Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes.
Because for those who love with heart and soul,
there is no such thing as separation – Rumi.
Twenty-eight years ago, just after Vince and I got married, we rescued Rusty, a skinny five-month-old kitten, living wild under my in-laws’ garden shed. We took him home and discovered he was literally a week or so away from death. He had skinned pads on his paws, half a tail, and was severely malnourished. We loved him for twelve years. Four months after losing Rusty, we took our children to pick up Misty, a five-week-old grey kitten. At the farm, the farmer (inundated with cats and kittens) shrewdly placed the tiniest black kitten, Raven, of the same litter in my ten-year-old daughter’s hands. We went home with two cats. Last month and this month, after fifteen-and-a-half years, we said goodbye to both cats with heavy hearts.
We have been extremely blessed by all three cats, and as Charles Dickens said – What greater gift than the love of a cat. Cats love because they want to and when you have the love of a cat you truly have a gift.
I want to remember my cats and how their little paws have stamped themselves right into my heart.
Rusty stole my heart, my little orange tiger, and my shadow. Wherever I went Rusty followed. He’d accompany me in the garden, sunning himself amongst the catmint while I gardened, he’d sit beside me as I wrote on my laptop pushing his head under my arm, and when my lap was empty he’d cuddle up on it.
Rusty was adorable, had the softest snow white and golden ginger fur, and the brightest amber and green eyes. He was the sweetest cat in the world, loving unconditionally like a puppy!
Rusty was also the clumsiest cat I’ve ever known, missing half his tail seemed to affect his balance and spacial awareness, making him a cat who’d jump up onto a table and knock everything off it in the process! He even got lost when we moved to Wales getting shut in a neighbour’s garage overnight. Then another time he disappeared and failed to come when he was called. We found him around the corner mewing piteously at a neighbour’s identical front door. He was my world when we had no other pets and a young family. He was gentle and playful and all the children adored him. He passed away at twelve-years-old after kidney failure from an infected cat bite.
It was April 2004, and I missed Rusty so bad that we decided to find another cat, and Vince knew a friend with a farm full of cats, and we went to collect Misty. The farmer was canny and when Raven was placed in Bekah’s hands there was no going back and one cat became two.
Though sisters, Misty and Raven were so different. Misty was grey and white like the early morning mist, and she purred quietly, was gentle, loved her food, and didn’t stray far from the house. Raven, as black and sleek as midnight, purred like a motorbike, was fierce, adventurous, and a true explorer. Misty loved bathing in the sun close to the house, probably so she could easily hear food being put out… and Raven would disappear for hours and hours, traipsing through the forests and coming back whenever she fancied.
Misty and Raven spent their whole lives ignoring each other, as siblings often do – you never found them together, they wouldn’t sleep on the same bed during the day, and up until their last year they hissed at each other whenever they met in the house! However, if one was in distress, they joined forces and fought for each other.
Raven got into trouble, a lot. She was tiny, skinny, and passionate, but she attracted trouble like a magnet, costing us hundreds in vet visits to treat the wounds she sustained from other neighbourhood cats. Misty would sit on our flat extension roof and when other cats came by with threats Raven would rock up and rescue her. As they got older though, more cats appeared in the locality and they found it harder to hold their own against the younger cats. A few years ago, a family of six cats showed up and ours found it hard. When Raven went missing for three days, and finally turned up stressed and perturbed, we decided to make them house cats. Misty accepted it easily, having never gone far from home, Raven though found it much harder, but it worked out and they became happy indoor cats.
Misty slept with Cait, and Raven cuddled up to Bekah every night, enjoying the convenience of our beds and ignoring any cat beds we ever provided. When Bekah moved out Raven chose my bed, and stalked in every night after being fed. She’d sit on my pillow while Vince and I hugged, then she’d mew when she decided it was bed time, and push between us to claim the centre of the bed!
We now have our beds back to ourselves, and that’s probably when I miss them the most. It’s nice to cuddle my husband without interruption, but I used to love going to sleep with a warm furry body curled up against my shoulder.
When you needed a hug Misty and Raven would be there, snuggling close, pushing their head against you, purring and loving. After fifteen years their health mirrored each other and they slipped downhill with old age and common cat issues. Misty developed hyperthyroidism and then kidney failure, and Raven was thwarted by liver tumours, and they passed away within a month of each other.
Like I said, echoing Dickens, what greater gift than the love of a cat.
We had one of the greatest gifts, three times over.
To Rusty, Misty, and Raven…