Loved & Remembered

I admit it. I'm a bit of a mad cat lady - or rather I would be if I let myself or could afford to be. 

I've had cats in my life and home since I was a teenager. My first cat was a black 'moggy' I called
Ziggy who lived to a good old age. Oh, if only we had the luxury of digital photography back then! She arrived with my mum one night as a surprise. I think the thinking behind it was that my mother was trying to tame a troubled teen (our family split when I was 12). We thought or were told that it was a male and so I wanted to name the cat Sid after Sid Vicious but mum didn't agree..so then I suggested Ziggy (Stardust) was this was acceptable. Since he turned out to be a she, it was just as well that the name Sid was rejected. She would do this lovely happy trilling greeting sound as I walked up the pathway from the school bus. Most afternoons I came home to an empty cottage because my mum worked shifts so Ziggy was my great pal.

Mum (sensibly) wanted her neutered but I fought against it - 'Mum, you can't not let her have babies. It's not fair, she is a woman and it's her right, its what she was meant to do". I got my way and she had a litter of 3. Two were black like her and 1 was grey. She got pregnant again before she could be spayed and she then had 5 in that litter - all black. I took her on the bus to be spayed soon after!

When I left home Ziggy stayed with my mum who eventually moved to Wales with a new husband. Ziggy lived happily there with a huge orchard and gardens to roam in. She was curled up on the doorstep one morning aged about 19, having died peacefully in her sleep. 

Later after I'd had children and was living on a farm I brought in a feral ginger kitten and his sibling. One I named Filbert and the other, that was very poorly and didn't survive I called Leicester (those names would appeal to my then husband and were intended to help me get around him to keep them!). Filbert grew into a big lad who would later, when living on yet another farm, get into the rabbit hutch and sleep at night alongside the family rabbit and guinea pig. Weirdly he would go hunting and bring home wild rabbits which he'd killed and subsequently eaten on the doorstep leaving me the entrails to discover next morning. This showed he knew the difference between a pet and a wild creature and this was proven more so when the guinea pig had escaped and one morning he was laid on the doorstep too. Dead and not a mark on him. I think Filbert found him alive and was intent on bringing him home and making him stay there. Sadly years later after myself and the children had had to move on leaving the cat behind, Filbert got run over one night when he was out prowling. He was buried with his favourite suckling jumper.

Living now in a house in a town I got Willow and Whisper - Willow was a half-Persian boy I'd bought locally and Whisper was a pretty pale grey female cat I adopted from the Cats Protection League. Neither of these cats suckled despite Whisper having been hand-reared/bottle fed almost from birth. Whisper did turn out though to be a nervous cat who hated going outside or using a litter tray. Though she lived with us for several years and despite veterinary help and hard work on our part to help her overcome her problem she still insisted on wee-ing inappropriately everywhere around the house, including in the kids toy boxes and on their school books, in plant pots and down the walls (which she would do with her head out of the window in an effort to appease me - see I'm outside). Eventually defeated and at a loss what to do and my kids desperate not to have their school books reek of cats urine we handed her back to the Cats Protection League.

Willow stayed on happily and was very much the area boss cat. He would keep the local mouse & rat population in check and lived to 17+ years of age. He was put to rest when his kidneys failed. It was so sad to see him lose his once shiny and robust condition.  After holding him in his last moments in the coming days I discovered he'd made himself comfortable in several other homes in the street where he had also been given other names!

Rescuing cats that needed new forever homes came next for me and the first one fulfilling a dream I'd harboured since being a teen was to have a Siamese cat. The cat needing a home was an 11-month-old Lilac Point female called Lily. She was a devil cat who was very unhappy with the move.  I'd promised the original owner that I would have her neutered which I did a couple of days after her arrival but I was so worried that she would hurt the vet nurses as she was scratching and biting any attempt to approach. A real wildcat - what had I taken on?

She came home having been spayed without a funnel collar but within a short time, she was biting at the stitches so I went to pick one up. But how to fit it on her?

