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A Sad Farewell

In the summer of 2001, I responded to an appeal from the RSPCA to take in two of their ‘difficult to place’ kittens. Why were they thus categorised, you might ask. The first reason wasn’t too hard to understand. Born of a feral mother, they were going to try the patience of their new family and take a long time to settle in. The second reason really took us all aback, because we hadn’t realised that colour was an issue with many potential cat owners. Silver tabbies were generally the first to be chosen, we were told, followed by ginger cats, ordinary tabbies, black and white and then – and a long way behind – black cats. Some people apparently still associate them with witchcraft or just think them unlucky. 

Fortunately for Thomas and Tabitha, 12 weeks old when they arrived chez Cobbett, we’ve never chosen (or rejected) any cat for the colour of its fur.  Actually, we’ve hardly ever chosen one at all. Going back to my childhood, Patch (mostly white) ‘came with the house’. Carver (half Persian and half Manchester alley cat) was bestowed on me during my student days, because she was the runt of her litter and no one else would have her. Catkins (black and white) came along as part of a job lot when our elder son wanted a ginger kitten. Smokey (grey) was handed over when her owner died and so on. You get the picture?

The settling in process did take several months, though. At first our new pets were invisible for most of the time, only coming out to eat after we’d all gone to bed and scuttling back to whatever hiding place they’d chosen as soon as they heard footsteps. I still bear a tram line scar on my wrist from the first time I tried to pick Tab up. Given that 17 years have gone by since then, you may well imagine how deeply she dug her tiny claws into my flesh. We also have a large hole in the back of one of our furnishing units. Tab again! Somehow she managed to squeeze into the tiny gap behind it and that was the only way to extricate her. Tom was the first to sit beside me on the sofa and allow me to stroke him. He was always the more confident of the two, twice Tab’s size and prone to bullying her. Nevertheless, the bond between them was very strong and they were rarely far apart. As soon as one learned how to leap up onto a radiator or window sill, the other followed.

The efforts we made to convince the two of them that they were in no danger from us were repaid many times over. After the first few weeks, they were free to roam our garden and the surrounding area, but never disappeared for long.

They loved to be outside but knew that a warm basket or a friendly lap was always at their disposal indoors. Now, a week on from losing Tab, the house seems very empty. Her brother Tom died in May and we’ll never be sure whether missing him brought on her own decline. From bouncing around the garden a few days beforehand, she went downhill very rapidly and there was nothing that the vet could do. 

We miss them both terribly but have the consolation of knowing that they were well cared for during the 17 years that they lived with us and met  peaceful ends. R.I.P., little friends. We’ll never forget you.

23 September, 2018 - Make the first comment on this story

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