I’ve just lost my darling old girl, my furry queen of all she surveys, her royal furryness Queen Cassandra, better known simply as Cassie. It’s just over a year and a half since we lost her dear sister, the huge cuddlepuss Pandora, then a month later my precious petite puss Dizzy was taken away from us. And now with Cassie goes the last of my wonderful girls and I’m sitting here alone in a dreadfully, miserably empty, lifeless feeling flat. I’ve had the girls since they were tiny kittens from the rescue shelter, small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, mieowing in that high pitched kitten squeak for someone to give them a home, love, adoration and lots of tummy tickles.
Actually the first part of that statement isn’t really true; I didn’t exactly give those little kittens a home – they came with me and made my flat into a home. They brought life and warmth and purrs and fun and furring up my clothes and chasing balls of wool and attacking my shoelaces and jumping on my head in the morning when it was time for breakfast. They made it a warm, inviting, alive place that we shared. You never give an animal a home, an animal makes a home with you and enriches it so beautifully, simply and wonderfully. Giving an animal from a shelter a home isn’t just giving them a home, it isn’t just taking responsibility for looking after them, they look after you too and they enrich your soul as they do.
And the girls made me so very happy, even though sometimes they drove me mad and delighted in doing that deliberately contrary cat behaviour thing. And these last four years… These last horrible, devastatingly hard four years since mum was ripped away suddenly from us… I’ve struggled, struggled a lot. You try to go on but there are times when you just wanted to curl up in a corner and not be part of the world anymore. And there were my girls, through all of those bloody awful, hard years. Warmth and the softest, softest fur against me, gentle purrs that you didn’t just hear but felt, vibrating right through you. The worst times suddenly felt that little bit more bearable. Hard as coping these last few years, losing mum, worrying about dad’s health, I had my girls helping me, soothing me. They didn’t make the bad things go away, but being curled up with purring kitties always helped a bit.
A few months ago, back in February, by horrible coincidence right on the first anniversary of the day I lost Pandora, Cassie gave me a big health scare, some horrid breathing sounds developed. We went to the vet, she was worried it might be a growth that some older cats get in their nasal passages and which can’t be treated save with very expensive surgery only available in the vet hospital, and it wasn’t recommended for a cat her age as she was unlikely to survive it. Only other chance was it some anti inflammatory drugs and steroids, but they might not work depending exactly what the problem was; fortunately within two days she was bouncing around happily again, fine.
Over this weekend I noticed she started to make those bronchial breathing noises again, just a little bit, not all the time. When having her tummy tickled she purred and it was lower and more nasal than it should be; I also noticed she seemed to be breathing a little harder and faster than usual, so I made an appointment for this afternoon. She seemed not too bad this morning when I went to work, but when I came home early to pick her up for the vet she was nowhere to be seen. Found her eventually hiding under the bed, very lethargic, picked her up, cuddled her, her breathing was much harsher now, lay her down on the sofa and her wee tongue was sticking out as she gasped in air, the colour not the healthy pink it should be, struggling to get in air and I realised with a shock how much she had deteriorated just since the morning, her situation had gone from something to be a little concerned about and needing a look from the vet to being seriously distressed; I started to think I was losing her. Mel drove us to the vet and despite a good long period of trying there really wasn’t much that could be done, X-rays showed that old age and the condition had taken their toll and even if we could help her through one bit something else was going to go wrong and she would be in distress all the time we tried. I had to let my little darling companion of sixteen years go gently to sleep.
(Cassie hiding behind her cat toy mat, with her wonderful sister Pandora on the right)
I’m devastated. The girls got me through the worst parts of my life. Now the flat is so damned empty. I came home, put away the empty pet travel box, saw her food and kitty milk bowls sitting, almost untouched since morning, she hadn’t really used them, and I didn’t want to clean them and put them away. In the end I emptied them, cleaned them then sat them back down on the kitchen floor; I’ll put them away and sort the litter tray and cat toys later, but not just now. I sat down and looked around and the flat felt wrong, just a place, not a proper home without the girls. And I looked at the cushion Cassie would always pull down to use as a pillow for her nap, expecting to see her looking back at me with that stop typing on the computer and come here and pay attention to me , the centre of the world look on her face. Except she wasn’t there. And she won’t be ever again, and that breaks my heart. As I type I keep expecting to see her watching me, or rubbing her head against my leg, or deciding to curl up and snooze on my foot. But she won’t, she’s not here anymore, just an echo now.
I sat there thinking only two hours ago you were here in our home and now you’re gone from me and how can that possibly be? And who will demand a share of biscuit or cake now my beloved Cookie Cat is gone? Where did you develop that taste for cake, biscuits, even croissants, you crazy cat? Your sister never did, just you. Oh how you went crazy if you saw me coming home with a bag from the patisserie! And how you could be sound asleep on the bed yet as I made a cuppa in the kitchen I would turn around to find you had appeared in utter silence, sitting in the doorway, regarding me as if to say oh, making a coffee, eh, going to be getting out some shortbread to dunk in there, I daresay – know who else likes shortbread? And as she watched she would actually licked her lips in anticipation. Quite how she knew what I was doing as she slept two rooms away I never knew, obviously just those superbly sharp feline senses, but I couldn’t get it past her.
Goodnight, my darling, soft-furred girl, you and your sister made me very, very happy and I will miss you terribly and I really don’t know how I now face more stress, more depressing times, more hard times, without your wonderful presences to keep me going. I’m heart broken without my girls, but for all the pain this causes me I will never regret having them in my life, because they were simply wonderful. Goodnight, queen of my heart, be with your dear, dear sister now.