Our ancient cat died this week at the grand old age of 22 and 2 months. Apparently, that’s equivalent to a human being reaching 104.
Born in Brixton on 7 February 1993, she was one of a litter of five. My wife and I adopted two of them. The ginger tom we named Nelson, after the red-haired bassist in New Model Army. The long-haired female tabby we named Joolz after the poet Joolz Denby. That tells you something about the sort of music we were listening to at the time. Nelson turned into a right bruiser, weighing about 15lb, but he died in 2001. His sister, though, went on and on.
Joolz was extrovert, loud, quick and a bit mad. She yowled at high volume to anyone going past and often went into other people’s houses to kip on their sofas or scrounge food. People would say ‘Is that your cat – the loud tabby one?’ – well it helped us get to know some of the neighbours. In her prime, Joolz was a rat murderer, regularly delivering one, two and occasionally three corpses to the back door in the morning.
Sue, my second wife happily adopted the cat when she married me and indulged her much more than I ever did, at which point the hunting rate began to fall. At the weekend, Joolz would have first breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and a little light supper. Proper fish and bits of whatever we were having supplemented the usual diet. Who needs to hunt when you have all that? We moved to our current house in 2002 and shortly after that, Joolz retired. After she was about ten, the kill rate went down and I’m pretty sure she didn’t catch anything at all after 2009.
When our house flooded in 2011, the water company paid for us to live in a house a few streets away while ours was being repaired. By this time, Joolz was 18 and we were sure the move to a strange house would do for her. It didn’t. 9 months later we moved back. The cat just went straight back to her old places and routines as though we’d never been away.
It was during our exile that I decided to set up a Twitter account for the cat. A few people I knew had set up cat accounts so thought I’d do the same and see what happened. One weekend, I took a quick photo and set her up using my phone while waiting for some friends to come round for lunch. So Joolz became @FlipChartCat, tweeting general stuff about cats plus my interpretations of her moods and reactions to things. These were mostly about the weather, the quality and amount of food and the appalling lack of service. To my surprise, she ended up with 270 followers. When I held my blog celebration in March, a couple of people told me they didn’t really follow my blog and they were mostly fans of the cat. Such is the fame of @FlipChartCat, I felt I ought to announce her demise on here. I delayed it by a few days because Friday is, traditionally, Cat Blogging Day.
Apart from a bit of liver trouble, Joolz was healthy almost to the end. The vet warned me a month ago that, at her great age, the next thing she got would kill her and so it proved. Over the weekend she grew very weak until by Monday she was unable to walk. She’d come back from the brink so many times that I hoped she might do so again but it wasn’t to be. The last of the 9 lives had been used up.
I’ve never kept an animal for anywhere near 22 years before. The cat was like a last link to a different life. I was still in my twenties when I got her, married to someone else, living in a different part of London and doing different things. I would never have thought, in 1993, that the cat would outlive my first wife, my father and two fathers-in-law but she did. When she died, 22 years of my life flashed before me.
It will be strange without her and we will miss her terribly. But after 22 years, we can’t really complain. She would, no doubt, but then, that was what she did.
Her view of the world was that if you couldn’t eat it, couldn’t sleep on it, it didn’t keep you warm or didn’t give you love, it wasn’t really of much interest. It’s difficult to argue with that.
The last word goes to my friend Jez, who introduced me to the people who gave Joolz to us all those years ago. Drinking a toast to this most venerable of cats, he said, “Here’s to an idle life well lived.”
Goodbye my old cat. It was a privilege to know you.
Joolz, aka @FlipChartCat
Born: Brixton, 7 February 1993. Died: Hanwell, 13 April 2015.
‘This Twitter thing’s a breeze….’
Update: Thank you for all the sympathy, empathy, good wishes and cat anecdotes you’ve sent to me here, on Twitter, by text and by email. There are a couple of really good pieces about looking after older cats and deciding when it’s the end on the Messybeast site. They are written with sensitivity but in a very matter of fact way. Recommended reading if you have a superannuated pet.