Farewell to a Feline

I got him a mere few months after moving out of home for the first time. I was nineteen or twenty and I lived in what could generously be called a walk-in-wardrobe sized room in a dingy, moldy flat. I lived on cheap mince, noodles, porridge and frozen peas while he ate digestive care food and probiotics, because he had an upset stomach for weeks.

He would sleep next to me on my pillow as a tiny kitten. He was the first cat that was truly All Mine. My responsibility. My love.

I moved next door while painting was going on, and sadly had to put him and my second cat, who I got shortly after him (she was already 2 years old), into a cattery for months. He grew into such a big dude while he was there. I wish I had been there for that development – I feel like I missed out on a lot. I’m also sure this was Asshole’s way of trying to separate me from my cats, because he kept dragging on and on with the painting.

I finally got them back and they lived through years of our house being the Party House. They tolerated a lot, but they were also very well loved.

We finally moved to a larger house, and instead of being shut in the only bathroom during parties, they were kept in my room with the ensuite bathroom, and they could be left alone in peace.

We moved countries, and they came with me. It was an adventure, and they took it all in their stride. Cutie just loved to be around me. He was always asleep on my side of the bed, snuggled into my legs or my back. His purr could be felt through the bed.

He kept me company while I went back to uni, instantly sprawling across any textbook I had open on my desk. He was a superb study buddy.

That awful ex of mine turned into a raging asshole, and Cutie comforted me. He left and Cutie sat on my lap for days. He also got fed up of me sobbing my guts out and smacked me across the face, once. It shocked me out of crying, that’s for sure! There weren’t any claws involved, so I wasn’t scratched.

My best friend moved over for six months, and he occupied her lap while she relaxed and read. He was such a big and glorious cat.

We moved back to my home country. They moved into the back room in Mum’s garage while I looked for a place to live, and then we were moving again, this time into a house with two dogs (one of them was mine). Poor Cutie got outside a couple of times and was chased by the other dog and ripped out a lot of his claws. He was very patient as I soaked his toes in saline every day, before covering them with honey and wrapping them back up. He was still on antibiotics, but one toe wasn’t healing as well as it should have. He took it all like a champ, purring away while he was fed bits of meat while his toes were treated.

We moved cities into a small, warm, dry house where we lived for the next five years. This was where Cutie really came into his own. There was just my dog and my other cat and a flatmate, and Cutie lived to be on my lap. If I was sitting down, he was there. If I wasn’t sitting down, or if I wasn’t sitting suitably, he was hovering around waiting for me to settle. When I had naps, he would lie on my chest and purr.

He once again became my study buddy, sitting on my text books and purring with glee. I would set up a decoy text book and encourage him to sleep on that one. Most of the time he fell for it. He would sleep on my bed with me, curled into my side. I could still feel his purr through the mattress.

He would sit on my lap as I sat and knitted. He would sit on my lap as I gamed. He would sit on my lap as I studied. He was my constant companion while my life slowly unraveled with stress, burnout, and depression.

I took a year off university and became very sick, and still he was on my lap, or my side, or my chest when I was napping. He was always there, purring away. He was there when I went back to uni, and sat with me as I did all my lectures at home. He would sit on my lap as I wrote my notes. He would purr as I studied for exams. He was there when my other cat became horrifically sick, when I got trigeminal neuralgia, when winter sucked all my energy and left me bereft.

COVID happened and we went into lockdown, and he was there, gleefully sitting on me as we were all confined to home. I ruptured the ligaments in my wrist and couldn’t continue with university, and the whole time he was there, on my lap, on my chest, on my side, on whatever part of me was stable enough to dumpling on.

He started a slow and steady decline then. But he was still well enough in and of himself, still cheery, still chatty and shouty and cuddly.

He was there as I came to terms with being disabled. He was there as I fell into fibro flus after exercise. He was there as I spent all my days and nights sleeping, just dumplinged on me and purring.

He started to really go downhill when I went away for my surgery. He wasn’t eating as much. He was really depressed and quiet. Even when I got home he didn’t perk up as much as I thought he would – he became aggressive towards the dogs, grumpy towards Itzy, and just not as happy as he normally was. He quietened down. He spent more time sleeping on the more comfortable pillows instead of on me.

Then I woke up and he didn’t come to greet me as I came out the door. I looked for him. The pillow on my chair that he usually sat on had been knocked to the ground. I searched for him frantically and found him, lying on his side, behind my armchair. He had been straining to defecate for who knows how long. He had liquid faeces down his back legs and tail. It had dripped onto the carpet. I helped move the faecal nugget that he could not expel and he vomited in exhaustion. I knew this was it. I didn’t want it to be.

I settled him back on his pillow and sheepskin and fretted. I finally told my lovely human that this was it. I told Mum. I called the vets. I took him in.

He passed away in my arms as I cried and kissed his head. He had been my constant companion for almost sixteen years. He had been my cuddler, my love, my first pet.

None of my other pets are cuddlers. In fact, no one else in this house is particularly cuddly. I’m touch and purr starved, and I will not do anything to ease this until my other cat has passed. She’s a very old lady now, and she deserves peace and quiet in her final months.

I am bereft. It’s been a week and it doesn’t get any easier. It hurts so damn much to know that I must now live the rest of my life without him. The rest of my life is a terribly long time.