This week we said goodbye to our long time companion and furry pal, Gretel the cat. She was weeks away from turning 19 in people years which made her about 94 in cat years so a good old life. She was, in recent months, having more difficulty moving around and was growing increasingly deaf. Occasionally she showed the odd moment of her old self, like a couple of weeks ago when she came upstairs to our bedroom, mewing loudly. It was her way of letting me know I’d left the oven on.
She was kind enough to give us notice that she was fading. On Saturday she barely moved, choosing to lie either on the tile floor in the kitchen or laundry room, or on the mat just inside the back door. When stroked she purred as usual, but it was barely audible. We half expected her to die overnight but come morning she still mewed weekly from her basket when we went in to say good morning. We sat beside her, on and off all day, she didn’t move from her basket and in the morning she was gone. We held a burial service for her in the backyard and now all we have are a few cat toys, traces of cat fur and years of memories. She was a peaceable cat, she didn’t chase anything except toy mice, she just would bat at or meow at mice, rats, birds and squirrels in the back yard. Like other cats she would race around the house as if possessed,stand right behind me when I was cooking but then be outraged if I took a step back and tripped over her, mew loudly to go outside and then refuse to go outside once the door was open and sleep in places she wasn't supposed to, leaving cat shaped depressions and fur on the duvet. She would try to steal sips of wine from our glasses, and lick my legs and feet while trying to pin them down to stop me moving every time I shaved my legs. I'll miss that. We will miss her.
It’s hard to stay maudlin with a 6 year old in the house. When it became evident that Gretel was fading fast, we let our boy know he should say goodbye.
B: “Is she going to die now?”
Me: “Well, not right this minute but soon.”
B: “We’ll be so sad. I’ll cry millions of tears. I better go get some flowers for her right now so she knows we love her.”
He proceeded to run out into the garden and a few minutes later came back in with some zinnias pulled off their stems, a couple of globe allium flowers and a poppy trailing their long stems. He tried to lay the flowers on the cat but we managed to stop him.
B: “Is she dead yet?”
B: leaning over and petting the cat “ bye bye Gretel, we love you”.
On hearing the news that the cat had died, he wanted to see her. We told him he couldn’t, as she was already wrapped up. At the burial “service” he sang a song for the cat, based on the national anthem which went something like “we stand on guard for you, we love you every day.” And he wants to make a marker so we don’t forget where she is buried. He was a bit concerned as we didn’t bury Gretel with any of her toys but was mollified by the thought that we will give the toys to his aunt’s newish kitten, Fred.
All the same, he’s already asking when he can get his dog. Gretel disliked dogs so we would not entertain the idea of a dog while she was still alive. So now I will have pressure from both of my guys, one for his two beagles and the other for whatever dog he can think of to play with. In the meantime, we have the goldfish to keep us company – George V, Herschel, Marg, Blackie and the others.