Friday, April 10, 2009

The Black Cat

I had some sad news on the phone today. The sweetest member of our family has finally past away. She turned 20 years old just before Christmas 2008, and met her end only a couple of weeks ago. She was having trouble remaining upright and had lost her appetite and so the family decided it would be cruel to have her suffer much longer. I have known The Black Cat for more than three quarters of my own young life - even my Nan was not a part of my life this long. She was universally loved (even by my cat-disliking father) by all who met her. She was always up for a cuddle and a tummy rub but never forced herself on anyone. She caught her own rabbits, left us birds as gifts, and tried to teach us to hunt mice. This never stopped her from loving the rabbit mince Mum would buy her, or from quietly waiting all morning for something - anything - from a can of Chef.

Even the paparazzi loved her...

I remember the day we collected her - a frightened young kitten in a dark old shed. We picked her brother out first - I had always wanted a ginger cat, and the sweetest little red and orange kitten there ever was immediately captured my heart. We put him in the box. He jumped out. We put him in again. Then we went after Her. I remember seeing a tortie in the litter. I can't remember why we didn't go for her. It might have been Mum's decision. Mum would have known how flighty torties can be - probably not a good choice for a farming family.

She was in the shed. I don't remember when we spotted her. But she knew we were Big and Bad and we'd come to shake up her wee life. She hid behind some big green 40-gallon drums. We tied some paper to a piece of string and spent HOURS coaxing and tempting her from her hiding place. Okay I was only six, so it might not have been hours, but I don't think I've ever been so patient ever again. She was worth it though.

Favourite scratching places: Tummy and chin

She set a precedent that day hiding behind the drums. From then on the story of her kitten-hood is pretty much hiding behind things. The couch, the deep-freezer, the bed, the TV. She liked it under the house. Her brother was finally named (by me) Marmalade. Seeing it written down now it actually looks a bit girlie, but it ultimately doesn't matter as he was always referred to as Ginge anyway. Interestingly I am currently flatting with a man named Ginge. I bet Freud would have a field day.
She was never named. She officially belonged to my two older sisters (Ju, and Ju's Twin) and it wasn't that they couldn't agree on a name - it was a matter of 'no name is good enough for her.' Her whole life she was simply The Black Cat.

The Black Cat was almost the perfect pet. She could feed herself, she didn't worry if we were away for a long weekend. She loved the sun, she loved laps, she loved being cradled like a baby with her tummy being tickled. If visitors came she would wander over for a nosey and a possible pat. If Dad tossed her off HIS chair, she'd wait for him to get settled then jump up and sleep on his lap.
She was a silent cat. She'd sit by the door for half an hour waiting for it to open without once making a meow. Next to her brother - who clawed his laps, dribbled on his cuddler and let out a rousing Siamese yeowl every 20 seconds (that's an average, often it was every 2 seconds) - she was an angel.

The Black Cat accepting her prize for Most Popular Cat

Often we would come home from school and find the two cats on the back lawn. The Black Cat would be eating a rabbit like a mighty lioness and growling while her brother paced around her - the jackal who wanted her catch. We would frighten him away so she could eat her catch in piece. It wasn't until years later - long after I had left home and Ginge/Marmalade had gone - that we learned it was much more likely he had done the hunting, and she had stolen the rabbit off him. This made a rather embarrassing sense as we remembered it was always Ginge who caught lizards, skinks and mice.

There were other ways she wasn't quite the angel she made out to be. She disappeared for a few weeks with no word as to where and why she had left - not even a message with her brother. We worried and stressed. There are stray cats on the farm - people tend to dump their unwanted kittens out in the 'wilderness' where we come from. Had she been beaten up by another cat?
She came home pregnant and quite unrepentant without an apology but definitely with a sense of "Well I'll just cuddle you a lot more these next couple of days to make up for it."

(Possibly evil)

She had four kittens, each given away to become Prince, Minty, Toya, and Mother Cat.
Prince and Minty fell victim to tragic accidents involving a backing car and a swimming pool respectively, and Toya went to live with the local doctor and her young Dalmatian dog. Presumably the three are still living together today. Mother Cat was so named because she stayed in the valley where we are from with the local school teacher and her daughter. True to form Mother Cat followed in her mother's footsteps and disappeared into the wilderness for weeks, only to return with a rounder belly and four little future kittens. Smokey and Katie were given away, but when Mother Cat returned to the wilderness - this time pretty much for ever - Tiger and Fluffy stayed in the family. Two beautiful big - BIG and LEAN - tabby cats who loved a cuddle as much as their Grandmother. The school teacher and her daughter always referred to The Black Cat as Grandmother Cat, but it never really caught on.

Years later when us kids had all moved out and Mum and Dad had almost moved to Ashburton (a nearby town) there wasn't really anyone at home to look after an ageing Black Cat. She was getting too skinny, and a bit wobbly for any of us to believe she could still be catching her own food. My sister (Ju's Twin) was managing the farm but living in a cottage. She would come and feed her but it was proving a logistical pain in the proverbial. So it was decided The Black Cat would move to the cottage to live.
Well! Goodness me but it must have been like Heaven on Earth for the old girl. She was suddenly warm again, fed again, and most importantly, loved again.
In her older age she became more vocal and voiced both her love and her hunger with quick meows which held at their core the Siamese in her blood. She was always attended instantly and with compassion. But mostly she slept, and gave the most delicious hugs of her life - pressing her head and shoulders against her cuddler with such fervour you'd think she'd never been hugged. Her claws grew long as she stopped sharpening them and they would hook into your jumper like a physical manifestation of her desire never to be let go.

More recently she couldn't stand or walk so well - 'wobble' grew into 'unsteady' and became 'unstable.' Her appetite waned and 'skinny' was really rather 'anorexic.' So, in an Of Mice and Men moment, she was put down.
She won't be at home the next time I visit.
And home will be a little bit lonelier because of it.

Goodbye Black Cat. You'll never be forgotten.


lorenzothellama said...

What a lovely little cat. She had such a lovely life. A very nice obituary JLS.
Was Plumpy one of her descendents?

kiwi mother said...

Dear Little Black Cat.What a beautiful cat she was. The children could do ANYTHING with her. She was a perfect chidren's pet. Good bye precious friend - we miss you and love you. RIP xx

Maalie said...

So sorry, JLS. Condolences to PLumpy too.

simon said...

yes- its sad when a family member passes away. Especially those that ask little and give so much in return

kiwi mother said...

Simon you said it all. It has brought tears to my eyes and an ache in my heart ...

JLS's aunt said...

What a lovely summary of Black Cat's legacy for those of us who knew her!! She was a sweetie!

Raelha said...

Such a little puss, yet it sounds as though she had such a full life. I'm sorry that she's gone and pleased that she was so well loved.