On Tuesday I had to make the heartbreaking decision to have our littlest cat, Lupin, put to sleep by her vet. She’d been lethargic for about a week or so, and even though my gut instinct told me it was something serious, I hoped, to the last, that she might be saved.
Lupin was a rescue cat from the Weston-Super-Mare branch of the Cats’ Protection League. We adopted her twelve and a bit years ago when we lost one of our two young tortoiseshell cats at only six months old. Lara, our remaining torty, needed more company than the mature grey and white moggy Merry could provide, so we got her a playmate; a tortoiseshell minx named Qui Qui by the CPL.
Qui Qui was one of three sisters. I’d have adopted them all, but my husband overruled me! They were all beautiful, playful kittens, but Qui Qui rested the longest in my arms when we went to see them at the home of the volunteer who was housing them. She was a tiny, affectionate bundle, who had been discovered under some decking, living rough with her sisters and abandoned, surviving on what they could find. She had a bump in her nose that might have been caused by being born in tricky circumstances. To be honest, the instinct to steal food never left her, and we couldn’t leave anything out on the kitchen table! I affectionately referred to her as ‘chav cat’.
Qui Qui became Lupin as soon as we brought her home. Oddly enough, her two sisters were named after flowers, too, we found out afterwards. One was Bluebell, and I forget what the other one ended up as. Lupin was her ‘real’ name, but over the years she became Moose as well, for silly, wordplay reasons that are too odd to explain.
Torties are known for their minxiness; but she was gentle, loving and, despite the thieving, the most affectionate cat I’ve ever known. And when our children came along, she was endlessly patient. She gave the odd swipe when the grabbing became a bit too enthusiastic, but never to hurt, just to warn. She kept me company through the interminable night feeds with both babies, and, more often than not, we’d find her curled up in the corner of the cot whenever she got the chance. Gentle and patient to a fault, she’d follow our daughters around like a familiar; a furry nursemaid with a patient eye.
She was also a bit of a kitty-ninja. We’d hunt for ages, at night, to find her and put her out. She’d crawl into the tightest of spaces, stealing away under duvets and under beds to avoid being relegated to the porch. Often we’d just leave her in, where she’d sleep curled up to one of the children. Then, when she required an exit, she’d tap our faces to wake us up and let her out. In the mornings, she’d sit outside my elder daughter’s window and wait to be let in.
Even when we acquired a rather large dog, she remained with us. She might have been victimised by every other moggy in the neighbourhood over the years, but she stood up to a seven stone Weimaraner from day one. A few swipes across the nose and she owned him.
In the end, she was sicker than I could have imagined. The vet said that cats often keep going, hide their symptoms until they’re unendurable. Lupin didn’t reveal her illness until a week before she died, but when the vet examined her, he said she had a tumour the size of a tennis ball in her abdomen. Oddly, Bertie the Weimaraner must have smelt the growth, as in the week before she died he seemed obsessed with sniffing and licking her whenever he could. We humans had no idea. She kept going, kept loving, until the last. And that was the kind of creature she was. All cats are best cats, but she truly was a best cat. And I will miss her quiet comfort so, so much. Thank you, little chav cat, for being there for twelve years; I only wish we could have had twelve more with you.