Tonight we visited the vet with my mum’s elderly and increasingly frail cat and we had to have her put down. Her name was Lily and she was a beautiful – and typically neurotic – Siamese and she was absolutely and completely my mother’s cat. Body and soul.
Lily didn’t like most people, she tolerated a few but she adored my mother. Every night she would sleep next to mum under the covers and she would wait in the window in the afternoon for my mum to get home from work so she could greet her.
To everyone else Lily was skittish and standoffish. In all her years she sat on my lap but once, even though I fed her and took care of her many times. I always imagined Lily as some grand dame of the theatre, elderly and eccentric, displaced by the advent of film, surrounded by the dusty relics of her theatre career and just wanting to be alone.
As much as Lily loved mum, mum loved Lily. Lily was ill for a very long time with feline asthma, arthritis and other problems but mum wouldn’t give up on her. Not out of selfishness but out of care and concern. Our wonderful vet, Mrs Chitty, was willing to go the extra mile, or even hundred miles and mum helped pioneer administering asthma medication to cats, through Lily. Something that most people didn’t think could be done due to how uncooperative and resistant cats can be.
That just goes to show how close and special the relationship and empathy between mum and Lily was. She trusted mum to take care of her and mum did all she could to give Lily a wonderful and beloved life far longer than she would have had otherwise.
That’s the story of a my family though. Duty and care to others. People or animals it doesn’t matter a jot to us, we look after them. Gran was like that, mum is like that and I feel the same way about doing what’s right.
Lily was fortunate, even blessed, to have such a willing and caring person to take care of her. Mum was fortunate to have a cat that, for her, was pure love in sleek, furry, feline form.
I see how upset my mum is and my heart breaks for her. I sat by helpless as Lily cuddled in against her like a nursing kitten and slowly went to sleep in her arms. There’s nothing you can say that isn’t a platitude. Nothing you can do that doesn’t feel pointless or ineffectual. All you can do is just be there and be strong for those who can’t.
Still, I look to my mum and the strength of her grief is a mirror of the strength of the affection her and Lily had for each other. Every tear and sob is a testament to how much a pet can mean to someone and how much you can mean to a pet.
I ask myself if its worth all this pain and heartbreak to have a friend you know is going to leave you one day. How can you enjoy their friendship and affection knowing how the loss will hit you and tear your heart to pieces?
I got home and almost the moment I sat down my cat, Charlie, an independent and cheeky soul in a tabby sleeve, came trotting in to see me. He knew something was wrong and climbed up onto my lap, whiskers swept forward as though sensing I was upset. He never climbs onto me if I don’t have a blanket on me. He talked to me, chirping and merping and he butted my chin and cheek with his head, he licked the tip of my finger and he sat with me as I struggled not to cry, now that I didn’t need to be a rock.
I knew it was worth it then.
I know Lily had the best possible life and gave as much love as she received and that’s what a pet is.