Even as I type these words I still feel separated from the reality of them. On Tuesday night my gorgeous cat Minou unexpectedly died. I found her in the kitchen on Wednesday morning, after I’d had a shower and was busying myself getting ready to start my 2nd day in my new job. I remember looking at her in the dark and thinking to myself that it was odd she was laid like that – on her side and beneath the fridge – and wondered whether perhaps she was lying next to it to stay warm; she often did the same thing with the Virgin TV box and a few weeks earlier when the temperature dropped I’d thought how frustrating it would be once again be to watch telly, as once she was curled up asleep in front of it there was absolutely no way you could use the remote to change the channel!
This is the strange sequence of thoughts that raced through my mind before I turned the light on, called her name and then felt my stomach lurch as I realised why she hadn’t jumped to her feet. I can still hear myself screaming and the sound has played on repeat in my mind all week, I can hear myself calling out Mister Ruffles name – his real name – over and over again, then falling to the floor, seeing him come rushing in and trying to wake her, then grabbing my phone and typing into Google ‘how to resuscitate a cat’ but stopping at ‘how….’ as when he cradled her in his arms I could see that she was already stiff. We both howled with grief, we held each other and with accelerated speed it felt like our whole world had been turned upside down.
Minou came into our lives six years ago; I was running late as per usual to dinner with friends and as I tornadoed out the house trying to simultaneously lock the door, throw my handbag over my shoulder and get my arms through my jacket I saw a very small black and white cat at the bottom of our steps. We clocked each other and once she knew she had my full attention she flopped herself over with her tummy on show, purring as she inched her face along the floor and watched me throw off my jacket/kets/handbag to tickle and stroke her. She was so, so pretty and from that first moment we met I was besotted with her. I named her Minou.
In a little as a nutshell as my rambly writing allows the story of how she became our cat goes a little something like this… I ran inside to get to Mister Ruffles shouting “just look at how tiny and beautiful she is!” and “clearly she’s someone’s cat, she’s so tame and loving and we must reunite her with her family, probably a family with a small child who is right now crying for the cat that they’ve lost!” He shooed me away, went into the house to get a packet of ham and later that evening when I came home I found them both asleep in our bed with Minou curled up on his chest. It looked like an Athena poster I once had and this is how the three of us spent our first night together.
The next day we went to work and called the RSPCA and The Cats Protection League to find out what the process is when you find a stray cat; we were told to ‘make reasonable efforts to reunite it with its owner’ and so the next day we did just that, printing 100 posters and circumnavigating Hackney to put them up and then taking her to the vet to see if she’d been microchipped which she hadn’t. That weekend we quickly got used to having her around and after coming home to find her hind legs and bum in our plant pot relieving herself, we decided that we might as well buy her a litter tray, food bowls and a small toy mouse.
It took about five days before her ‘owners’ responded to our posters but it definitely wasn’t the heart-warming tale I’d imagined; they told us she had been a stray they had taken in a few weeks ago and they thought that she must have jumped out of a first floor window they’d forgotten they’d left open during the weekend. They had only realised she had been gone that day and looked like they could barely take care of themselves let alone an animal. She clearly didn’t want to be with them and we had to foricbly give her back after she tried to make a run for it, escaping out of the box we had transported her in with Mister Ruffles chasing after her. We went home and we cried for the beautiful cat that clearly needed rescuing, threw out the litter box and tried to forgot about Minou. Two months later on a really warm September evening she found her way back to us, jumping through our open window and into our lives. We called the vets who confirmed the kindest thing to do would be to keep her and to please come in and get her microchipped. From that day onwards she was ours and we became a family the three of us.
The past four days – and I cannot believe it’s only been that many – have been heartbreaking. For something so small Minou filled our home with her huge personality and it now feels empty. She was an enormous part of our lives and we were so instinctively attuned to her and her routine that it became habit; I’ve caught myself still walking up to our front door looking up at the window and expecting to see her sat on the dining room chair waiting for us. Even when I’ve walked through the door I’ve still opened it slowly and never fully, expecting her to be on the other side waiting for a tummy tickle – or to race through my legs and into the hallway – and my heart has ached when I’ve realised that it’s never going to happen again. Even though I know she’s no longer here my body still hasn’t quite got that message.
The constant reminders have been a curse and a blessing and this weekend Mister Ruffles and I talked them through remembering and reminding ourselves of all the lovely and completely nutty things that she did. How she could jump from the floor to your shoulder and would sit on complete strangers shoulders like she was a parrot and you a pirate, how she loved sunbathing on the bed and that if you stroked her when she wasn’t expecting it she would chirrup her shock at you, we remembered how she always knew when he was coming home sometimes even up to an hour beforehand and how if there was ever a Feline Olympics she would have fucking aced volleyball. We smiled when we thought of her stretched out on his legs when they were resting on the coffee table whilst we watched TV and how she would curl up small and content in the space in his arm when he sleeps, how she loved getting into carrier bags, the laundry basket and cardboard boxes and how ungraceful she was when she jumped. I cried when I explained how I used to get so annoyed with her for kicking her litter all over the house – calling them her ‘dirty rocks’ – but that yesterday evening when I got one stuck between my toes my whole being had hurt.
Both of us by nature are quite practical people and so after we’d taken her to the vets, arranged her cremation and sobbed our goodbyes we came home and decided to throw away anything that we now wouldn’t need. We threw away the food that she hadn’t quite finished eating, the litter in her litter tray, the cardboard cat teepee that she had once loved, we hoovered away her ‘dirty rocks’ and we cleaned the floor where she’d lay. Of course we tenderly put away some of her things that we will never get rid of; her food bowl, one of her toys and her collar – the same collar that had saved her life two years prior – but for some reason, we haven’t got rid of her litter tray. I’m not sure why, in a way it feels like the final goodbye and I don’t think we are quite ready for that just yet.
Minou was an amazing cat, the prettiest cat I have ever seen and she was a member of our family – the family Mister Ruffles and I created together – and yes she wasn’t an actual person but she is ingrained in everything that has happened to us these past six years and she always will be and I miss her so very, very much.