Tinker was originally my wife’s cat. Rescued from a horrible death and given a caring home. Unfortunately, she discovered quite soon after giving Tinker a caring home that she was allergic to cats and that Tinker was exacerbating her asthma. When I came into the lives of these two the cat was kind enough to accept me and eventually we all moved in together only for me to find I was allergic to cats too.
The sensible thing to do was get rid of the cat. But we didn’t. When our daughter was born there was a high risk that she too would have a similar allergy but we persevered. The cat was part of the family, and we couldn’t contemplate losing her unless there was hard evidence she’d cause the baby harm.
It transpired that we should have been more worried for the cat. As the baby grew she wanted to play and Tinker revealed how much she disliked children, running off to hide whenever Freya shuffled or toddled in her direction. It had been children who had tried to drown her when she was first rescued after all.
In our first house, before we brought children into the mix, Tinker started well. She went out, she created her own territory and she brought us presents: voles, mice, birds and unidentified body parts. I got surprisingly good at rescuing the unharmed animals and releasing them to a hopefully safer place. But then neighbouring cats started domineering and Tinker began coming home with cuts and worse.
When we moved into our current house things were quite different and gradually she retreated to living in a wardrobe. Having a litter tray in the kitchen was bad enough. Having a wardrobe full of cat hair was terrible. Having this once happy cat reduced to a fraction of her life was worse. Once day she went out and came back with a damaged back leg. I took her to the vet and we discussed the possibilities. We gave her a few weeks on medication to see how things might improve, but they did not.
So, I took her to the surgery and stroked her head while the pre-med slowly calmed her down to sleep. I continued talking and stroking her as the fatal dose was applied and I manfully held it together until the point where I had to say good bye. Then I found I couldn’t speak.
Once I got home I tried to explain what had happened to my daughter. Rather than talking about ‘cat heaven’ I gave her a straighter version of events and explained, with tears in my eyes, how our great friend wasn’t coming home again and that “mummy might be sad because Tinker was her friend for a long time.”
Freya, who had been looking terrifically sad until now suddenly piped up with:
“Can we get a budgerigar?” But after some quick reflection she added, “I’ll draw a picture of a cat to make mummy feel better.”
Now there is no litter tray in the kitchen, no cat hair anywhere, but there is a picture of a cat and a lot of happy memories.