Sonnet to a Cat


“Cat! who hast pass’d thy grand cliacteric,
How many mice and rats hast in thy days
Destroy’d? – How many tit bits stolen? …”


I’ve never really had any luck with pets. I had a hamster that died. My family kept budgies, that died. The goldfish we kept are too numerous to recount, and my first kitten was a victim of a hit and run accident.

A colleague of my mother’s had a sister whom had been going through a big move- a new job further up the country. The only problem was that she couldn’t take her cat with her; her new Landlord didn’t allow pets. Also, the stress of being in a cat-carrier for two hours plus, for a cat that didn’t travel well, would be immense. The owner at the time decided that finding a home closer than the one she would be moving to would prevent any unnecessary trauma.

So, that was how we came to adopt Katie, roughly around 2002. She was two, and I was just about five. And she despised me.

Perhaps not ‘despise’, but certainly she didn’t like me as a child. I was loud and excited because, well, who wouldn’t be excited to make a new cat friend? But Katie hadn’t been introduced to children before; to her, I was big, scary, and grabby- even if my intention was just to harmlessly pick her up and say ‘Hello!’. In her attempt to escape my petting hands, she got herself stuck under than handle of a small handbag, and looked up with the most pitiful expression until someone rescued her from the dreaded leather strap.


“… Gaze | With those bright languid segments green, and prick
Those velvet ears – but pr’ythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me – and upraise
Thy gentle mew – and tell me all thy frays
Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick. … ”


I grew up in a neighbourhood with scant few children. If there were any, they were older. They didn’t have time to play with me. Playdates with friends from school were hard to arrange, because both of my parents worked weird hours when I was little- and I often ended up spending my afternoons at my grandparent’s house until someone collected me.

When it was confirmed Katie was to stay with us, I was so happy- I’d finally have a constant friend. When the other children and teachers asked me what I was doing, I replied: “I’m making a card for our new cat. She’s coming to live with us today”.

That got me a few odd looks, I tell you. Not that nearly-five-year-old me cared.

The tentative friendship formed over fourteen years together, grew to be so strong. We always likened her living in our home to a guest in a hotel- as cats are often want to do. On the scale of her affection, I ranked very high, my mother was the equivalent to a maid, and my father was near non-existent apart from when food was involved.

Now I’m twenty, and I’ve lost a constant in my life.

I finished my first year of University in June, and arrived back at home in time to see Katie off to a Geriatric check-up at the local vets. The news that came back, understandably, worried us. It turned out that she was jaundiced, as a result of a Thyroid condition. Further tests uncovered that she had a tumour growing on the outside of her liver, which had been pressing against her bile duct.

Cats are notoriously good at hiding symptoms. We were not to know the extent of her illness, until it was too late. The vet advised that we were to take her home, pamper her, and make her as comfortable as possible, as it would only be a matter of time. In the meantime, if we were worried, another check-up could be scheduled.

We recently had some very warm weather in Brittain, which again, caused us to worry about Kate. Was she drinking enough? Is the heat putting her off of her food? Why is she always lying down and tired?- she was fine the week before…


“…Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists –
For all the wheezy asthma, – and for all
Thy tail’s tip is nick’d off – and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a mail, …”


It came to the point on Friday 22nd that she looked decidedly ragged and tired. We had a family meeting and agreed to monitor her closely over the weekend, and if she deteriorated, have her humanely put to sleep.

We didn’t want to come to that decision; it would be less stressful for her to simply drift off to sleep in a comfortable sunny spot. As it was, the decision was taken out of our hands.

For some unknown reason, my father couldn’t get back to sleep in the early hours of Saturday 23rd July. He went downstairs and made a fuss of the cat, whom was stretched out on the living room rug. If he hadn’t of been awake, we would not have known that Katie started having seizures until the morning when we woke-  it would be too late.

We stayed with her, over the next hour. It was horrible.

No, horrible doesn’t cover the emotions I felt; the heart breaking grief, the inadequacy I felt, the anger– because I knew it was the end and I selfishly didn’t want to say goodbye so soon.

Katie passed away in the early hours, surrounded by her family. In her final moments, she stretched out her back legs, curled in her forepaws, and took a motionless leap to nowhere; or quite possibly, to her next adventure.


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“…Still is that fur as soft as when the lists
In youth thou enter’dst on glass bottled wall.”

‘Sonnet to a Cat’,  John Keats


 

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