The world cried today and we cried with it. Our eldest cat Tabitha was put to sleep this lunchtime.
Tabitha was 5 years old when we got her on the 29th of April 2006. We never learnt when exactly she was born so we made the 29th of April the official birthday for our quean. And royalty she was - a blue-eyed rare chocolate colour point Ragdoll. Tabitha looked down on our second cat Amelia as a naughty little schoolgirl one cattery owner said.
In her first five years Tabitha was named Fleur, she had kittens, was said to be a good mother. She also suffered being exhibited in cat shows, and won prizes. The reason her then owner Clare reluctantly rehomed her was that she was in a multi-cat household and didn't get along with the other cats - Tabitha was hiding in kitchen cupboards. The Ragdoll rehoming group approved of Virginia's and my home as a nice quiet home which would suit Tabitha. So one Saturday at Corley Service Station north of Coventry Clare handed Tabitha over to us, and we brought her home.
(How did we come to be looking for a cat? I grew up with a dog so naturally preferred cats. I had lapsat Josie, a cat belonging to our good friends Alex and Howie, and a pleasant experience it was too. Virginia decided a cat would be a great birthday present for my 50th, and indeed Tabitha was the best birthday present I've ever had.)
We set down the carrying basket in the kitchen. Opened it. And Fleur renamed Tabitha got out. She wandered around like a prisoner at Colditz checking out the escape routes. Then vanished under the kitchen cupboards for two days. On the Sunday we had Alex and Howie round for lunch and there wasn't a cat to show them. True food had disappeared. The litter trays needed cleaning. But Tabitha had done a Cheshire Cat.
Happily on the Monday she did emerge. Virginia heard some mewling, thought it was outside, but it turned out to be Tabitha at her feet. Tabitha slowly gained confidence in us, but remained a timid and vocal feline. In readiness for her arrival Virginia got a number of toys but none were very attractive, indeed the Crinkle Play Tunnel Cat Toy she found frightening. In the early years she was quite happy playing with ping pong balls up and down the stairs.
We did try other toys over the years, one particular failure was the 'Thing in a Bag', a brown bag with a motor in it which scared poor Tabitha. (Thunder and lightning and fireworks would see her cowering underneath the lounge couch.) The most successful toy was Da Bird. Cat beds too she didn't buy into. The treats in the 2006 cat advent calendar were not a success.
Tabitha was so vocal we worried for her vocal cords. Besides the plaintive miaows which tugged at our hearts she also had a very odd deep growling noise. And even ground her teeth at times when she was happy.
In June 2006 Virginia's father helped us by putting up an enclosure so Tabitha could go outside yet we didn't have to worry about her jumping over fences when we weren't with her. She liked drinking wild water and often went out for it. She would ask to go out when it's raining, turn back when the door was opened, then ask again one minute later.
One evening Tabitha startled me by leaping onto the bed as if by magic. From that time she slept on the bed, head-butting to get more than her fair share of pillows. She would join us when we played Scrabble in the main bedroom - I hurt her sensitive spirit when I laughed at her one time when she sat in the lid of the Scrabble box. Playing Scrabble with Amelia and Tabitha around was chancy as they would walk across the board, Amelia even one time deliberately kicked the tiles with her back feet.
In February 2007 we got Amelia as a kitten to be company for Tabitha. This was perhaps a mistake as Tabitha wasn't maternal to Amelia. She hissed at the intruder. They mostly tolerated each other, Tabitha being cautious of Amelia except when there was food going - Tabitha was an aggressive scrounger. She especially liked fish and prawns, she would wolf prawns down.
In 2009 we were on a cruise when we learnt that Tabitha had an impaired liver function. Thanks to Internet and phone access we were able to be involved even on the cruise. From December 2009 Tabitha was on tablets every day to keep her going. Tablet giving was difficult - she would refuse them mixed into other food or ground up - Virginia became adept at using a pill popper. We had a nightly ritual called TTT (Tabitha Tablet Time) where Tabitha would be placed on the bed, and Amelia would impatiently wait for her share of the bribe. The bribe for ages was Thrive which was very popular, the only way to get Amelia down from the cat tree in the enclosure.
Tabitha loved lying in the sun in the back garden. She was no threat to the local wildlife unlike Amelia. She would stay outside for hours. She was a great companion always ready for a lapsit - we could shout upstairs for a lap sitter when watching TV and she would come thump thump as she descended the stairs two feet at a time. She liked being brushed even on the underside. She was always there to give and receive affection. The cats were family and we celebrated their birthdays with trips to the like of the Hotel Felix or Phoenix in Histon (admittedly without the cat).
Tabitha was inclined to be a sickie cat, unlike Amelia we did get plenty of warning when Tabitha was going to be sick. We did end up with plastic sheeting on the furniture for protection. Occasional baths were required and no cats like those. As time went on she had more problems. Athritis hindered her getting around. We got steps for her to get onto the bed, eventually she was reduced to curling up in cat beds on the floor. Cataracts dulled her beautiful blue eyes. We had to make her sleep downstairs in 2018 due to various problems. She started losing weight, not eating very much, breathing irregularly, and vet Mardie of Cottenham Village Vets said it was time.
Tabitha was part of our lives, of our world, our family. A pet to be petted and cared for and loved, who repaid that love. A faithful familiar who made our lives richer. Now we've had to say goodbye to her and I'm the saddest I've ever been.