We lost our boy.
It happened just over a week ago. He didn’t come home on Saturday night. He always comes home. He’s never stayed out all night. Ever.
I wasn’t too worried at first – my Mum was visiting for the weekend and I was showing her all of my photos from Colorado and Florida. I went out looking for him at 11pm, wanting to bring him in for the night before I went to bed. Normally he comes running up to me – all eager eyes and fluffy tail – when I call him but this time he didn’t. I texted my husband, who was working the late shift, and asked him to look for him when he got home. I woke up to him saying “sorry” over and over and telling me he’d spent two hours searching for him but hadn’t been able to find him.
I tried not to be too outwardly concerned. Inwardly I deliberately ignored the little dark hole in my tummy that was trying to tell me something was wrong and convinced myself he’d accidentally got locked in a garage somewhere nearby and couldn’t get out. We searched again.
My slight concern immediately escalated into frantic panic. I called round our local vet surgeries, desperately hoping that maybe someone had found him and taken him in. Then I called the RSPCA.
We went out searching again, my Mum and the girls accompanying us. We looked under bushes and by roadsides, we scoured all the places we knew he liked to hide, and we called him until our voices were hoarse. A passer-by, who I recognised as one of the parents from the girls’ school, saw us searching and calling for him and pulled me to one side. She told me she’d seen a cat in the road yesterday afternoon outside her mother’s house, and she described our boy – a small, ginger, tom cat. My stomach dropped and my heart rose into my mouth and I knew. I just knew.
We took the girls home and gave them lunch, trying to keep some semblance of normality, feeling numb whilst a battle raged inside me – my heart telling me that he’d gone and my head trying to convince me that he was just hurt and that we’d find him and he’d be ok.
The husband and I reluctantly headed over to the mother’s house, taking Pumpkin’s blanket with us. As soon as she saw us she knew why we were there. I took one look at her face, etched with sympathy, and I crumpled. She kept talking, apologising, saying she and her husband hadn’t known what to do. “He was in a bad way”, she kept saying, “we didn’t want any of the children to see him”.
He’d been hit by a car. He didn’t stand a chance.
My heart squeezed tighter and tighter. They’d put him in a bag and placed him in the bin. Part of me was (and still is) utterly horrified. How could anyone do that – just throw away someone’s much-loved pet?! But a bigger part of me knows that their hearts were in the right place, they were trying to help, trying to protect the children who live nearby and they simply hadn’t thought to take him to a vet to find out who owned him.
My husband and I retrieved him from the indignity of where he lay and it was indeed our boy. Our poor, poor boy.
We all cried all afternoon. And all of the next day. Even my husband, who I have only ever seen cry once (and those were happy tears when Liverpool won the Champions League back in 2005). He didn’t cry when we got married, he didn’t cry at the birth of our babies and he hasn’t cried at any of the funerals we’ve attended in over thirteen years of us being together. But losing our boy has been the undoing of him. Pumpkin evened out the male/female balance slightly, and he loved my husband as much as Neil loved him, curling up on his lap as often as he did on mine.
We’re all utterly devastated and missing him terribly.
I’m never going to hear him greet me in the morning when I’m the first one down to the kitchen, where he sleeps. We’re never going to hear him miaowing to go out or come in. I’m never going to have him curl up on my lap, or feel him purring in my arms again. We’re never going to see him come bounding down the stairs when we walk in the front door; never going to see him padding on the soft blanket at the end of our bed; never going to see him trying to sneak off with the body puff out of our shower (which he had a bit of a fetish for). We’re never going to see his ridiculous fluffy tail when he gets excited or someone startles him. He had so many quirks and individual traits that made him who he was and I’m trying to remember every single one of them, to store them away in my memory to I can always bring him to mind. I don’t want the memory of him to fade away.
He had such a big personality for such a little cat. Such a huge heart. He loved us all so much and we loved him. We had him for two short years and he went through an awful lot in that time – numerous operations on his wonky leg, various vet visits for scrapes he’d got himself into. He thought he was invincible. And yet those two years were filled with so much joy. He brought us all an incredible amount of happiness. If one of the girls was feeling sad he’d go and comfort them – he just knew they needed him. They thought of him as their brother.
The house feels empty. I keep expecting to see him curled up in his favourite spot at the end of our bed or on the back of the armchair. I keep catching glimpses of him our of the corner of my eye. I keep checking to make sure he’s not going to come racing past me on the stairs and trip me up. I swear I keep hearing him calling us at the front door.
We’ve all been subdued this last week. Quiet. There is an air of sadness permeating the very walls of our home. I took him to the vet the next morning, wrapped up in an old towel inside a cardboard box. We didn’t let the girls see him – it would have been too traumatic. The husband and I can’t get the images of him out of our heads – it’s all we see as we’re trying to get to sleep at night – and I couldn’t do that to the girls. Instead they all hugged the box and said goodbye, their sad little faces nearly breaking my heart. They went to school and Neil and I worked as normal, but there was (and still is) very definitely a piece of the jigsaw puzzle of our family missing. A piece of our hearts.
We’ve had him cremated. I chose a little silver heart shaped box with two paw prints on for him. That way we can take him with us if we move house – I couldn’t bear the thought of burying him in our back garden and then having to leave him behind if we decided to move elsewhere. I collected him from the vet earlier this afternoon, and whilst I’m not quite sure where his final resting place is going to be in our house, I’m glad he’s home.
It might seem silly to some people, to be in such mourning and grief over the loss of a cat. But he was so much more than a cat. He was a part of our family. He was our boy. Our gorgeous, green eyed, handsome and loving boy. And we will always love him and miss him.
The photos in this post are a selection of my favourites from the two years we had him. He arrived in our family at nine weeks old, a cheeky and energetic bundle of ginger fluff. He purred his way into our hearts within moments, and that’s where he’ll stay forever more.