In a recent newsletter editor Tom Hodgkinson shared the sad news of the death of his family cat, Milly.
On Saturday our cat Milly was put down by the vet. She’d been ailing for a week or two and spent her last night curled up between Victoria and my daughter. She was sixteen years and eight months old. It was very sad indeed.
Milly had been a great companion to us. She spent her younger years on our rented farm in North Devon, where she killed countless mice and birds, before moving to London for her retirement where she took it very easy indeed. Cats, it has often been said, give us humans a good example of how to live. They sit around doing nothing for most of the day, get stroked, and occasionally go out hunting. If you call hunting work, and many wouldn’t, then you could say that countryside cats probably work about half an hour a day. And in doing very little they paradoxically contribute a lot. They are always around and there for you. And they absolutely hate it when you work. They will come and sit on your keyboard, or place themselves exactly between your book and your face when you are trying to read. Are they telling us something? Is the message of the cat, “Slow down, you move too fast, got to make the morning last”?
Cats are an endless source of fascination. Montaigne was a fan of his cat and thought about her a lot. His cat elicited philosophical conundrums. “When I play with my cat,” wrote the great essayist, “who knows whether I do not make her more sport than she makes me?” Which reminds me of the great joke in the Fat Freddy’s Cat comic. Fat Freddy is seen dangling a piece of string for his cat. The cat swats the string and the gormless Fat Freddy leaps around. The cat then walks away and says to itself: “It’s amazing how much fun one of them can have with a piece of string.”
These comments were mailed to us after the above piece was sent as a newsletter. We like to publish a selection and reserve the right to edit them for clarity. Feel free to drop us a line with your pet death stories.
When my kids were youngsters I got them a hamster – we weren’t supposed to have pets in our flat but thought a hamster would probably go unnoticed. Coincidentally they called him Tom. Tom was an adventurous soul, with an ability to escape his cage. He once turned up at our neighbours two flats along having braved a balcony with a 20 foot drop to his sure death. His preference was to sleep in the (blocked) fireplace rather than his cage. One night a bunch of debris caved in from the chimney landing on Tom. Remarkably he survived, though needed a bit of a dust and a cleanse once he’d been disinterred from the pile of rubble and wood. The fast life took its toll and he died just shy of age two. We buried him at our allotment with what I thought was quite a touching speech (tears in my eyes). He’d been in the ground for less than a minute before the kids were suggesting we visit the pet shop to get a replacement.
My wife and I decided to leave Sydney a few years ago for all the usual reasons one does when bringing up a child. The Southern Highlands of NSW is an idyllic sprawl of 3 small towns and a smattering of villages perched on the Illawarra escarpment and home to an eclectic bunch of bohemians, bogans, normals and country folk.
Soon after settling in we visited the local animal rescue shelter and purchased the cutest little brown/black tabby kitten, Leo.
Just prior to his 1st birthday my wife texted me a photo of our swollen faced furball with the caption, “Look at our little fella, he’s been stung by a bee”. My instinctive response was to ask, “Are you sure it was a bee? It may be a snake”. She wasn’t sure. We monitored him for the rest of the evening. He was uncharacteristically sedate. When I went to bed my wife said that she would sleep in the spare room with Leo to keep an eye on him. I was woken by her at about 2am. She was distraught. “It’s Leo, he’s not good”. I jumped out of bed in a daze and stumbled to the spare room. He was motionless and limp, eyes popping and dilated. “It’s a snake babe, he’s half dead”. The next few minutes were frantic. I tried desperately to get hold of a vet and eventually found someone who would meet me in town. I didn’t think he would survive the trip. The vet immediately confirmed that it was a snake bite. By this time it had been 10 hours since the bite. She gave me the options. One was the long sleep and the other didn’t sound too promising either; intravenous antivenin with a no guarantees wait and see. She also gave me the financial lowdown, ouch. I called my wife just to confirm what I already knew. We didn’t feel we had an option, we had to try. I assisted the vet in prepping Leo before she sent me home with a “We’ll be in touch”.
My wife called me at work the next day. He’d made it through the night and was improving but still very poorly. We visited him as soon as we could. The staff were surprised he pulled through – “He’s a tough little bugger” – but he was going to be ok. Happy in heart and light in wallet we welcomed Leo home a couple of days later.
One year on and Leo is well. The damaged to cells from snake venom is irreversible and it’s not usual practice to administer antivenin again. We can only hope he’s learned from the experience and curiosity doesn’t get the better of him.
We lost our dog this summer, he was fading and had lost his normal boundless enthusiasm for food and walks so we knew it was nearly time. The only thing he continued to get up for was his frisbee, unfortunately during one of our regular games he had a stroke and lost control of his back legs. A trip to the vet confirmed everything we feared, it was definitely time but we absolutely weren’t going to have him put down in the surgery. Solly, our beloved Lurcher, was no fan of the vets and I was not going to put him through the stress of ending his life cowering in the corner of a treatment room. I looked at the weather forecast and the weather was set to be glorious the following week so we made a plan to have a week of idling in the sunshine in the garden which would end with a home visit from our vet.
Like all sight hounds Solly had long since retired himself from active duty and was never happier than lazing in the garden, occasionally looking up to check that nothing had changed or if something might need smelling, and moving from sun to shade if he got too hot. So the whole family took it in turns to lay with him in a makeshift outside bed, cuddling, crying and talking to him about the life we had all enjoyed. The plan worked, being mostly retired ourselves we ignored the phone and emails and took the opportunity to share those wonderful sunny hours with him in our final week together.
How on earth can you boast about your cat killing wild birds?? Why don’t you keep it under control?
This year we have lost one adult blackbird and two juvenile ones to a neighbour’s cat. That represents only the killings which we have witnessed. Beyond our gardens lies a nature reserve and I dread to think what mayhem is being imposed to all sorts of creatures there by the irresponsible owners of domestic cats. Additionally, the same cat has removed expensive and carefully reared fish from our garden pond. We work very hard to try to help the local wildlife and I find it very distressing when adults are so oblivious to the affect their ignorance is having on the local environment. I wonder what they would have to say if we were not to control our dog and allow it to foul their flower borders as their cats do ours. It is most unpleasant to pull up a weed and find that one’s fingers are covered in cat excrement. I suggest that you should print an apology in your next magazine and determine to accept responsibility for your pets and for the countryside and suburbs around you.
Incidentally, it is not unusual for domestic cats to be run over by vehicles in our estate, or just to go missing. Yet more evidence of unfair behaviour by their owners.