Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ageing

His coat is the sandy brown of a lion's pelt and the sculpted profile resembles those of the cats in Ancient Egyptian paintings. He's beautiful, but of course I'm prejudiced.

He's getting old. Over the past eighteen months he's turned into a lap cat, rarely venturing outside even in good weather. He sleeps more and more, though he's perky enough when awake. The vet guesstimates he's around fourteen, but since he's a rescue cat we don't really know. Could be more, could be less, but it's clear that the days of playing the wild rover are gone for good.

I could never get him to stay on my lap when he was younger. Twenty seconds maybe if I held him down with both hands, then a struggle, a wriggle, and he was gone. If he was feeling particularly benevolent he would place himself next to me on the sofa, his flank against my thigh. Thus far but no further. I felt honoured, in the way we humans can by the occasional attention of a normally aloof cat.

Since we left London it's all changed. Whether I'm sitting on the sofa or lying in bed he jumps up. It's become difficult to read, impossible to knit - his furry bulk imposes itself between me and the object of my attention. He stakes his claim to my lap, kneads, turns round in a circle and settles. I feel the movement and warmth of his small body and the soft beating of his heart. As I scratch beneath his chin the purring redoubles. Quite quickly he falls asleep. What is seeking, I wonder. Body warmth? Comfort? Life force? Certainly his health is failing. There are chronic kidney problems and in addition he's losing weight and nobody knows why. He's also lost most of his teeth. Between the special diet and the vet's bills his care is expensive for someone on a limited budget, but I pay up more than willingly.

You see, he's a companion in the literal sense of the word. Since he arrived at my door over ten years ago I've had more meals in his company than in the presence of any one human. He's been there through the arrival and subsequent departure of two lovers, the death of both parents, through excitement, contentment, grief, anxiety, boredom. Through a mugging. Through a house move. Through the flu. He sleeps on the bed through my morning quiet time. He makes me laugh.

Ach. There'll be time enough for knitting later on, and in the meantime I go to a coffee shop or the library whenever I want to read in peace. He can have my lap, my body's warmth, whenever he needs them.

10 comments:

Zhoen said...

Earned love, appreciated. We do for them what we would do for a friend, a child, a spouse, because they fill that sort of spot in our homes, our lives, but feline shaped.

tarakuanyin said...

What a lovely tribute. I don't have cats right now, but I hope to again. My dogs comfort me the same way, curling up against me and giving me their love. Yesterday I was playing with my Jack Russell, and she was attacking my hand and growling fiercely, and it struck me how much damage she could do if she wanted, and how gently she "attacked" me. She sounded and looked absolutely fierce, but her teeth against my hand would not have broken an eggshell.

MB said...

It's been many years since I was able to have a cat, but back when, I was deeply attached to a particular ginger cat. This brought back memories.

It was nice to find you here.

mm said...

Zhoen: Exactly.

Tarakuanyin: "Her teeth against my hand would not have broken an eggshell ...". A privilege to have that kind of interaction with an animal. Such a connection.

MB: I remember you mentioning a much-loved ginger cat ....

Sky said...

yes, he is beautiful. this post, so full of love, reminded me of my own fur babies and how much i miss them. :( they were my children and loved me through every single moment of our shared life, the older one for 18 years and the younger for 15.5 years. it was heartbreaking beyond words to lose them. i will send kitty many good wishes for improved health, some extra body fat, and more of that special contentment only found in the lap of his mom.

mm said...

Sky: thank you.

datinggod said...

. . . oh he's a handsome one isn't he??? wish i could smooch his sweet face through the puter :)

mm said...

Kate; He'd nuzzle you right back. :-)

leslee said...

He is handsome. And there's nothing like an old pet. I so related to this, thinking of my old dog in her final days, how precious she was to me then more than ever.

mm said...

Leslee: the knowledge that he won't be there for ever certainly makes me value his presence today ...