I couldn’t believe we had just inherited a cat and that his last owner had three others,but simply did not care enough about him to encourage him to stay. So I returned to my neighbour’s house several times to check they really meant it. They never changed their minds, but they told me more of his history.
Mr had been born in their house of two equally large and hairy parents. Initially, he had been a playful, affectionate cat, but as the family grew, and he experienced several changes he became withdrawn, even aggressive. (Oh good!)
The family have moved about a lot. Firstly to Northumberland, where Mr was involved in a car accident, resulting in a chipped canine tooth and damage to his claw. This claw got so bad, it was eventually amputated. The family then moved to Spain, taking Mr (aka Simba) with them. He found country life did not suit him because the local farmer shot at him, thankfully missing. I guess the idea was to scare him away for some reason.
He then came back to England where the family had the new baby and invested in another kitten, who seriously challenged Mr Simba within the house. So Mr decided to move into the garden, returning to his house for food every third day or so. All the neighbours knew him because he also tried his luck in their kitchens, requesting food and menacing their cats. He was frequently chased away. We think he lived a hobo’s life for nearly one year.
Why he chose to move in with us and the new kittens; who knows. Perhaps he thought he could gain dominance whilst they were still so young. Perhaps he knew he was onto a good thing.
Mostly, he slept and ate. Sometimes he disappeared for a day, but never longer than 24 hours. He learned to play with the kittens. His huge bulky frame gambling down the garden like an elephant, tumbling headlong into a kitten, who was bowled over in the rush. The kittens thought it normal!
He joined in with them when there was a string to chase. As he weighed over 8kg, he crashed through the undergrowth, somersaulting onto the string and grasping the tiny thing tightly in his massive claws. Just for comparison a full grown domestic short hair cat should weigh 5-7 kg.
When he was poorly he was a great hypochondriac. Many was the time we took him down to the vet, only to be told there was nothing wrong with him. So when recently he took himself down the garden and sat in the rain, refusing food, we knew he was ill. The only other time he had been truly ill, it had been a urinary infection and £500 vet fee, nearly a year ago. My daughter was house sitting. Her only task (apart from looking after her own family etc) was look after the cats. She took him over the road to the vets.
Bladder the size of a football. Hospitalisation. But all failed as within two days of our arriving back from our travels, I just knew he was still really ill. The vet said we could try drugs for a few months and more hospitalisation, but there was more than a chance it would not work.
So this is my salute to Mr. The cat who decided for himself. Despite the fact that every time you touched him, drifts of fur flew through the air; that he dropped twigs and dirt over the carpet when he scratched or shook himself; that he continued to hassle local residents by wandering into their kitchens, he had many outstanding features.
He welcomed you by sitting at the front gate, rolling in dirt baths to bring in more mess. He showed us that he loved us by learning to play. John loved him, and he does not like cats much. He was incredibly laid back with us, very easy going. And now he is gone.