I had a very lazy morning today. We were woken up at before 7am, but I stayed in bed until about 10am. Dozing, wafting, whatever you want to call it, I was out of it today.
Waking up, WhatsApp said I had a notification from Mum. “Branston has just passed away, very peacefully on the floor by the bed.” As soon as I read it I rang home; stoic at first, then as I told her about my ‘phone call with Bec yesterday, I started weeping.
It’s not just about a cat, it never is. As Dad said just now when we talked on FaceTime, they do leave footprints on your heart. Cats choose you, if they don’t want to live with you or your family – they’ll toddle off and find someone else who suits them better.
Chief Brody chose us when we went to the cat rescue, yelling at us until we got him in the carrier and home. I am very much his human, but he sleeps on Archie’s bed most nights too. I chose Doctor Hooper from kittens needing homes at work, but his personality was too domineering to live with CB who is very skittish (as he was sixteen weeks old when we got him, we have no idea what his history was before he was left with the cat rescue). Doctor Hooper in the end was re-hoomed to live with Ruby, a friend’s daughter. His first night home with them, now renamed Taco, he slept in her room and has been an integral member of their family since.
Branston was one of two cats I’ve not re-homed from a shelter; I was on a wait list for kittens and thought I’d missed out on this particular litter. However, another lady who was going to choose two didn’t call back. So I got a phone call, “Can you come over today to choose your cats?” I didn’t hesitate and whizzed over. Branston and Pickle. Branston pure tortoiseshell and Pickle, one of those big, fat white cats with blobs of colour on. I wanted kittens because ex-husband was in the army in the UK and we would be likely to move around a lot. I wanted them to be resilient and come round with us.
We lived next door to a couple with Borzois, one day Donna asked us to keep the cats inside until she’d let the dogs out because they wouldn’t go into their garden as Branston was out there wanting to play with them. She was still a kitten, this teeny, tiny thing scaring dogs who stood level with my waist.
Pickle was a lot like Chief Brody, a bit skittish and more than a bit stupid too. She’d climb trees then couldn’t work out how to get down them. We moved house but she didn’t cope with it, she started weeing everywhere, in the end we surrendered her to a shelter where they’d already got a lady lined up who wanted an indoor, loving cat. I do wonder how she got on, and if she had a happy life?
Branston was cheeky as. She was so little when I got her she’d curl up in a six-egg carton to sleep. Then when she was too big, she’d push the cardboard around on the floor because it sounded good. I took them both to the vets for their initial check after they’d been home a week. They got given a treatment for worms, fleas and ticks. With gunk in her ears and eyes, and dribbling white medicine the look of indignation she gave me was one I can still see now.
I’d let them out in the morning, call them in before I’d left for work and quite often would miss the bus I’d want to catch because Branston would be off and away, running like a rocking horse up the alley behind the houses. But if I gave up on the game of getting her back in and leave her out, I’d be greeted with angry yells when I got home.
One days she came in and was ill, so sick after she’d vomited, she fell over sideways. Picking her up in a towel, we took her to the vet where she was put on a drip. For two days I was a mess, but she came home and was fine. We never did figure out what it was that caused it. When dickhead and I went to Cuba for a holiday, Dad moved in to the house for two weeks to look after them both as the cost for a cattery was more than our holiday. Branston and he bonded then, when dickhead and I separated, I went to live with Mon Bears, who had an indoor bunny. I asked if Aged Parents could have Branston for me until I sorted myself out.
By the time I had sorted myself out, Branston was definitely my Dad’s cat. She adored him, following him around the house. It was on his side of the bed she passed away today. When he was ill in hospital last year having surgery for bowel cancer, she would sit in the window and wonder where he was.
But for me, my overriding memory of this cat was her gregariousness. I’d never known another cat like her. Ex-husband’s brother was a mechanic, doing a mini-service on our car on a visit down to us, I sat on a picnic blanket talking to them both. Branston sat beside me, as a car drove past, she’d go back to the house, stand in the door way, then come back to sit beside me on the blanket. When you stayed with Mum and Dad, you’d wake up in the middle of the night for no reason, then see the cat looking at you, ‘Yow’.
The last few years of her life, she got a pet-passport and went camping with Aged Parents, she loved it. In and out the caravan all day long. She would appear on the table when I’d talk to Aged Ps over FaceTime. When I walked in the house in March this year, I called “Branston!” she came down the stairs and looked at me in disbelief then started singing with joy when she saw me.
If you’re thinking about buying an animal for your family for Christmas, think about the time investment it is, whether you really do want that cute fur-ball until the end. Think about what it will feel like at the end of their lives. Fifteen years Branston was with us, Pickle was with us for three. Fluffy (because she was), Beaky (another tortie who looked like an owl), Sooty (black all over) and Susie (black and white, occasionally black all over after she’d been asleep in the coal hole) were members of our family for between five to twelve years too.
I’d have them all over again, my life has been all the richer for them.