Ancient Kitten, as regular readers may recall, went missing a couple of months ago, leaving my family to believe that she had wandered off and died somewhere. Then, mysteriously, she returned to us looking if anything healthier than she was when she left. Rumours of her death, as I said, were greatly exaggerated.
Alas, there is to be no such reprieve this time.
Two days ago, she was in fine fettle, or as fine as a cat of 22 years can expect to be. But in the past 48 hours or so, she experienced a drastic decline in her health. Her spirit and fight, which had been apparent even when she was at her most uncomfortable before, seemed to have left her entirely. She seemed to be giving up. And she was clearly suffering, in chronic and severe ways. The sad decision was made to give her a hero’s send-off, drinking in her memory the real ales after which she and her brother (sadly some years departed now) had been named when we first adopted them from the animal rescue centre. The actual ending was somewhat less dignified, on the vet’s table. Although she did, at least, make a half-hearted effort to resist. However, in itself that was a sign that she was not long for this world: it used to be a titanic struggle to get that kitten under control to be examined, and even a week ago grooming her was a battle for a noble warrior race like ours.
She has always been small and scrawny. A decade or two ago, she would fight enthusiastically but utterly outgunned by any other cat in the neighbourhood. When we turned up and the other, bigger, cat fled, she would look around as if to say, “I had ’em right where I wanted ’em! Why’d you come round and mess things up for me?” It was all front, but my God, she was good at it, and I loved her for her spirit. As mentioned, grooming, flea treatment, ear drops, trips to the vet, anything that involved controlling her long enough to do her some good, was just an epic contest of wills and physical strength and skill. I like to think that, if there is such a thing as a Valhalla for cats, then her last swipe at the vet is enough to afford her the accolade of having died in battle, and she’s stalking the place as I speak. I’m not into Norse mythology as a belief system, obviously, but it still feels like the best way to remember her.
She was her own woman, and though her behaviour often seemed like madness, there was usually some method or pattern to it. She knew what she was doing, even if it perplexed us. Of course, we could have some fun with this, too. She never grew out of the need to wait until a door was just closing, to dash through the narrowing gap. We used to make her do laps by alternately opening and closing the front and back doors of the house, and she would dash in through the gap at the front door and out through the gap at the back door – as long as she could see the door was closing when she came up to it. (Otherwise, she just sat and looked at you, as if to say, “Why aren’t you closing the door for me to dash through?” And if you did, then she would, never failed.)
Stroking, sitting on your lap, or anything, was always on her terms. If you looked like you were investing in it at all, she wasn’t interested. the best way to stroke her was to dangle your hand lazily over the side of the armchair and wait for her to bat her head on it. She would then wander underneath, allowing you to press as hard as you liked. I found that if I held onto her tail just a bit as she pulled away so that she was tugging on it, she would immediately orbit back around and do the whole thing again, and again. Part of me wonders fancifully if watching and playing with her was a part of how I learned to be a Dom (it wasn’t, but dang, she acted like a masochist sometimes!)
For all these reasons, and more beyond counting, she will be fondly remembered.
RIP Ancient Kitten.