Tag Archives: #cats

In need of a cat

One of the biggest sacrifices I have made, with my decision to pack up and see the world while working abroad, is the loss of having a cat in my life.

Cats are a serious responsibility and a long-term commitment. I should know, having spent nearly eighteen years grounded in the UK because two beautiful cats owned me. While thinking about emigration to Australia I baulked, because my older cat was getting too elderly and cats – let’s be honest – are not very welcome in Australia. I couldn’t see myself putting them through a very gruelling journey and quarantine conditions, only to keep them shut up at the other end. So I stayed put.

That’s not to say I didn’t travel. I spent three months travelling around Australia and made several other long trips whilst a pet owner. But I had a wonderful support system of cat sitters and a comfortable home for the cats to live in. I wasn’t up-rooting them or leaving them uncared for. And truthfully, cats don’t need a great deal of looking after as long as they have food, water and a cat flap. They can almost look after themselves!

But now I’m abroad and I find I can’t, in all conscience, accept responsibility for a cat again. The temporary nature of my position; the school-supplied accommodation on the 19th floor of an apartment building; the fact that I am in a place where I can go out and explore the far reaches of South East Asia with great ease, make that commitment a no-no.

And I miss it. I miss being greeted at the door with an indignant cry of ‘where the hell have you been? Where’s my dinner?’ I long for the additional weight on the pillow that pins me into the same position all night, whilst being lulled to sleep by the comforting purr of loving companions. I miss tripping over furry friends and having someone – who truthfully doesn’t give a damn – to tell my day to, just so that I can get it all off my chest. I miss the affection and rejection a cat gives; their contrary nature; their serenity.

I see the odd cat around the neighbourhood but they are flighty, unfriendly and frankly, not very beautiful. Runny eyes and stubby tails indicate a life away from humans that make any solace from them extremely unlikely. Still, I do the mad cat lady thing and have a chat with them anyway. They just blink at me from a distance, usually in a distrustful crouch, ready to escape if I make any kind of movement.

The next best thing is dogs. My boss has a tiny Yorkie who comes to work with her. I cuddle that dog at every opportunity and will greet her before I talk to anyone else! But I do feel this is slightly disloyal as a lifelong cat fanatic.

So, I rely on social media as a way of enjoying the complex nature of cat ownership, without the commitment. Simon’s Cat animations on Youtube, Buzz-Feed mash-ups, Tom Cox and his SadCat; anything that makes me laugh, cry or nod in understanding, to fill the gnawing absence that I feel every day. But it’s not much of a fix, I can tell you.

I even have a Tigger, velvet soft and the size of a small cat, which accompanies me to sleep at night. It helps, a little, but it’s not quite the same thing. Nothing is.

 

 

Advertisements

It’s been a year already!

As of today (July 11th) I have considered myself an expat for one year. I have not considered England as ‘home’ for 365 days. Not that I’ve considered anywhere else to be home either. Dissatisfied with life in Myanmar I am currently between jobs and between countries, touring my way around SE Asia before making another new start abroad.

Will I ever consider England as my home again? Possibly. Hopefully not. I don’t know. But over the course of a year I have realised there are some things I miss:

1) The people. Not the beer swilling, hooligan, tourist stereotypes obviously. But my people. The people who have filled my life and are important to me. Family. My best friend, who will in fact, be heading out this way for her own new job this summer. (I’ve told her to stop following me but thankfully she doesn’t listen!). My old colleagues, many of whom were setting off on their own adventures at the same time as me. The people who showed me love and support when I couldn’t show it to myself. I’ve been a poor communicator of late but I know they’re there and they’re all greatly missed.

2) Cats. I’ve had more cat action while I’ve been touring than I had in the whole nine months I was in Myanmar. (Clearly a sign I wasn’t meant to stay there). But it still hasn’t been enough. I still feel guilty about giving Shelly away, even though it has afforded me previously unimagined opportunities. I am no longer a mad cat woman, although I do still talk aloud to every cat I see! I miss the weight of a cat on my lap or my pillow; the sense of calm a purr gives me; the amusement and companionship I had as a result of being owned by cats (thank goodness for cats on the Internet!). Most of all I think I miss the responsibility of having to care for someone (my cats were my family too) and being loved for it, albeit conditionally, as every cat lover will appreciate.

