There are some firsts in life that one hopes one will never have to experience. But ten days ago I had to go through one of them. We had to take my beloved cat to the vets for the final time.
I’ve written before about how the Contessa came to live with me, about ten and a half years ago. Over that time she became in integral part of our home, beloved by friends and family alike. We both knew that the time would have to come at some point when we would have to say goodbye, and that it would probably be sooner rather than later, but that has not made it any easier.
By the end, the Contessa was an old girl with kidney problems, a heart murmur and had gone deaf. But right up to the last fortnight she lived in that indeterminate middle age that cats have, where she was playful and affectionate and interested in everything.
We still don’t know what happened. The vet thinks she may have eaten something that poisoned her, and although she shook that off after a brief stay with them, she didn’t have enough reserves left to get properly better. The vet warned us we would just have to look after her as best we could for however long she had left.
Watching her fade away was incredibly hard. Coming home each day we had no idea how she would be or if she would still be with us. Finally, overnight on 15 December she told us it was time and we took her to the vets for the final time early on the morning of 16 December.
Losing her has been a bitter blow. It feels like the heart has been ripped out of our home, and that I have lost a part of myself. For the first three years it was pretty much just the two of us and her ever-purring company was a buffer against the loneliness of living far away from home and loved ones. (As my mother said, she adopted me when I was in need, just as I much as I adopted her.) But she thrived and prospered when we moved back to London (apart from the plane journey, which she hated) and we built our life and home around her.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpourings of love and support from family and friends over the last ten days. I think it’s a mark of how special she was that she is remembered with love by so many people. She was always the life and soul of any party, demanding attention and treats, often loudly and with menaces.
In time there will be room in our hearts for other cats (and there are lots of other cats who need homes, just as much as she did when she first came to me), but for now I have only sorrow and many, many happy memories.