We nearly missed you at Battersea Old Windsor. Beth spotted you, shivering and scared in your cabin. The staff were keen to find a good match for this family who had never owned a cat before. A first cat, a cat who had no special needs, who just needed a place to call home. You were just right. You needed some dental work doing, so you stayed in the care of Battersea while that happened. We came to visit you in your enclosure there, and you immediately favoured Drew.
When the day came to take you home, I signed the forms. One of the things I had to agree to was that you wouldn’t be a performing animal. This made us all laugh, as I explained that I already had a performing child, so the very last thing I needed was a performing cat! I also had to agree that if we couldn’t take care of you any more, I would bring you back to Battersea. You would always be a Battersea Cat.
No-one knew your backstory, or even your real age. You had been brought into Battersea as a stray. The staff had given you the name Troy. With a little help from the internet we decided on the name Widget. As with all cats you soon had a multitude of nicknames, “Widgety Woo, the Ginger Ninja, Sir Widgealot”. That first day at home with us you scuttled behind the fish tank and hid. We had been warned that it might take several days, or even weeks, before you would sit with us. However that first night, as Drew and I sat quietly, you came out from your hiding place and sat between us.
You taught us about cats. Early on, Drew was out when Beth and I heard a crash from downstairs. We raced into the lounge, to discover you looking about twice your normal size, tail like a toilet brush. We were terrified, and had no idea what had happened to you. Neither of us knew that cat hair really would stand on end, as it does in the cartoons! Our best guess is that you laid eyes on another cat in the garden, rocketed into a chair leg causing the crash, and then paraded around trying to look as scary as possible to the interloper.
I had seen the staff at Battersea holding you up against their shoulder and I would pick you up and carry you like that. Beth would carry you about as if you were a baby, and you would reach up and put your paws on her face, “no paws on face, Widget!” It took a little while for Drew to confidently pick you up and carry you, however before long your favourite place to be was with your chin on his shoulder. And you loved Drew the best.
You were always a timid cat. You never went far, even in your younger days. You preferred to hang out with us, or to be in the garden with one of us close by. You hated the move to Bristol, and we felt so bad about taking you from the home you knew. However in time you established your routines here, although you were no fan of the Bristol seagulls which would occasionally stand on our shed and shout at you.
My “no cats on beds” rule eventually fell. I would find you sleeping next to Beth, your head on her pillow. As you became older, all you wanted to do was to be close to Drew. It seemed unfair to keep you out of the bedroom. So began a nightly event of you walking directly over my head in order to get close to your favourite person.
Working from home, you were always part of our day. You would stroll into our office, and I would pick you up for a cuddle. However, you would always look to Drew and sooner or later expect a cuddle from him, to rest your chin on his shoulder and purr. You would put your paws up on Drew’s lap to request picking up if he didn’t quickly comply with your cuddle requirements.
When I returned from a trip, I would look up the stairs to see you looking at me disapprovingly as if to say, “And where have you been this time?” I would then be ignored until the next morning, when you would behave as if you had just set eyes on me. Early mornings were our time together, your cue the coffee machine springing into life on its timer to make my 5am coffee. If I wasn’t already awake, I soon would find myself face to fuzzy face, as you would come to investigate why I was still in bed. You would follow me downstairs, and if I dared to put my laptop on my lap, you would nose under it until I moved it to make space for you. We spent our early mornings that way. Me answering email with my laptop perched on the arm of the sofa, you purring and sleeping on my knee.
Your last morning at home had started as usual, but the weather was warm and humid and you had hopped off my knee to sit beside me on the sofa. I went out to the gym, and when I came back you were sat at the top of the stairs, your chin on your paw. I snapped a photo with my phone, as you looked cute and serious. Minutes later you came down the stairs gasping for breath. Drew rushed you to the vets and then to the vet hospital, where they had you on oxygen while they ran tests to find out what had happened.
Worried, but still thinking the results would come back as a treatable infection or similar, I went to speak at an event in Scotland. Drew had planned to come along but stayed to be close to you. It became apparent that you were becoming increasingly poorly, and tests had shown there was nothing that could be done to give you back any quality of life. I will be forever grateful to the gentle kindness of the people of ScotlandCSS, who switched my talk to the first slot of the day so I was able to fly home, and be there for your final minutes.
You left our lives in a room not so different to the one we had collected you from, nine years ago. You were so obviously very poorly. The vet brought you to us, every breath was a struggle for you, yet all you wanted to do was cuddle into Drew, to rest your chin on his shoulder. I held you for a little while, but it seemed right that these last minutes should be spent exactly where you wanted to be. You wanted to be close to your special friend, your favourite.
As Drew held you I signed the forms to allow this last goodbye, just as I had signed the forms which made you part of our family. The end was quick, and peaceful, with us talking to you and stroking you. A final kindness for our lovely friend.
Widget, 18th July 2018. You were the best cat, and we loved you so very much. Sleep well friend.