3) Pavements. Actually what I really miss is being able to walk without having to watch every. single. step. I. take. Mostly, pavements only seem to exist in more developed countries with some sense of infrastructure. If you do get pavements at all in SE Asia, and you can’t bank on it, they are often irregular, dusty, dirty, broken down and pitted with open drains for you to fall into, leaving you taking your chances in the road with the lovely traffic while watching every step you take. It gets a bit tiresome.

4) Wearing jumpers. I know that sounds odd. Who would want to give up year round warmth in the tropics to return to a climate that requires knitwear? I don’t. But I do miss cuddling up in a chunky jumper. I always had more jumpers than anything else and now I don’t need any. I find myself yearning to buy the sweaters I see in the big city malls I visit, knowing I’ll never wear them while trying to justify the purchase to myself.

5) Baths. Long, indulgent soaks in bubbles with a glass of vino in attendance. Of course baths exist out here (although getting a plug for one is another matter altogether) but putting myself in a tub of hot water that matches the temperature outside is an invitation to blackout and do myself some damage.

6) Pub gardens. Sitting admiring some exotic view on a grubby chair beside a dusty road is great, for a while. But I do hanker for grass beneath my feet, slatted wooden bench tables and the familiar twitter of birds rather than the rush of traffic, as me and my friends chat in the warm sunlight under a tree and enjoy our tipple of choice together, whiling away a lazy summer afternoon.

7) A decent cup of builder’s tea. Lipton Yellow label just doesn’t cut it I’m afraid and while I am developing a taste for all kinds of exotic hot and cold tea beverages what I really want is a huge mug of Yorkshire Gold, stewed to perfection and served with sufficient milk to make it the colour of rich tea biscuits.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it does illustrate the things that do, occasionally, catch me unawares and start me reminiscing about life in Blighty. But if they really are the worst of it it can’t be too bad, can it?

Thankyou for your cooperation Japan

“Everything will go smoothly. You are a lucky lady.” I was told, not for the last time, by my fortune telling friend. The Japanese are very interested in fate and fortune so it was no surprise that I had my fortune told at the Tokyo National Museum on my first afternoon in Japan.

I used to be very into that sort of thing: palm reading on Blackpool Pier, horoscopes and the like, but of late I have come to understand that I make my own luck. My fate is still my fate, but I can influence it in one way or another. Still, the sentiment could do me no harm on the eve of my very big adventure around Japan.

My good fortune had begun the minute I stepped off the plane. I was collected from the airport by an English-speaking driver who took me the ‘long way’ to the hotel, giving me a quick guided tour (for free) that helped me orientate myself in that vast city. The following day I met a guide who became a friend, who showed me around the city in all its glory. I got into the cat café just before they got full and started turning people away. I saw two traditional wedding parties at the Meiji-Jingu shrine, which is rare. I managed to get a ticket to watch an act of Kabuki that evening, which was very lucky considering it was Golden Week, a very busy holiday in Japan. I even successfully navigated the chaotic looking transport system with surprising ease; I tended to arrive just in time for the next train and I didn’t get lost!

IMG_3821

My greatest difficulty was finding somewhere to eat in the evenings but after a few attempts, I’d just walk into a place and eat whatever was on offer. In this way, I got to meet some very interesting characters, like the waiter who credited Sarah Jessica Parker as his English teacher, and ate some very delicious food, even if I did have very little idea what it was I was eating. Lucky really!

My use of the Shinkansen also went well. Advanced bookings were made with ease; all the stations were clearly signposted and the trains were on time, clean and comfortable. My only problem was motion sickness from the smoothness of the ride and my tendency to gaze out of the window at the passing landscapes. Luckily, I found my old sea bands in one of the pockets of my rucksack, forgotten since Peru I think, and used them for the other journeys with great success.

