Today, I bid my sixteen-year-old cat, Pip, farewell. She was old, losing her mind, and her time had come.
Pip was quite a nice cat, if you could get past the fact that she hated being cuddled, peed on the floor – and only occasionally, the kitchen counter – out of sheer, deliberate vengeance if she was displeased, and frequently left fragrant landmines outside the bedroom and bathroom doors of any visitors that she didn’t like much.
She had a cracking case of the condition known as Resting Bitch Face, in which she could look at you like she wanted you to die while she sat on your lap, purring like a Volkswagen Beetle and drooling on your clothes.
Pip had a penchant for tidbits of ham and tasty cheese, and had various members of the family trained to feed her off the kitchen counter or table when they were making lunch or a snack. She used to sit on the kitchen table beside my father-in-law as he made his sandwiches for lunch, and tap him on the arm whenever she thought it was time for him to hand-feed her again. She wasn’t afraid to use a claw or two when you were slow to feed her or pat her.
She used to run into the bedroom when she heard the alarm go off in the mornings, and wake me with a firm pat or two on the cheek with her paw. It wasn’t wise to ignore her – if she thought it was past time for me to be out of bed, she would put a claw up my nostril and pull on it to make me sit up. It’s hard not to feel loved by a cat that is so careful to make sure you get to the dairy on time, just so she can sleep in the warm spot in the bed that you’d left behind.
She did love a good rub behind the ears, and loved to “boop” my finger tip while sitting on my lap. That made her purr and drool more than most things.
Pip hated going outside, and actually managed to avoid it for several years at a time. It was only in recent months that she started to venture out of open doors, only to look very surprised when she realised where she was, and bolt back inside to the safety of her comfort zone as quickly as she possibly could.
Pip loved sitting on my desk while I worked. She’d hang over the edge of the desk, hoping that my fingers would rub against her ears while I typed. She would occasionally swipe me for a pat or some attention – it couldn’t possibly be all about the students, or my deadlines. Seriously.
She loved chasing the red dot, bits of ribbon or string, and flashes of light on the floor or walls made by sunlight reflecting on a watch face, cutlery, or a mirror. We didn’t let her chase the red dot too often, as it made her kind of psychotic and jittery. She’d walk past my study and jump two feet in the air because she thought that dot was going to pop out of thin air and get her.
Over the past few months, Pip got really skinny and started looking like her best days were behind her. She started sitting like a statue and watching us for hours, then walking in circles around the same piece of furniture before sitting down and licking her paws like there was nothing wrong. She started walking funny, hunching her back a lot, and she started to get incredibly skinny.
Last night, she sat in my study looking unhappy and uncomfortable. The red blanket that she loved to sleep on was on the couch, so I pulled it down onto the floor for her. She crawled onto it and curled up, but didn’t sleep. I knew she was unhappy and in pain.
This morning I took Pip to the vet, who concurred with my decisions about her health and her pain. We agreed that her time had come.
I tried to cuddle her and say goodbye, but she pushed away from me like she always did. I rubbed her ears and stroked her from the top of her head to the tip of her tail, just as she liked me to do. I said goodbye, and I cried.
She was a strange creature, but she was mine, and I loved her.
It’s weird sitting in my study without her sleeping on the couch nearby.
Pip will be missed…just probably not by my other cat. They were never friends.