Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Very Fine Cat

Yesterday, I thought that this post would be too painful to write. Today, I’m not so sure. Things have changed and changed again - and will probably put me on the emotional rollercoaster several times more before we’re done.

But I’ve decided that while I can post this as a positive then I’m going to. Non cat people please indulge me, I’ll get back to books and such tomorrow. Cat people - animal people - will understand.

I have four cats – apart from the Media Superstar that is Sid, who does tend to monopolise the photo opportunities and the gossip columns, there are also Bob (Redford) Spiffy, and Dylan who are also a wonderful and beloved part of my life.

Today I want to celebrate the wonder that is Bob.

Official name Robert Redford –– the ginger and white Alpha Male. After all he’s been with me the longest of all of them. And on Tuesday I thought he wasn’t going to be a part of my life any more. On Tuesday I found him collapsed and distressed. His back legs had gone completely, he couldn’t stand, couldn’t even lie properly. I thought he was dying. He is 18 years old after all and I knew his days were getting to be numbered. We made the difficult trip to Bruce the vet. A wonderful vet who knows and loves cats – he has two of his own. He confirmed that Bob had had a major stroke – it didn’t look good, especially given his age. But one thing about Bob is that he has never ever conceded the fact that he’s 18 – and so over 90 in human years. He loves his food, loves to patrol his garden and is still the Alpha Cat – yes, even dominating the Force in Fur that is Sid so much so that Sir Sidney actually moves back from the food bowl if Bob is there.

When I first found Bob I thought he was already on his way over the rainbow bridge and the best thing I could do was to help him – and so, initially, did Bruce. But then some creatures can go through this and survive and come back to the point they were at before it happened. How was Bob before this, Bruce wanted to know – was his quality of life OK? The answer came from the old warrior himself. From lying limp and out of it, he suddenly regrouped. He realised I was there, stuck his head into my hand and started to purr. Loudly. Decision made.

Long story short – we decided it – and he – was well worth 48 hours care and observation in hospital. He wasn’t in pain, he could be given a chance to recover. I knew I had to be realistic about the odds but Bob was so worth the try. Yesterday those odds seemed too high. He wasn’t deteriorating, he was comfortable, but he wasn’t improving. He couldn’t stand, he wasn’t eating. We were working on resignation. Then, three hours after the most pessimistic report, Bruce rang. I nerved myself for the worst – but what’s that they say about cats and nine lives? They’d checked on Bob again and he was drinking on his own. He had even stood up and come to the front of the kennel when Bruce called to him. And he’d just licked a tiny bit of food. Bob the fighter, the scrapper with scarred ears and nose, the Alpha Cat was back

I don’t know the end to this story – he is very elderly. Later today I’ll ring Bruce and see what happened overnight. But I decided on this post to celebrate Bob while he’s still in my world, rather than as an obituary. He deserves that – he might not be the natural showman that Sir S is, or consider himself a Cat Of Superior Breeding but he is, as Samuel Johnson said about his cat Hodge, a Very Fine Cat Indeed.

He isn’t of superior breeding – we all know that. His mother was a farm cat, Scooby-Do by name who went to town and met a feral tom and when she was barely 9 months old became a single Mum to 5. We had just lost our beloved 17 year old ginger tom, our first ever cat, and life just wasn’t right without some red and white fur in the home. But ginger kittens/cats were hard to find until we checked with the kennels/cattery way out in one of the villages. And went to meet Bob who had been born in a stable there.

He was tiny. Barely 6 weeks old. Red-gold fur and big blue eyes. That’s why he got the name Robert Redford - Bob to his friends. He chose us. As soon as I bent down to the bundle of kittens this scrap of ginger and white launched itself at me and climbed up my arm to perch on my shoulder – and he’s never gone away since. He sat on a towel on my lap on the long way home, away from his mother and all those siblings for the first time- just big enough to be stroked by a finger or two – and he started to purr. Loudly.
And louder . . and louder.

When he came here he had to deal with two adult cats. But he took that in his stride. He pretended to be very, very fierce ->

and then he muscled in on the big guys. He found a cowboy hat that my son had brought back from Canada and took it over. It was his castle, his plaything, his bed. He slept in it until he became way too big to fit. That was October 1989 and he’s been a wonderful part of our lives ever since. As he grew up he moved in on the crown of Top Cat and took it over and he’s held it ever since. He’s been in fights with strays, with other critters fool enough to think they can come into his territory – there was even a bite on his head that the vet said was not cat or anything like – but maybe a ferret or some such. He nearly lost an eye and his face swelled up like a bllloon. He’s survived that and the poisoned foot, and the claw that grew up into his paw – and innumerable scrapes and battles along the way.

Most of the time he’s very dignified. He is Top Cat after all but he knows how to let his fur down. Especially at Christmas where he wears a glittery collar with panache – after all he knows that Christmas means treats. He loves to join in the opening of stockings where there is always something tasty for A Very Fine Cat and things like the squid that could be thrown at a wall and then ‘walked’ down it. He hunted that for hours. And he has a bad cat nip habit. The Christmas cat nip always had to be hidden high up, behind closed doors, practically in a locked safe
or Bob would find it – even in a plastic bag, inside a box, inside another plastic bag – and rip it open, spread it everywhere and get high as a kite, indulging in total mind-blown silliness without a care for that dignity.