My exploration of Kyoto sometimes revolved around my tendency towards accidental tourism. I hadn’t really researched it properly so I would just pick a name from the guides I had with me and go. That way I got to see the 1001 kannons at Sanjusangendo, an amazing building containing 1001 (obviously) carved statues of kannon; 11 headed, 1000 armed, thousand eyed bodhisattva, that I hadn’t even known existed 30 minutes before. I tended to arrive at temples or gardens just in time to view them before they shut and even if I got to places early, before the hordes, I often discovered amazing treasures I hadn’t anticipated, like the cloud dragon on the ceiling of part of the Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama, which watches you wherever you are in the room.

IMG_4022

Places rarely disappointed me. In fact, the things I knew nothing about were often better than the sights I wanted to see. A case in point was the iconic Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I got there early, just before the hordes, and was able to experience some of its otherworldliness; something that was quickly lost with the mass arrival of coach tours. Instead, I felt the true magic of the place at Gio-ji Shrine, a moss-strewn haven of Buddhist/Shintoist tranquility that made me believe Rivendell could be a real place. It’s not an easy place to find, but sharp eyes, a good sense of direction and competent map reading skills ensured I found it. Or maybe I just got lucky!

IMG_4039

I certainly felt like I had something on my side in Hakone. Glorious weather and a happy afternoon playing in the Hakone Open Air Museum (I tend to become very childish when surrounded by art in nature) had made me count my blessings the day before. Free cheesecake for visiting Woody’s, the café next door to it, a gloriously kitsch café decorated with Toy Story memorabilia and playing the Frozen soundtrack in Japanese in the back ground, twice in one day, was certainly a lucky moment. I wasn’t sure my luck was holding though.

IMG_3888

The following day my unplanned wanderings met some roadblocks. All I wanted to do was see Mt. Fuji. The ropeway (what we could consider a cable car) route to a classic scenic view of Mt. Fuji was closed due to level 2 (out of 5) volcanic activity so I had to retrace my steps and battle with the rather confusing transport system until I reached Moto-Hakone. Convinced I had missed the only possible view of Fuji I walked along the Old Tokaido road and discovered a lovely tea house that served a tasty amazake rice drink instead. Then I caught the bus back to Moto-Hakone to try and find the second scenic viewpoint on the map. Having wasted my morning going in the wrong direction and sitting in traffic jams, I didn’t hold out much hope that I’d see the iconic mountain. So, I stopped for a street snack of corn on the cob and wandered moodily beside Lake Ashi. Then, low and behold, I rounded a corner and there was Mt. Fuji, peeking out at me from behind a fluffy wrap of clouds. As I watched, she emerged more fully and from then on, wherever I looked from, there she was, getting clearer and clearer as the afternoon progressed. I spent a long time just sitting and staring at the view, marveling at the famous shape and snowy streaks I had previously seen in paintings and drawings. Now, I was seeing them for myself. Truly a fortunate moment.

Ironically, my best view of Fuji-san came on my final train journey back to Tokyo. I managed to look up from my book at the perfect moment to see her, in almost cloudless glory, right there next to me. I glanced around the cabin to realise that no one else had noticed, I had her all to myself, and I truly considered myself blessed at that moment.

IMG_1655

In Hiroshima I discovered my hotel was right next to the Peace Park. I simply walked a short way along the river to visit the museum and visit the A-Bomb Dome. That evening I found a great little place to eat okonomiyaki, a Hiroshima specialty that is essentially a noodle pancake with layers of cabbage and seafood, and even better, got a seat at the bar where they were cooked right before me, so I could watch the chefs at work. Brilliant!

IMG_4102

My visit to Mimojima also went well. My journey to the Island was simplified by a brilliant visual breakdown provided by my hotel (lucky I asked), I walked a lovely mountain trail and saw great views of the Inland Sea before the rain came, and as I got to the bottom of the mountain the tide started to come in so I could get a clearer sense of the floating Torii Gate it is so famous for. When I’d arrived that morning the tide was out, so it, and my luck, turned while I was on the mountain. Or it may have had something to do with the lucky white cat offering I purchased at the shrine at the top of Mt. Misen!

