“Beware of people who dislike cats.”
– Irish proverb
– Irish proverb
In honour of Mum’s new kitten, here’s a passage from Doris Lessing’s On Cats that I always loved:
Today we said goodbye to Mousya, our gorgeous tabby princess who lived to the ripe old age of 18, which means that she’s been in my life for exactly half of it. She’s been an old cat for so long I can barely remember her as a young one. We got her very soon after we moved into our family house, and for the first few days she wouldn’t leave my brother’s bedroom, which she probably found comforting because of the carpeted floor. We called her Mousya after our first family cat who we sadly left behind in Russia. Mousya is basically a Russian version of Spot, a common-as-dirt pet name.
Mousya eventually left the carpeted bedroom but she always remained a rather anxious cat, skittish and wary of strangers. On the plus side, it meant that she never in her entire lifetime ventured beyond our backyard, even to check out the neighbours. Considering how many cats get killed by the cars in the suburban Melbourne, that was a blessing. She also posed zero threat to the native Australian wildlife and birds, on the account of being a hopelessly bad hunter. She gave it plenty a try, but after spending ages crouching low on the ground she was just too slow to be a killer.
Mousya was fond of the games many cats play; I don’t mean the small fluffy toys and such. They were more along the lines of, How To Frustrate Your Human and Make Them Swear. One favourite involved sitting a couple of metres from the hatch door deliberately looking away, after making the human go outside in freezing cold, in order to let the cat from under the house. The upstairs variation was about making the human stand on a tall chair under a hatch in the ceiling, beckoning the cat to come down from under the roof, while the cat sits on the very edge of the hatch ever so slightly out of reach. Though she mellowed out significantly in her middle age and lapped up the affection and cuddles like a sponge, young Mousya was a bit of a moody bitch, swiping at the caressing hand without a warning. Of course, I adored her regardless.
Though she’s had ongoing kidney issues for the last 3-4 years, things didn’t start to get bad until the last year, when Mousya’s lost heaps of weight and shrank from a fatty to a skinny little thing. In the last couple of months, the vet also discovered a fast-growing tumour on her leg; since she was too old to become a tripod cat the only thing to do was to monitor it until her quality of life well and truly declined. This weekend, we finally made a decision to put her to eternal rest.
I thought that the last few hours before the vet’s home visit would be an absolutely terrible waiting game, but a small miracle occurred when I woke up near midnight last night to see Mousya trying to climb the bed – unexpected since she’s become so withdrawn and prone to hiding under the kitchen table. It was a lovely farewell having her sleep on the bed next to me, and stay there in the morning until the vet came over. The vet and the nurse couldn’t have been more caring and gentle and the end was quick and merciful. It’s incredibly sad to lose Mousya, but she’s had a very long happy life and it was the right time to let her go.
I don’t believe in afterlife, but if I did I’d have liked to think that Mousya’s spirit will roam the mountains where she’s to be buried, happily munching on the spirits of the mice and birds.