Just lately he’s become very vocal. He’ll come in from the garden and start ‘talking’, his cracked, rusty ‘meerp’ coming at high volume again and again.
He’ll complain about the lack of service, the quality of food, the lack of crunchies, the fact that that Sid is in his bed. The Offspring always swore that like Father Jack in the Comedy series Father Ted, Bob was always telling you about some 'fecking ' thing or fecking other. Or sometimes he’ll just talk and talk and talk and if he falls quiet all you have to say is ‘Really Bob?’ and he’s off again. Until he decides he’s said enough and he comes to lie with his head on my bare feet under the desk as I work.

I miss him there today. And I don’t know what will happen later. But one thing I’m pretty sure of is that, whatever it is, Bob will have decided on it. He picked us that day in the stables, he came back home after a fraught week when he went missing and we thought we’d lost him for good (we later found he’d been locked in a neighbour’s garage), he's in charge. So he’ll decide what is going to happen now. If we’re lucky he’ll come back to patrol his estate or lie in the garden like a miniature lion, or hog the best spot before the fire when the nights get colder.

Whatever happens we’ve had 18 wonderful, very special years together. He’s organised and sorted his fellow felines, Poppy, Spiff, Dylan and Sid and ruled them with a firm paw. He’s watched the Offspring grow from a new boy at secondary school to a fine and popular teacher encouraging and helping the new boys and girls at his school this year. He’s seen the Babe Magnet move from Further Ed lecturer to University lecturer (very nearly taking Bob into the wilds of Yorkshire as a result) to Writer in Prison and writer on the grim and gruesome. And he's met many of the Babes who have been magnetised - and several world famous writers - Anne McAllister, Michelle Reid, Julie Cohen and Trish Wylie amongst them and brought them under his own furry spell. And he’s supervised me through the writing of 34 of the 52 titles I’ve published or have coming out soon. He’s been the perfect gentleman host to every visitor, coming to greet them personally on arrival and escorting them down the road when they leave. And he’s been a wonderful, loving companion, full of affection and character.

That’s Bob
The Alpha Male with the great big purr.
The cat that even the vets call Braveheart.

A Very Fine Cat Indeed.


Michelle Styles said...

Sending lots of good thoughts for Bob's recovery.
He sounds like a wonderful cat and that you are very lucky he choose to live with you.
Hopefully he will be home soon.

Biddy said...

Sending Bob get healthy thoughts. He is lovely cat and I hope he comes home soon.

Rachel said...

Dear Kate,
tears all over the keybord here. All fingers and toes crossed for Bob,I do hope he back warming your feet soon and grumbling about hospital food.
Thinking of you today,

India said...

Oh, what a fabulous, celebratory, joyful and heartbreaking post, Kate. I so hope he's feeling better today, and please keep us updated.


YvonneLindsay said...

Kate, Bob sounds like a very very special feline indeed. Hugs for you and the BM during this worrisome time. Thanks for sharing Bob with us. I hope that his recovery continues to be strong and that you have him home again soon.

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

(((Hugs))), all good thoughts and prayers being sent.


Ayla said...

im in tears too! I hope he gets better soon, he's one hell of a cat so i'm sure he'll be fine.

Jenny Haddon said...

Oh Kate. So much sympathy here. A lovely post. And very, very best wishes to you and Bob, whatever he decides.


Teagan Oliver said...

I've got a "Bob" of my own. His 19 and his a Maine Coon cat who was headed for the shelter with his brothers and sister before he saw me. His name is Moose and every day he gets a little older, a little crankier and a little more stiff in the joints. But just when I think we may be about to lose him he rallies onward and even with one eye that works, an ear that's curled from too much fighting and being distressed from my own ginger kitties who is a very much younger age 1, Moose continues to let all know that he rules the house. I wish you the best of everything with Bob and Moose and I (and Juice, the other kitty) will be rooting for him also.

Kate Hardy said...

Lovely post, Kate. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Donna Alward said...

Oh dear lord...I'm bawling over a cat post!

Yesterday i called the human society as we spied a cat in the window of the next-door neighbours - who moved over a month ago and the house is vacant. I have a key so we went in and while a wee bit skinny, she was the most gorgeous kitty. Affectionate, beautiful young siamese with the most gorgeous eyes.

She'd gotten in through a broken basement window which I closed up, and she has a tattoo so hopefully on the way back to her owners. But if for some reason they don't cross paths again...I told the lady to phone me before they put her up for adoption. And somehow I'll get it around the dh if I have to!

Best wishes for Bob and you whatever the outcome.

Anne McAllister said...

Quite simply, Bob Is The Best. Keeping him -- and you -- in thoughts and prayers. Hang in there, Bobby.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Kate, I hope Bob pulls through. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and hope that he'll be home with you again soon.


Anna Adams said...

More hugs for Bob and for you, Kate. He must feel your love for him.

LOL at him in his hat! Isn't that most cat-like behavior?

Sending love from across the miles and water!

2paw said...

Our animal companions are such a wonderful part of our lives. They are family, not pets. What an exciting life Robert Redford has!! Loved and loving. The Labradors and I are thinking of you all.

lidia said...

Your wonderful post celebrating Bob and his adventures was great! Our pets become a part of our family and a huge part of our lives.

Sending good wishes Bob's way. He sounds like a "true fighter." As you stated, he will decide what he wants to do.

Please keep us posted.

Julie Cohen said...

What a beautiful post. Love to you.


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