IMG_4166

Even when my luck seemed to run out with the heavy rain in Osaka, I did manage to see the more Bladerunner style aspects of the town that I’d actually been disappointed not to find in Tokyo. Blazing neon, narrow streets and oily reflections on the stones evoked the futuristic feel I’d imagined before I visited, and thought I wouldn’t see as I got to know the real Japan.

By the time I returned to Tokyo I think I had exhausted my run of good fortune, and while nothing went wrong I had stopped finding surprises around every corner, or maybe I’d just become more used to them. But before you roll your eyes, I will say I don’t believe I actually got around Japan simply on luck. I had the support of a very good tour company whose arrangements for a self-guided tour suited me down to the ground. I also believe that the Japanese culture has evolved to enable anyone with a bit of common sense to take advantage of its fluent, organized and logical society and participate in its efficient way of life. Signs may be small and rarely translated but most of them rely on symbols that anyone can interpret. Measurements are given in time and distance so you can estimate how far you have to go. Things are logical and consistent if you think about them. I also know that travelling solo allows me to do things my way but allows me to stop, watch and learn and then go with the flow when things occur unexpectedly, so I never feel like I’ve missed out but that, actually, my adventures are bonuses instead.

So, thank you for your co-operation Japan, I came to love your quiet, well-mannered ways and found everything I wanted and more during my trip. I might not believe in luck but I do consider myself a very lucky lady.

Cat Therapy

I go to Zephyr, a small cafe/ restaurant by the side of Inya lake, to see the cats. I also eat, drink, read, write and reflect there but mostly it’s the cats I desire. A colony lives there, so there are always kittens and heavily pregnant females wandering around, and even if you can’t see them you can usually hear them. I think they are cared for by the staff and they are tolerated by the clientele. It’s a peaceful place (except for the mosquitoes) and I go there for cat therapy. I miss cats and the solace that they bring and this is the closest I can get to them in a country where dogs rule the streets.

I had just sat down when I saw her, trotting between the legs of a nearby table. I tut-tutted quietly (I no longer kiss-kiss as that sound is also used to call the waiter) and she immediately looked my way, halted and meowed. I agreed with her softly and put my hand down, palm away from her and asked if she’d like to approach. Without hesitation she dotted her nose on the back of my hand and meowed again, a high pitched but friendly sound. Very cautiously I raised my hand and used the backs of my fingers to gently stroke the top of her head. She flicked her head back sociably in enjoyment and spoke again. This time I used the tips of my fingers to trace the soft tabby markings from between her ears to the valley between her shoulders. She moved her head slightly so that I could reach her chin. The ruff of fur beneath her ears, that should have framed her pretty face, was missing, most probably as a result of fleas, but the skin was clear and unbroken and it would have been rude to reject her.  She took a step forward and cocked her head to one side as she meowed again. It was the unmistakable demand to sit on my lap. I sat back in surprise, patted my lap and held my arms wide, expecting her to dismiss the action as desperate. But up she leapt, arriving softly on my legs and greeting me. She looked into my face and blinked, and I returned the courtesy, then she leant her light body against my clean white top (oh cat-hair covered clothes I have missed you!) and nodded her head back towards my fingers. Very gently I raised my hand again and stroked her as her claws lightly tightened on my thighs and her tummy resonated with a quiet purr that reverberated into my heart.

And then I felt it: a deep, peaceful feeling of relaxation, an exhalation of stress. An unspoken reassurance that, for that brief moment in time, everything was well with the world.

Then, she was gone and I was alone again, grateful for the brief respite in my constant yearning for a cat.

