Memories of Cats

Tom and Ms Smoochie, together again, across the Rainbow Bridge

This is for my dear cats, who have now departed.

At the behest of a few friends, I’m setting about creating a kind of memorial blog for my much loved cats, Ms Smoochie and Thomas.  Our pets are never with us for very long, but somehow manage to wriggle into our hearts and stay there forever, no matter how many others come after.  This would be a memorial for all my cats… but for some reason in the past, I have taken very few photographs.  It took a few years before I really came to appreciate the importance of these furry friends in our lives.

So, herewith a list of my previous cat friends
1) “Old Girl”: Became Mum’s cat after I left home in 1969. 1968-1980
oldgirl
2) Simon: A gorgeous tabby and white who was named before we realised he was a she. 1973-1975. Snakebite.
simon
3) Ms Tiddles: Black and white girl. First cat who ever chose me. She beat off her little brothers and sister to claim me as her own. 1975-1990. The shot is of Tids playing with her best mate of the time, Leon.
tiddlesleon

After Ms Tiddles, I was catless for a time. I was busy, I was involved in work and relationships, and not-relationships and travel. I had not intended to get another cat. Then one morning in July 1998 I woke, and immediately knew it was time.

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Ms Smoochie comes to stay.

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On that July morning when I woke up knowing that I would have a cat that day, in my imagination, it was a little kitten I would bring home. I showered and dressed early, and took myself to the supermarket to buy kitten food, litter tray, litter, toys… the usual things you get for kittens. Dropped them in the back of the car and headed off to the RSPCA shelter a few suburbs away. I knew they always had lots of cats and kittens and I felt sure there would be one for me.

The lass who was on duty that day, took me out and showed me kittens and cats waiting to be taken home, but interestingly, not a single one seemed the least interested in coming with me. Kittens will often play with you, and want to be cuddled, but after a cursory look and sniff, they went back to playing amongst themselves, and I knew that I would not be getting one. This lass looked at me and said “you know, theres one out the back, she’s to be euthanased this afternoon… do you want to see her?” Naturally, that was enough for me to agree, and I think, even if events had not subsequently unfolded as they did, I would have taken her anyway. So we wandered out the back, and there was this beautiful black and white, with markings a lot like my old Tiddles (but with a full tail. Tids was a stumpy). She was in a large cage, curled up in the back. She looked up as we came into that room, then stood up, stretched, miaowed (“and where have *you* been? I’ve been waiting!”), and poked at the door of the cage with her paw. The lass opened the cage and this gorgeous girl began immediately purring and trying to jam herself inside my voluminous sweater. “You can’t refuse that, surely?” I was asked. “Nope” I said “She’s mine!”

She had to be desexed, vaccinated and microchipped, and I was allowed to take her home a couple of days later. I gave the kitten food to a neighbour, and got “proper” cat food for my new girl. I still had not decided on a name for my almost 3 yrs old cat.

When we got home, I closed the front door, and opened the cage so she could get out, and sniff and explore her new home. That was not the first thing she did. She immediately began knee launching and purring so loudly I could not believe it. She did do a bit of exploring but she stayed near me for the next couple of days, making sure she could see me, wherever I was. And if I was sitting, she was sitting on me, cuddling up and smooching to heck. Hence the name, which I intended to be temporary, but it stuck for good.

Settling In, and Moving House

Ms Smoochie quickly settled in and found her favourite places, and for the next 3½ years, it was just the two of us, with occasional visits from her friends. She was absolutely the most cat-welcoming feline I have ever had. She would “adopt” any new kitten in the neighbourhood, and want them to stay with us. That was not possible at the time and none of those attached to me, so she remained an only cat for the time we were at Tighes Hill.

Favourite occupation: pretending to be a black panther lying in wait for prey (me!)
smoochie1

Favourite location: Sleeping near the open front door, in the sun
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Most entertaining spot: Tormenting me, who could not climb up onto the roof to make her get down
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We had a lovely time, Ms Smoochie and me, but we could not stay in Tighes Hill because of increasing levels of noise and disruption from the neighbours (nightshift and noisy neighbours do not mix at all). In 2001 we moved out to suburbia, and stayed put.

New House!

