This is dedicated to Tinkabelle – our best furry mate.
Every so often, we meet people who make our lives better. They enrich our existence and we love them for everything they are. In our case, it was Tink and she was a cat. A black and white, short haired cat who traded a life in the car park for a life with us in our home. Tink (or Tinkabelle as she became known) used to belong to an ex neighbour, who for reasons we still can’t fathom, decided she was too much effort. Her loss was most definitely our gain and after Husband cautioned me from getting too attached when Tink spent 1 night with us, she moved in.
We were going to re-home a cat for my 30th birthday and then Tink re-homed herself with us – a birthday cat. She was friendly but understandably wary, happy to sleep on our bed and sofa, inhaling food like she’d never be fed again (which after living in the car park, she needed feeding up) and generally settling in to the family. To say she flourished would be an understatement. She piled on the weight she so desperately needed and began to trust us more each day.
Our family of 3. She wasn’t just a cat. She wasn’t even a good cat; she was the best cat. Chatty, nosy, noisy, playful and utterly fabulous, she filled a gap we knew we had. We’ve both had cats before meeting one another and we’ve both said we’re more cat people than dog people. We have nothing against dogs; we may even end up with a dog one day, but mostly we are very much cat people and Tink was very much our cat. I asked the neighbours who she belonged to (admittedly, it was a half-hearted enquiry – I wasn’t prepared to give her up easily) but even when her original owner knew we had her, there was no plea for her back, no begging for us to give up our new mate. That sealed the deal; she was chipped, registered with the vet and she was ours.
She knew when we were sad, or ill or in pain. She seemed to know who did and didn’t like cats and made a beeline for those with allergies or dislikes. She would plonk herself between strangers and Tom, almost as a guard. When I was very unwell and having a tough time mentally, she trailed after me, never leaving me for a minute. She detested shouting, even if an argument happened on the TV, her ears would twitch and she would become anxious. Mostly, she was convinced that human food was for her, even when we thought it was something a cat would detest. Case in point? She licked lemon curd off our fingers despite making the face that suggested she wasn’t sure.
It wasn’t just lemon curd. Jam, Marmite, wilted spinach, cake, all versions of dairy, meat and fish, pasta, curry, Chinese, chickpeas, crisps (even the ones that made her dribble)…and so many more. Her utter insistence that if we were eating it then she should to stayed until very near the end and that’s what made us realise she wasn’t well. Our ravenous, constantly hungry girl had stopped asking for food, stopped pestering us at dinner.
We knew when she came to live with us that she was already an older lady and we knew that we wouldn’t have a long time with her. We knew that she had some health problems and we looked after her, making sure she took the pills we had for her, that she was de-flea’d and wormed with the disgusting back-of-the-neck treatment that she hated. We threw all the treats we could, letting her chase them, her back legs sometimes sliding out of control on the kitchen floor with the speed she could reach. She was an excellent ratter, bringing us progressively bigger and more animated specimens in her attempts to teach her stupid humans how to hunt properly. Rats were the favourite but mice, a shrew, a couple of birds; all offerings that we were allowed to look at but not touch. She was baffled by the hedgehog and delighted by the frog with it’s ever so twangy legs. An older girl she may have been, but her hunting instinct was still sharp as the claws she used to do so.
Her evening routine was fairly well set until the very last few weeks of her life. Wait for us to get home, either by blocking the car’s path to the drive or by meeting us at the door in winter. Shout loudly for her dinner, shout loudly while we cooked ours and then shout even louder until we gave her scraps from our plates. After dinner, it was all about the lap. Preferably on a blanket and with enough space to stretch out and sleep. More nights than I can remember, she and I slept on the sofa, both snoring away.
Tom took many photos of her, as did I and now, we are so very glad we did. Photos and video of her playing, shouting, sleeping, hunting – these and our memories and stories are all we have left of our precious girl. We look for her, expecting to see her by the door or in the garden, curled up in her jungle. I think I hear her shouting. Thinking about her makes my eyes burn and my throat tightens with tears and the grief, although not piercing and raw, sneaks up on us as we carry on without her. A glance out of the kitchen window, looking up the stairs expecting to see her ears at the top, unlocking the front door and not having her meeting us. Hundreds of times since Sunday I’ve wanted to call her, whistle and see where she appears. Hundreds of tears I’ve shed for her and probably more will come.
To some, this post eulogising a cat will seem indulgent and childish. I may come across as mildly cat-obsessed and a bit batty. People may roll their eyes and tell me “she was just a cat, get over it”. To that I’ll say this: you will never understand unless you have a cat. She was never “just a cat”. She was and will always be, a member of our family. We loved her and she loved us. We gave her our best and she gave us so much more.
Our friend, our family, our one and only Tinkabelle. Night night beautiful girl. We love you.