Cat Tails

Ally’s Tale

The naming of cats

It started with my desire to have a black cat named Jolson. I had liked the name and had not appreciated until much later the politically incorrect connotations it could have had. Luckily, my new kitten was not a big voiced creature, in fact he was virtually silent; Jolson would never have suited him. So I switched it to Al, Jolson’s first name, but then again a single syllable cat name never works either, when calling them they need to have a cadence that Al didn’t have but which Alley, as in Alley Cat, did. So I named him Alley. A bad pun. But ultimately Ally’s christening was also a spelling mistake. The name I wrote down for the vet was akin with a friend rather than a stray and when I realized my error I knew that it was the most appropriate name I could ever have given him. My ally, my comrade, my friend; just him and me against the world.

In the style of TS Elliot this was not his only title. Other nicknames developed such as Ali G (is it because I is black?) GG, AG, Jaunty Boy, Gumpy Cat, Baby Bear and several more. But always, deep down, he was Ally.

He became my companion by accident. I was visiting a friend whose cat had had kittens a few months before. She was complaining that she was unable to get rid of the final two kittens; a black male and a black and white female with a hernia. I had warned her that I wasn’t interested in getting a kitten. I was newly released into the world with a job and a disposable income and the last thing I wanted was to be tied down with responsibility. I certainly didn’t want a cat with health problems and a kitten with a hernia would be a 24 hour a day commitment, something I couldn’t give with my new teaching job and newly found freedom. I hadn’t considered a boy, I’d only ever owned female pets and a boy, so I thought, would just wander, fight and give me a headache.

My friend popped Ally into my bedroom the morning I was leaving. He arrived next to me, played with my toes and generally presented himself as so adorable that two hours later I was travelling home with him from Kent to Essex. That was probably the only time I heard him cry and even then it wasn’t for very long or very loudly.

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Probably one of the most important relationships of my adult life and certainly a unique one. Unconditional love, from both parties, a deep understanding that did not require words and contentment with each other’s company that I will never experience again. He was my best friend, my greatest love and my loyal companion from beginning to end.

My silent cat filled a room with his presence. His luminous eyes were his best feature and ultimately his doom. Whatever I did I was watched, accompanied or supervised by a quiet authority I didn’t even recognize until it was gone. I spent 18 years learning to listen for the little noises he did make. Towards the end it was the cry he made before being sick and the tap of his claws on the floor but when he was a kitten it was the thunder of his paws as he galloped around the flat at 100 mph breaking things, the swing of the cat flap or the thump of his paws on the patio doors announcing his arrival and desire to be let in or out. Now, my home feels empty, and very quiet, as I get used to not listening for those things any more.

Kittenhood

As a kitten I discovered his love of leaping. A favourite toy was a fabric dice attached to elastic and tied to the telephone shelf. I drew the dice back, called his attention to it and then let go to watch his tiny body freefall through the air and pounce upon the dice. He and I could play this game for hours and he could leap in any direction with out hesitation. At the height of his skills he was leaping level with the shelf, a good 3 feet from the floor. I fear I honed his hunting skills and paid the price with all the birds he brought home later.

He also brought me worms. They were his first gift as a hunter and I remember finding them dried and shriveled under the inflatable mattress I was using at the time whilst awaiting the arrival of my new double bed.

When I was sick with chicken pox he brought me a frog. Such a thoughtful gift! I woke from a feverish sleep to the screaming of a small child. Groggily I looked around to see Ally intently watching the bookcase, slipping his paw behind it and producing the distressed cry of a child. Reality dawned. I had heard frogs scream before and my heart sank. I can’t cope with anything that scuttles, slithers or hops. So, at the height of my illness in the middle of the night I unloaded my bookcase and built a wall between me and the frog while attempting to ‘shoo’ it out of the back door. Ally was shut in the hallway and indignant that his gift was being much maligned. Eventually I got a pint glass and a piece of card and encased the terrified frog safely away from me. I then proceeded to do a girly run with it to the bottom of the garden, release it and run back in locking the door and the cat flap so that Ally could not repeat his offering. He was unimpressed by my ingratitude. He had only brought me the gift because I was unable to cuddle him. The heat (it was a warm May) and the severity of my chicken pox made it impossible for me to have him near me without itching badly, so he tried to show me love in the only other way he knew how.

