Wilfred has appeared on these pages once or twice. Born in Sale, he came to us in April 2005 as a bundle of light-brown fur and soon became part of the family unit, moving from Clayton West to Ampthill via Southend-on-Sea in 2006 when he got the deep chocolate colour of his breed. Mid-way through 2018, he started to go off his food, lost his famous penetrating meow and generally slowed up. Fair enough for the last bit, as he was in his thirteenth year, well advanced in equivalent human years. Vet treatment didn’t help much and he continued to be unusually finicky with food, until just before Christmas he stopped eating and drinking altogether.
After New Year, we took him to the animal hospital in Barton-le-Clay, where, as a nice young vet called Ed examined his nether parts, Wilfred’s eyes gazed soulfully at us. ‘Perhaps a blockage in his intestines,’ said Ed, ‘best to leave him in overnight.’ We left him there and that’s the last we saw of Wilfred. Ed said Wilfred had an inoperable liver tumour and only palliative care could be offered, so we decided not to prolong the agony for all of us: I gave the dreaded instruction to have him put down. We cried a little, and I began to put away Wilfred’s bits and pieces for feeding and sleeping. Then we cried a little more.
It’s been six days or so since he’s not been present in the household, and in our minds he has joined the other lovely Brown Burmese that we have enjoyed: Boycott, Yorick, Hedley and Blythe. Of course a cat isn’t a human, and grieving is necessarily shorter, but remembering Wilfred will last for as long we have breath.
Those who know us might have already spotted a compensatory fact. At about the same time in midsummer when Wilfred began to fade, the gorgeous Verity came to us (now it seems as if from heaven) our first girl cat, and, by the way, Wilfred’s great-great-niece. If similar to Wilfred’s, when her own time comes to pass ‘neat through the loophole’ to the other side, I might be 89.
Cats no less liquid than their shadows
Offer no angles to the wind.
They slip, diminished, neat through loopholes
Less than themselves; will not be pinned
To rules or routes or journeys …