On 20 June this year, Jabba, my fluffy little grey cat, passed away from lymphoma. This left an enormous cat shaped hole in my heart – not to scale, since Jabba was very skinny by the time he curled up in my lap and stopped breathing. I grieved. I missed him. I wondered who would now reset my computer and walk on my keyboard and curl up in my lap and regularly “mrrp?” at me and try to steal my breakfast (actually, Amos is very good at taking on that latter task).
I stopped working or studying or playing computer games in my study. It was just too hard to be in that cosy, pleasant room that I associated so closely with my cat. Yes, Lestat was still around, and he is a lovely old man, but he is Husband’s cat, really, not mine as much. He likes me. He loves Husband.
After a couple of weeks of grieving, we looked into adopting another cat (while still grieving. It’s not a linear process). Rescue agencies were not keen, mostly because of Abby. This is fair. We are quite confident we can keep a cat safe from her (in fact, as I write this, there is the sound of drilling in the background as a carpenter builds a door in our corridor for that very purpose of keeping cats separate from dogs), but it’s hard to expect foster groups to trust in that when they hear the worst disasters of pet management every day in their work. Even those who trusted in that plan were concerned that it might not be the best thing for Lestat – getting another cat might just stress him out too much.
Except… Lestat was already stressed. After Jabba died, he started yowling. Lots of pacing around and wailing. We picked him up and put him on the bed. More meowing. We put him off the bed. Meowing. More food. More water. More brushings. More pats. The minute we stopped? Meeeowwwwwwww.
Eventually I concluded that – as shocking as it was – Lestat actually missed Jabba. The reason I was surprised was that when we first brought Jabba home, in 2006, Lestat sulked for three weeks. Jabba occasionally challenged him, and Lestat would have to put him in his place. Again. Jabba would wander over to Lestat and start sweetly grooming him, and Lestat would grumble, because there goes the goddamn neighbourhood. Lestat came to us in the first place because he was beating up all the other cats he lived with.
I’d always thought that “one” was the best number of cats to have, at least as far as the cats themselves were concerned.
Turns out I was wrong. Cats are, apparently, far more sociable than we give them credit for. Not all of them – and making allowances for past experiences and personalities – but on the whole, having one other cat in a nearby space seems to be comforting. Especially, I suppose, if you’re 96 in cat years and that’s what you’re used to.
Husband and I decided not to get another cat, at least not for a while.
Then… a friend of mine (who knew about that cat-shaped hole I was living with) said that some friends of hers needed to find a new home for a cat they’d adopted. He was being rather decisively rejected by their existing cat, and their existing cat was utterly miserable about the situation and not adjusting. They didn’t want to get rid of him, because he was lovely, but it was just not working out.
This news came in the day before my birthday.
On my birthday, Husband and I went to see about a cat.
We met some lovely people (hello, if you’re reading this!), and an enormously fluffy, fat, talkative golden/cinnamon tabby cat with a gigantic wizard-ruff. We were warned that he was very talkative, and would make “mrrp” sounds.
We played the pouncing game with a piece of yarn. We discovered that he liked belly rubs. We basically said, “So, we’re taking your cat to see if it works out… are you cool with that?” and shovelled the giant furball into the cat carrier we had brought with us just in case.
We named him Ridcully, as he is large, bearded, and fit (for a wizard). Although he was nearly called George (it suits him, but it was too close to “Jabba” in my head), or Gandalf, or Merlin, or Albus.
Ridcully can be shortened to Riddles, or if he does something spectularly clever and badass, Riddick.
He is quite a stunning cat. Behold him in all his bearded, wizardly glory!
He is extremely playful. He loves belly rubs. He purrs very loudly. When the mood hits him, he is extremely snuggly. And he lets Lestat push him around when it comes to food, which is important because he is twice Lestat’s size and a third of his age, and a bit of a guts.
In fact, since Ridcully came to us, Lestat seems like he is much happier. He meows less. He snuggles and purrs more. Most startling: he actually plays. We thought his ribbon-pouncing days were behind him, but after watching Ridcully play a particular exciting game of “attack the dangling strip of cloth”, he apparently decided that it did kind of look like fun, and the next thing we know a little black paw swiped out to stab the ribbon. He’s even eating more (which is good, because he has lost weight and I was concerned).
And Ridcully looks like he gets along with him well enough, as long as he can restrain the urge to pounce on Lestat’s tail (which has happened once or twice. I can only imagine it must be very tempting to pounce on a tail if you are a cat).
We are still getting to know one another, but I think that once again we have managed to adopt an excellent cat.
Because it’s not long enough to justify another entire Cat Quest post, I’m adding here a little note about Lestat. I took him for his Old Man Cat check-up yesterday (remember, he is nineteen years old this October). This involved the vet weighing him, examining his teeth, listening to his heart, giving him his annual vaccination, and finally taking his blood for a geriatric blood test (testing of liver and kidney function). We added on a thyroid test, since he’s lost about a kilo in the past year (I wonder if he has lost most of it since Jabba passed away).
He passed his test with flying, nay, dashing colours. I am starting to wonder if he really is a vampire cat.