(This is a republishing of an article from January 2013)
Until very recently we had two pet cats. Then one day one of them just disappeared.
It’s interesting how a lot of people just dismiss a tale of a missing cat with a ‘It’s only a pet/cat/animal’ and I can sort of see where they are coming from. Indeed, dog people tend to hate cats and are aggressively dismissive.
However, in my little unimportant life, the cats became important. They became part of the family unit of me, my partner and, well, the two cats. They joined us from a rescue centre and had been rescued as a pair. We only really wanted ‘a’ cat, but it would have been wrong to separate them. In January 2011 we were suddenly a two cat family.
One of the cats sort of became ‘my cat’ whilst the other one was devoted to my partner. And vice versa.
So, when she (the cat) disappeared, my partner was devastated.
Now, through my long life I’ve had many pet cats and seen them grow old and die, disappear, or get ill and have to be put down. It doesn’t make our current loss any easier, but I do have experience of cat loss, and of realising my comparative immortality against their short lives.
This is not my partner’s experience. The cats were her first real pets. And she loved and enjoyed ‘her cat’, Marge.
Marge would make the process of getting up and out of bed and dressing for the day a difficult one for my partner. Demanding strokes and fuss, wrapping herself around legs, jumping up for an opportunity to do the paw padding thing, and generally just slowing down the entire process of ‘getting up’ was one of the things Marge did best with my partner. The other was appearing whenever my partner was eating and mewing for a piece, interrupting the meal time by demanding that a fuss be made of her ahead of a share of the food (actually, this used to annoy me!). There was always a constant chatter between the two, with mews and ‘ahhh’s intermingling as they interacted.
These two main rituals along with the general playing thing that cats do, embedded Marge into our, or more importantly, my partner’s life.
Then one day she disappeared.
We both saw her trot out as she had a million times before, and then that was that.
Well, we did all the usual things. We walked up and down the roads and all the usual haunts that the cats had made their own for the two years they’d been with us, even though they were mainly house cats, never out for too long. We looked for squish marks in the roads, checked bins and people’s back gardens to see if she was trapped, and we knocked on doors and we asked. We spent many many hours together and individually doing this. We were especially concerned with her surviving the sub-zero temperatures if she was just simply trapped somewhere and could be found and rescued. But nothing.
I won’t begin to compare the ‘not knowing’ agony that a parent must go through when a child goes missing, that would be crass. But, the ‘not knowing’ is probably the worst thing about the Marge disappearance.
I mean, it goes through the mind that she may still be alive. In the past I had a cat that came to me and shared a good few years after just deciding to leave where he was living and move in with me. He later decided to move next door. So, I ‘get’ the moving on thing. And of course, it’s possible that she has indeed decided to move on with other humans. It’s unlikely though, because as a pair the two cats were devoted to each other.
The reality is that she is more likely dead. Again, different scenarios go through the mind. The thought of this loving affectionate ‘innocent’ cat trapped and going through a slow death is extremely unsettling.
The most unsettling part is the ‘not knowing’. ‘Knowing’ she is dead, however it happened, gives a kind of closure. So, we don’t have closure.
I’m upset by Marge’s disappearance, but far more upset at seeing my partner trying to deal with the loss. It has hit her so very badly. Marge was a very entwined part of her life, her first real pet, her cat, and now there is emptiness and silence. My partner is so very sad, and so very upset. The ‘not knowing’ leads to repeated conversations that start with “Maybe she…” and oscillate from horrible endings to happy endings.
Meanwhile, the other cat, Butty, well she’s sleeping a lot or just walking from room to room sniffing for a scent and making their soft private calling noise. She’s always been a lot more docile than Marge, who was the ‘manic’ one, but I guess she’s also concerned about the ‘not knowing’ and that’s why she still searches.
(Republished from January 2013)