A couple of weeks ago my cat died.
Horse. That was the name of my cat. A cat called Horse. Named so because he was quite the bruiser. As huge as a horse with white fur that was regularly interrupted by big black furry splodges. A cat called Horse who actually looked like a cow. He had the faithful and affectionate temperament of a dog. A cat called Horse who looked like a cow but acted like a dog. What a guy.
He had cancer in his mouth. His once corpulent frame withered away. His regal white fur almost as black as the splodges, unable to keep himself clean. So the day came when me and my husband had to take him to the vets to have him put down. Put down. Makes me think my cat was a Scorsese gangster. “we gotta put that Horse down, ya hear me?”
But he wasn’t. He was old and he was ill.
I’ve never had to put a pet down before. I had two Goldfish, one I won at a fair and the other my mother bought as a companion from Petsmart. The next morning I awoke to find the carni fish dead. Lying at the top of the bowl with his fin bitten off and the Petsmart fish swimming happily below. Basically a hate crime. But a hate crime with a solid three second memory alibi. He ended up in the hallway on top of a giant fish tank we now used as a display cabinet. Yes, well maybe you could have one day lived in this giant tank utopia with other fish but now, now you simply can’t be trusted to not go all Ed Gein on them. So in the bowl you stay!
I had a cat as a child. Mo. A stray that we kept and called Mozart because she liked to sit by the piano while my sister practised. She was black and made me feel like Mildred Hubble. When I left home for university so did Mo. She disappeared one day and never came back. I was too preoccupied with my new life for it to really impact me. Not like Horse.
So my husband and I sat silently in the vet’s waiting room with our cat in his little death row box, watching another jubilant couple be given back their dog.
“Horse?” Then there we were. Two snivelling weeping adults being terribly emotional but also being terribly English by politely correcting the vet for repeatedly calling Horse a ‘her’.
It was very quick.
Then we came home, threw out anything cat related, had tea, cried, got in bed and pretended we both weren’t expecting a scratch at the door and a big fluffy monster to come cuddle in the middle of us. But no the middle of the bed remained empty.
The thing about grief is the emptiness.
The small empty corner of the kitchen where his bowl used to lie seems to get bigger every day. Swallowing everything else up into it’s nothing.
Then there is the empty sound of the house. The quiet is difficult to get used to. He was a vocal little Prince. Probably because he thought he was really a dog. I’ve taken to putting the extractor fan on, even when making a salad just to pierce the clattering noise of silence.
Truth be told I think I’ve always been rather unsympathetic when friends pets died. Passed on. Kicked the bucket. Met their maker. Gone to the big farm in the sky. They’d post how devastated they were on Facebook and I’d frown or even smirk. Er calm down, it’s just a rabbit. It’s only a cat. Alright Mate, it’s a dog! I think you’ll get over it…
Now here I am mourning my cat. Devastated. But feeling a bit of a dick as well. It’s only a cat. It’s only a pet. I could just get another one.
But that’s what I’ve learnt. It’s not just a pet. It’s part of the fabric of your life and who you are. Its the middle bit of your family venn diagram.
They don’t take anything from you. Or expect anything from you.
What a comfort to have something to love and be loved by that asks nothing of you. (Apart from food and you don’t even have to COOK it!)
Probably one day we’ll get another cat. Call it pony or newt.
Thinking about having a wake. Invite some pals to a pub mainly because I reckon most of our friends actually only came round to our house to see the Horse not us. But I think that would be nice. Raise a glass or two.
So here’s to all you cat owners, dog walkers, snake charmers and even you hamster enthusiasts. Have a cuddle for me.
Oh and to all you Horse lovers to.