Smoochie could not believe her eyes. Grass, and shrubs, and trees to climb! She loved the new house, and she particularly loved the yard. As a now 6 year old, she was growing out of being a kitten (in her mind) and spent vast tracts of time lazing about in the sun on the concrete slab behind the garage. There was also a fishpond where she liked to try fishing for the goldfish… I don’t think she ever succeeded, but it only took a slow leak in the pond for me to decide to bequeath the fish to a friend who had a good deep backyard pond. It didn’t matter, there were mice to catch, cockroaches to bring into the house (arghhh!) and lazing about snoozing, to be done.

These were some from the first year, but I confess the transition from film to digital was slow, for me, and so there are not too many of her. The Kodak DC5000 just was not generally up to the task and I was reticent about shooting film again, because I had flat batteries in my cameras and was unable to find replacements (crazy sizes… have only in the last year found one for one of them, the Minolta SRT303b remains batteryless)

Here’s some more, from when Tom came to stay. Its her fault I have him. I noticed him about 6 months after we moved in, and he seemed to be hanging around a lot. I would shoo him away but he would always come back. Eventually I caved in and put a collar on him, a note on the collar (wrapped in gladwrap so it would not get wet if it rained) and waited for a response from his owners. Seems he had none. I guess he was dumped. It also explains why the mouse population disappeared from the garden!

Tom’s favourite place when he first came to stay, was here, under the weedy things, where he could see without being seen
hidingtom

2003-2010

Not many Smoochie photos from these years. The best are here. She wasn’t that keen on being photographed as she got older, and my cameras were generally being ignored anyway.

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She would jump up on to the top of the wheelie bin, and then to the roof from there. Its a wonder she never fell, but she was pretty lithe for a fat cat (and oh yes, she had got quite tubby after Tom came. There was a constant competition for food and she won most times… he would just sit back and let her eat everything in sight, I had to put her out so he could have some peace while he ate… its the one thing they disagreed on!)

Smoochie staring usually meant Tom was up to something. It was difficult to get them in shot together. The one I wish I had was when they would cross the road and laze about under the neighbour’s truck. It’s uphill from here and they could see whatever was happening in the street without revealing themselves. I’d call them to come for tea, and they would walk slowly across, side by side, and then down the hall in the house, again side by side, and wait for me in the kitchen. Terrific kids.

Smoochie Departed on August 5th, 2010

I did not realise it, but Smoochie had become unwell. She had been as healthy as a horse for all of her life. In the months before August 2010, it seems her heart, liver and kidneys had begun to fail. I felt terrible because I had not noticed anything different in her behaviour except she wanted more cuddles than usual.

lastof

This is the last photograph I ever had of her, cuddling up to me in the study. Its not very good, because it was shot on my old iMac, with Photobooth.

On the morning of 5th August, she was clearly in a great deal of distress, and I took the decision then, to take her to the vet for her final journey. I will always wonder if there would have been something else I could do. She was a great friend and I still miss her chattering away to me when I would come home from work, telling me of her day.

Tom grieved for a very long time afterwards. He didn’t understand of course, for him, there was just a hole in his life. I thought from time to time about getting another female cat so he could have companionship, but for various reasons decided not to. Not the least of those was deterioration in my own health which meant I had to retire from work on a pension and could no longer afford two cats. Especially when one of those was Tom, who cost a fortune in vet fees over the years

And then, there was one.

Tommy and I became a lot closer after Smoochie left us. We really needed each other. I depended on him, and he on me. He was never far from me, and never went so far away that he could not see either the front or the back door, if he chose to be outside instead of in. Inside the house, he stayed where he could see me at all times. (I might not have been able to see him, you know how cats are at finding places to hide)

Sometimes just laying about, like this, a few months A.S. (after Smoochie)

He had lots of moods…

Sometimes he just didn’t want to pay attention to me
ignoring

But overall he became even cuddlier than he ever had been. I don’t think I mentioned, earlier, that when he first came to live with us, he would lay on my chest and periodically look up, stare into my face, and touch my cheek with his paw, as if to be certain it was all real. The vet had told me that based on his physical condition, he had been on his own for at least a year.

We had another four years together, Tom and I, before he became unwell. Except I had no idea that it was happening. And at four years and 19 days since I had to make the decision for Smoochie, I had to do the same for Tom.