My husband and I gloved up ready to be bitten and scratched and we got it on her OK. Strangely though as she recovered, she also decided she liked it living here after all and one night, having had the stitches and funnel removed, I was in bed for sleep when she jumped up and came toward my face. I lay completely still, daring not even to breathe as she tucked her head into my neck. To my absolute surprise and joy, she started purring and suckling and kneading in the crook of my neck and from that moment on we never looked back. I loved, loved, loved my nightly suckle session with her and our days were full of fun and love. She liked to rearrange the house bringing things from room to room.

At four years old she got run over by a passing police car. This totally broke my heart because Lily had become my absolute world. Her loss simply broke me. She was buried with her favourite toys and wrapped in her favourite snuggle sack in the garden of my father in law's house in Sparsholt under a lilac bush.

Unable to bear not having a cat here I (too soon?) rescued another Siamese, cat - this time an ex-stud Blue Point Siamese named Theo. Oh boy! He was such a cuddler - but crikey did he smell - and he kept being sick. Despite his efforts to cuddle because of this smell and risk of him puking, no one wanted to risk holding him.

Aged four when he arrived and having just been neutered by his previous owner's vet, a trip to our own vet revealed that he had severely rotting teeth requiring surgical removal - that would explain the smell then! I was expecting three to come out so when I learned that the vet had removed 12 rotten teeth and that biopsies were needed of a large festering growth in his throat I was shocked and sad. He had antibiotic treatment for some weeks following his operation and eventually recovered quite well.

I wonder however why the vet who had performed the neuter in the days before he was handed to me did not notice this massive problem? Surely he can't have failed to notice the state of this cat's mouth or its smell and recognised it for what it was??? I think perhaps he did and was told by the breeder who owned him to leave it. But did he say he would inform the new owner? How can the vet not treat such a poorly animal?

The breeder was more than happy to get rid of this animal without incurring more cost to himself that the neuter having made as much money as possible from him.

Not only would he have earned stud fees he would also have sired a great many litters for his own queens. Now all he got was a neuter (to prevent me using him for breeding) and given away to the first mug that came along. I dread to think of the life and state of living Theo had had.

Anyway, I had a huge bill, which took over 2 years to clear, but the result was that Theo did improve and no longer smelled and was no longer nearly as sick. The missing teeth proved no hardship and he had no problems at all tucking into dry food munching it easily. He remained always a very, very cuddly chap wanting nothing more than love and a lap which now he got in abundance. 

He also featured in a documentary film I was a part of called Subbuteopia and from that, he also gained fans in Italy and beyond. You can see a teaser clip where Theo is on my lap as I knit here: Subbuteopia Trailer

Theo was put to sleep aged only 8. His health had deteriorated so severely and just like had happened to Willow, Theo had kidney failure. I believe that his early demise was entirely due to the life and conditions he must have lived in as a stud cat. I can prove nothing.

It was sad to lose another pet so soon, however, I do believe that the four years Theo was with me were a really happy retirement for him. He made particularly good friends with Ari, my younger son Calum's then girlfriend, now wife.

Ari had never experienced life with a cat before meeting with Lily and Theo. While she was nervous of Lily, Theo changed her attitude to cats transforming her view completely, so much so that now Ari and Calum have their own cat who like my dear old ginger tom is also named Filbert. 

Theo - the cuddler

Theo with his microwave cat Ari gave him

Theo with his favourite human!

Filbert 2nd with Calum
I had come into a period of bad health so after Theo went to sleep I was advised not to keep a pet at all. Those have been hard years. Eventually having had several life changes, now living alone and suffering severe depression, I asked my care team please, could risk getting a cat? To my delight, and with provisos about care and handling (which I promised to follow) I was given the go-ahead to have a pet again. 

I didn't waste 1 single second. Gaining lots of support from Calum and Ari and my dear friend Sally who has for more than 30 years bred British Short Hair cats, within 2 weeks I'd taken the plunge to fulfil a dream of owning a Sphynx. And then a Noodle was here. For the story of her arrival, please visit FInding Noodle