A sad week here in the Tarn after saying a long-distance goodbye to Stuart III, last in a line of feline companions who brought joy to my mother’s final years. He picked Mum out of a line-up at the RSPCA, delicately extending a paw through the bars of his cage. What was his history? No-one ever knew, but he had suffered multiple fractures to one of his hind legs, resulting in a stiff, retired-Colonel-type gait which went well with his laid-back personality.
No unseemly galloping about or jumping on and off things for Stuart. He was a mindfulness practitioner, sitting for hours in a trance in front of the window weighing up the pros and cons of staying where he was or strolling outside for a quiet nap underneath his personal bush. Indoors, his favourite position was horizontal. Chairs, beds tables – all the furniture belonged to him – and particularly the patch of carpet in front of the central heating vent where he liked to indulge in his personal invention, a home spa treatment for feline arthritic joints. He would lie on one side, clamp all four paws against the burning metal grill, and roast himself to a turn, fur streaming out behind him in the hot air flow like a comet’s tail.
When Mum died, he was adopted by his wonderful Auntie Jo who took him from Yorkshire to begin a new life as a Cheshire cat. He loved being at his Auntie’s. In the evening they would cuddle together on the sofa watching nature documentaries. He also helped out on the days she worked from home, warming up the computer by draping himself across it and re-arranging piles of important documents into better positions. She took him for weekend breaks to visit his other Auntie and Uncle, who had a terrace looking out over treetops from which, in Attenborough mode, he could observe the habits of birds and squirrels. He got a bit grumpy when Auntie Jo abandoned him to go on holiday, but could be mollified by a stay in his favourite luxury senior citizen apartment at the Best Exotic Marigold Pet Hotel. Downstairs he was able to catch a few rays undisturbed on his private patio while from an upper mezzanine he could look down on the lesser fortunate guests in the communal dorm.
His health had been declining steadily for some time. I last saw him two months ago, at my birthday party in Yorkshire. His Furness processed from Cheshire in Auntie Jo’s car and took up his role as Guest of Honour with a modest miaow. On Monday this week he died peacefully in the arms of his beloved auntie. We shared tearful memories of his many sterling qualities in a lengthy phone call, at the end of which she pronounced a fitting epitaph:
‘He never made a quick decision’.