Another time he brought me someone’s half carved roast and left it for me in the garden because it was too big to fit through the cat flap. We will never speak of it again!

He was a pest in many ways! Constantly walking with muddy paws on my marking, tripping me over whenever I tried to walk anywhere around the house, waking me up with his face in mine at some ungodly hour when he sensed I was surfacing from deep sleep and therefore should be awake to feed him. When he had the operation on his eye towards the end of his life he even head butted me with his cone early in the morning to ensure I was awake and aware of his needs.

This invasion of my pillow comes from an early habit that I could not have changed even if I’d wanted to.

My flat in Southend was very, very cold both in summer and winter and had an old and noisy boiler that could only be controlled manually from a cupboard in my bedroom. So I didn’t switch it on much at night. In addition, the back door was also in my bedroom and the flat did not have double glazing so drafts were common place. Ally and I kept each other warm by curling up in bed under hundreds of blankets with him curled around my head, his chin resting on my ear, purring me to sleep while achieving the most comfortable position on the bed for him. I still believe the reason I stay still in bed is because I never wanted to disturb him when he was sleeping. As time passed and I moved into places with decent heating he would still curl up on the pillow next to me and purr me to sleep, until he was banned from the bedroom by my partner of the time.

Not only did he sleep everywhere, he also trod on everything. Computers, phones, TV remotes, what ever lay in the way to me and my lap. He often risked a shove by attempting to commute over Jaye’s lap to get to me. Not a clever move but a highly amusing one!

He wasn’t Jaye’s biggest fan, nor vice versa, but each tolerated the other because they knew I loved them both. Ally got the raw deal though having been banned from the bedroom and the kitchen and often being removed from the furniture after many years of being free to do as he pleased. I often think that was a mistake on my part and I should have been more loyal to him.

Another adorable feature of his was his dog-like loyalty. He would walk at heel with me, come to me when I called even if he was mid cat-fight and when younger would dance for his dinner. He was even known to sit with his tongue out after washing, almost as if he had forgotten it was there, and he would let me tickle it! O2 have a campaign encouraging people to ‘be more dog’ which features cats doing dog-like things but I don’t think Ally could be ‘more-dog’ if he tried. He chose to be as dog-like as he wished.

When we lived in Aylesbury he would accompany me as far as the edge of the estate on the evenings when I chose to walk to the pub. He would wait in the bushes and then trot out to meet me on my return, walking at heel, or if distracted, coming when I called and patted my leg! My neighbours must have thought I was mad. Indeed, I was the mad cat woman of Aylesbury!

The Mad Cat Woman of Aylesbury

When I first moved to Aylesbury Ally and I lived in an upstairs flat. This meant shutting my previously outdoors alley cat in for 7 solid months. He coped admirably, never even attempting to escape, and developing the entertaining game of upstairs ping-pong where I stood at the bottom of the stairs in goal and he sat at the top and batted ping-pong balls down to me or interrupted my backspin attempts by fishing them out of my reach!

When I purchased my house he tolerated two moves in two weeks with no ill effects, until I landed the greatest indignity of all upon him: a new kitten!

I had obtained Shelly in much the same way I had gotten him. A friend had kittens he couldn’t get rid of so he got me to come and have a look, and I fell in love.

I moved Shelly in the same day as I got the keys and brought Ally along the following day. When I let Ally out of the cat box he was so interested in this new and larger blue space that he completely ignored her. This tiny ball of tortoiseshell fluff backed and advanced at him while he checked out the patio doors and practiced asking to go out in his customary style. He trotted past her as she waved her paw at him and went up stairs. She followed, a step at a time as her legs were much shorter than his. By the time she reached the top he’d turned around and was ready to come back down. As she tottered to go after him he stuck out his paw and swept her feet out from underneath her resulting in Shelley’s first trip down stairs being just that, a head over heels flat spin to the bottom. Ally then proceeded to investigate the second floor while Shelly sat dazed and confused at the bottom of the stairs. It was love at first sight on her part but sadly unrequited on his.

