Two years after losing my cat, I still struggle with having lost her. I’m writing this because it’s her anniversary, she’s very much on my mind, and, I think, I hope, that if I tell her story, the pain might start to ease. You don’t have to read this – but I have to write it.
I moved up into the valleys in 1999. Just me and my two year old cat, Finn. Finn wasn’t a nice cat – she was a rather unfriendly tortoiseshell. But she was someone to go home to and I was very fond of her.
Six weeks after moving in, Finn disappeared. I put flyers through doors, searched the roads for her body, put flyers up on lamp posts, more flyers through doors and then, after three weeks and in desperation, offered a substantial reward for her return. Surprise, surprise the phone started to ring.
I had multiple calls over the course of a week from various people saying that they had seen my cat. But when they described her, they would consistently say, ‘it’s black, white and ginger with tiger-like stripes on its back and a white tip on its tail’. Finn had no white on her body at all, so it wasn’t her.
After about ten days, I had a call from a woman who had borrowed her friends phone as she didn’t have one. Different times. She gave me her address and told me to visit that evening.
I turned up at the allocated time and when I walked into the room was faced by a teeny, tiny kitten that was black, white and ginger with tiger-like stripes on its back and a white tip on its tail. I told the lady that it wasn’t my cat. She didn’t want it, and was clearly going to let it go back out into the wild. I was concerned because it was clearly a small kitten and based on the calls I’d been receiving, had been wandering around for at least ten days. So I took it home – little fleabag that she was.
The next day I took her to the vet and was told that it was a she, and that she was about 10 weeks old. Clearly a stray, I went about the process of having her immunised, de-fleaed and chipped. She was home.
Finding a name for my new roomie was difficult because I couldn’t think of anything and nothing suited! It was my eldest sister who suggested Millie, because of the impending Millennium. I was a bit sick of all things Millennium, but decided that I liked the name Millicent and so Milly acquired her name. It morphed into so many different ones over the years! None of which she answered when called!
She could be a nightmare! Scratching everything, meowing all night, splattering cat litter all over the house. In the early days I really regretted her. But we grew to accommodate each others nuances. Me her constant interrupting me in the bathroom, and her, my constant abhorrence and quick removal of the gifts she would leave me every morning. For such a gentle looking creature, she really was a ruthless killing machine.
Before long, I discovered that I was pregnant. My partner of many years moved in and Milly accepted him. And as my bump grew and I took to floundering on the sofa for long periods of time, Milly would sit on my bump and be jostled around by a very active baby. It was rather enchanting. I was home alone for the most part and in the middle of one night towards the end of my pregnancy there was chaos on my bed. Milly had delivered a full grown, live rat to my bed! In a panic I had to scoop the thing up in a towel and remove it which wasn’t easy when you take into account that I was the size of a whale! Thanks Mills.
When the baby came, I was terrified that Milly would suffocate her irrationally shooed her away from the baby at all times. It couldn’t have been nice for her. What had she done? But we found our groove and then as my partner left, it became just the three of us girls. Mother. Daughter. Cat.
Milly loved where we lived. A semi-rural environment that enabled her to sleep all day, enjoy our company in the evenings and hunt in the fields all night. My daughter and Milly had an amazing bond. She would be put into dolls prams, on the back of a bike, bathed in the sink and kissed and cuddled till she could barely breathe. And all of this she took in her stride. She never batted an eyelid or whipped out a claw. Not once.
Every night, when daughter was in bed, she’d come downstairs, and snuggle on my lap as if to say ‘peace at last’. We were content, we had our flow and our little family. She was great company for me; especially when the little one was asleep and I was tucked away in a village where I had no family or friends and wasn’t able to go out because I had a sleeping baby upstairs.
I met my now husband through work when Milly was six and after a year, he moved in with us. Milly rather liked him and as he worked from home was glad of the company. Then new neighbours arrived. With them came a tabby tom cat and I don’t know why but he terrorised Milly. Over a period of six months, my ruthless hunter stopped going out at all. We could coax her into the garden if we were there, but her life changed and not really for the better.
We didn’t help matters when our Golden Retriever pup arrived. I thought that this would be company for Milly, but quite the reverse happened. I didn’t think it through enough. Milly moved upstairs permanently. We had to install a stair gate, and a cat litter tray and feeding station upstairs. I was desperately sad but for the most part, Milly was actually in control. She would sit behind the safety of the stair gate and stare at the dog – or rather, glare at the dog endlessly. The dog just wanted to play but Mills was having none of it.
When the dog was two, Milly started to venture down the stairs, as if she knew that the dog was less bouncy. I still remember the first time that all five of us were in the lounge together for an evening. Genuinely, one of the happiest evenings of my life!
So Milly and the dog became good friends. Saturday mornings were always ‘allowed on the bed’ time and Milly and the dog would jostle for prime smoothing position. Milly always won. She was very definitely the boss and the dog has the scars to prove it. But as time went on, rather than become feisty and unsociable (the norm for tortoiseshell cats), Milly became softer and more loving. She’d share a bed with the dog, and sometimes, my daughter would find them spooning on the landing in the middle of the night! I never saw this but so wish I did.
By the time Milly was 14 she was starting to show signs of slowing down. I took her to the vet for a check up and the vet thought she was about 10, so she was doing pretty well for a geriatric. And so we went on until late 2015. Milly began to get serious arthritis in her back legs. She couldn’t jump up onto the bed, but would ask to be lifted up for company and I’d always oblige. From the front she still looked like a kitten, but to watch her walk from behind became too painful. Metacam wasn’t working and so we took her to the vet and tried her on Morphine for a week to see if there was any improvement. Have you ever tried to feed a cat medicine? It’s not easy! But we managed – however after a week, there was little improvement.
We drove her to the vet on at 6pm on 29th April. I knew. And I think she knew. One last time before we left she spat at our neighbour’s tom cat through the cat flap as if to say ‘don’t you dare – ever!’
She went to sleep on my lap so quiet and gracefully. No mess, no fuss, just Milly. And then we took her home to her garden.
A year later we moved and it’s this that I struggle with the most – she’s where she should be, in her garden, where she grew up, but as much as I love being in Cardiff, I miss knowing she’s near.
She was amazing. I always said that she knew that I ‘saved’ her and that she was always so loving because she was grateful. Truth was, for all those lonely nights that I was on my own, I’m grateful to her. She saved me.
Thank you Milly. x