garden under a bush – just chilling out in the sun. He perked up when he saw us, allowed us to say hello. I guess we both loved him from the start. In fact we secretly hoped this fluffy black cat would come with the house.
Within a few hours of opening the back door for the first time he was a part of our lives: either strolling in casually when we opened the door, or waiting on the fence first thing in the morning. After an incident of his sneaking in and not being noticed having hidden in a quiet corner to go to sleep, our arriving to discover him lead to a checking for catty deposits, pretty soon we got him a food bowl and a litter tray in case he got shut inside again.
We had some builders round one day: someone to look at the bathroom, someone with a new washing machine: and as we led the builder upstairs we saw a small black shape slinking out of the bedroom. To this day I don’t know how he got up there without us noticing.
His name was Charlie, though I’ve previously called him “Furry” on this blog: a big black ball of fur (possibly) all the way from Manchester. He originally belonged to my next door neighbour’s partner, but when they split up and she went back up North she was unable to take Charlie or Willow (our cream Siamese – previously referred to as “Tiny” on this site) and they both remained frequent visitors to our house.
I remember nearly two years ago, just before we officially adopted them both. We had come back late from my cousin’s wedding and Charlie wanted in. This was before he started sleeping over at our house and just after midnight I put him outside – thinking: what can happen in April?
Later all I could hear from outside was his sad cries and I found him on the back doorstep, shivering in the snow! He came into the bed, just about the only time he ever did that, and stayed with us for hours.
Not long after our neighbour announced that he was thinking of moving away and asked us to officially adopt Charlie and Willow. We did so with joy and took them both to the vets to get checked out and registered. Neither had been to the vets for nearly three years and both had to have several teeth removed.
Also he was mostly deaf – he had a long running ear infection that we had to treat with drops and for a month or so he had a collar on to stop him trying to scratch out the pain.
I remember the first time he faked a terminal illness. He was off his food, vomiting blood. We rushed him to the vets in a washing basket in case of accidents, as we had not at this point got a cat basket, and were told to expect the worst – turned out that it was just a furball on that occasion.
And there are all the funny things he would do: like he would jump from the chair to the sofa and we would give him marks out of ten for style, finesse and landing, we could always pick him up for a hug, he would complain about being groomed but just stand there and take it. And all the times that he had to be put into the shower to wash off something that had got stuck in his fur: or the time when he was sitting innocently by my side then moved lightning speed to steal a piece of sausage.
We started out with the intention of keeping them downstairs at night, but Charlie and Willow made a cunning team. Charlie the perpetrator and Willow the instigator and accomplice stood at the door. Charlie, paw underneath or sometimes at the side, pulling at the wood, Willow egging him on until they soon managed to open it. We tried putting a heavy weight on the inside, but Charlie just put his head down, pushed it away and returned to plan A. After that we just let them have the run of the entire house. We are glad they did as they would both come and snuggle.
He was also a bit daft though sometimes – you could leave out all the food you wanted and he would just sit there and starve because it would never occur to him to go and look until you came back in and suddenly he would think that you had just fed him and chomp it down like there was no tomorrow.
Charlie had a recurring furball problem – evidence of this could be found by either the front or the back door from time to time.
So when he started going off his food again we didn’t think much of it at first. True he was drinking more than usual, but he had always gone through stages of chomping everything in sight and then eating nothing for a few days. But then I began to realise that he hadn’t been up into the window for days, bringing down the curtain in the process; that he hadn’t come to join us on the bed or even followed me through to the kitchen: and I began to notice that when he was placed in front of his food he just wasn’t interested and would pace slowly straight back to the sofa. And Willow began to paw at him: like she knew something was wrong and was trying to get it out.
Friday 29th January – he didn’t eat anything except a little bit of tuna and I was out with some workmates when I got a call from my partner saying she was taking Charlie to the emergency vets. I arrived shortly after.
The prognosis was confusing but not encouraging. To me, at least, the emergency vet was merely shrugging her shoulders and saying “Well, you can get some tests done if you want, but...”
We took him to our own vets Saturday morning and left him for blood tests. These all came back negative: which meant it could only be organ failure. The x-rays confirmed this: showing that his abdomen had swollen with fluid: fluid that would return within an hour if it were drained.
There was nothing else to do.
I held him one last time, kissed his head: told him how sorry I was and how much I loved him. We both stroked him as the vet (a much nicer one) gave him the injection. He was gone within seconds: his head just gently lowering onto his paws.
I am glad in a way – because up until those last few days he was his usual self. Even at the end he didn’t seem to be in any pain: he was just without any energy. I could never have forgiven myself if he had suffered, or if we had been unable to have been with him when it happened.
But the image that will stay with me: the one that I may never forgive myself for is just standing there and keying in the four digits for my payment card, buying his death like I was paying for the fucking shopping. Couldn’t we have done that some other time? That really hurt.
We don’t know how old he was exactly – but he must have been about seventeen years old. Not bad for a cat, but I could have wished for so much longer. I would have given the world for another few years.
Last night I got up to check the back door and there was no one on the sofa to watch me quizzically as I walked through. Nobody jumped onto the bed with a slight purr of announcement.
No one tried to sit on my head in the night or had to be persuaded to lie in the space between my body and my arm. No one had to be pushed aside when I came to sit on the sofa, nor did I have to hold my food in the air to keep it out of his reach. Nobody on my lap as I played on the play station: holding the control high enough to allow him to settle and sleep. Nobody clawed their way up my leg as I was typing this and then tried to lick my fingers. I miss every one of these things and the space where he should be on the sofa, squashed in between my leg and the edge of the sofa, gives me no comfort at all.
He will never sit in that gap again, his head on my leg. I will never pick him up and carry him downstairs to his food, nor wriggle out of bed in the morning to avoid waking him.
But the worst part is that Willow has been so distracted since we came back. She’s always vocal, but she clearly knows that something is wrong and there’s nothing I can do or say to make her understand that her lifelong companion is never coming home. She came through several times whilst we were writing this – calling out to add her voice to our feelings. We know she loved him and will miss him too.
My stomach hurts from crying. Every time I think I’m doing ok it comes back again, just as bad. I got a call from my partner this morning. She was in tears because she had taken a wrong turn on a familiar journey and in her upset had no idea how to cope.
Goodbye Furry Cat, Fluffy Cat, Mr Charles, Flobby Cat (flob – UK term for spit or slobber), Charlie-Warlie Cat, Charlie The Dancing Cat, and all the other names that we bestowed upon you. We know you were loved and were happy, which is why we let you go when we did so as not to keep us with you for our sakes not yours.
You will be loved: always.