He tolerated Shelly but about a month later I added insult to injury by allowing my brother and his black kitten Salem to move in too. This was a step too far and Ally started to spend more time out and away. For the first time in a long time he started to wander and would disappear for days. On one occasion he’d been gone for about 2 days and I’d been wandering the estate calling him. I eventually found him sitting on a grass bank in an area we didn’t really frequent. I called him, he clocked me but he didn’t come when I called. I had to get closer to check it was him. It was, but he wasn’t playing. Eventually I was able to pick him up and tried to carry him home but he sunk his claws into me and resisted all the way. Something had spooked him and the presence of the dustmen that day made him increasingly nervous. I got him home, shut him in for a few days, fed him and spoilt him. He recovered himself and remained my cat but he would often disappear just long enough to worry me and keep me on my toes.

He had found an appropriate form of revenge that he continued to use until he died. By the end I was worried if he was gone longer than 10 minutes and he knew it, and played on it.

Feed me!

The arrival of the kittens also lead to a slackening of the feeding rules. Cats had always had a place to eat when I was growing up but when my brother Don lived with us Ally was fed wherever he was found so that he didn’t have to suffer the indignity of sharing with the babies. This often meant he was fed on the top of the inbuilt shelves in the second bedroom, a hiding place that the youngsters couldn’t get to for the first few months of their stay. Recently, Ally had the set place on the mat in the kitchen and Shelly was fed wherever I found her to keep them apart. Ally had grown grumpy and greedy and although Shelly is a fat little thing she always deferred to him when it came to food. It had got to a point where he bullied her off her plate and consumed the lot before bringing it back up again, so I kept them apart to give Shelly a chance!

Ally was a great one for human food too. It is said that whatever you feed a kitten in early life is something they always come back to. Ally was given Chinese as a kitten before I adopted him so whenever I had a take-away I found myself sharing it with him. I also shared soup; all my fish including smoked salmon; gammon, any other meat at all really especially if it came with sauce or gravy; cheese, omelet and my cereal bowl remains. If Mummy had it then Ally had it too.

Scientific research has learnt that many male cats are left-pawed and Ally was no exception, but I used to call it his ‘possessive paw’. At first, it was this paw that would draw the cereal bowl towards him once I had given him permission to have the remains and this paw that drew my hand to his mouth if it contained treats or delights. As he got older it was the paw patted my face when we cuddled and that got stuck out to catch my clothes if I passed him by without greeting, something I was not allowed to do.

When he broke his hip the veterinary staff reported that he would stick this paw out of his cage and catch at them too, a habit that, luckily, they found endearing.

In the week that has passed since I had him put to sleep I have come to realize that he was a terrific pest. I sleep better and later without him, I don’t get tripped up every thirty seconds, my marking is quicker and less hairy, I don’t have to open the door for him every couple of minutes for hours at a time, I get to eat my dinner without interruption or a possessive paw hooking my plate out from under me. I know I encouraged this behavior by allowing it but he was such a force of nature I never really considered any of the things he did as being any trouble, in fact they were all endearing and the reason I loved him so much.

I have shared so much history with Ally that I am sometimes amazed. I was a young, naïve girl when I got him and a middle-aged, and far more worldly-wise woman when he left. He shared half of my life with me up until this point. He was there when I got promotion, moved my life from one side of London to the other, when Dad died, when I met (and lost) Jaye, when I was sick and healthy, he even waited for me when I went away to Australia for three months and still purred when I came back. He wiped away many a tear with his tail and caused me much merriment in his time on this earth. His purr alone was enough to make things seem much better than they were before and to hold him, cuddle him, carry him on my shoulders or in my arms like a baby was a method of relaxation many people will never benefit from. I loved him far more than Jaye and while I knew that (and so did Jaye) it was a purer, less complicated type of love than human relationships develop. And I miss him…enormously.