On the loss of George, my furry feline buddy

Regular readers of this blog will know that I very occasionally stray away from the cycling/active travel focus, and so it is with this posting. Sadly, yesterday (Tuesday 22 January 2019), it was time to bid farewell to George the Cat, who’s lived with me for around five years and of whom I became tremendously fond.

I’ve known George ever since I moved into my house in 2007: he was one of next door’s two cats and my garden was part of his territory. As next door started to procreate, the ambience in their house became increasingly raucous and the cats seemed to be spending more and more time outside. One of them, George, would occasionally venture inside my place and find a quiet corner in which to hunker down for a nap. Having full sympathy for his plight, I left him to it. Over time, he was spending so much time here that I bought some cat food for him as I feared he might be missing some of his meals.

George and his companion Sandy patrolling my garden path.

And so it came to the diplomatic crisis: next door accused me of trying to steal their cat and we had a massive barney. I – apparently controversially – simply advocated for what was in George’s best interests, and for a few days had to put up with a series of gruff injunctions, each contradicting the last: “George is now your responsibility, you’re in charge of everything,” to “I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to give him up, don’t feed him or let him in ever again.” This being the middle of sodding winter, all George wanted was regular food and a warm place to curl up, so that’s what I kept giving him. Eventually, my neighbour succumbed to my “best interests” entreaties, and George became my charge.

And over the time we had together, we developed a real bond. Except in deep winter, he would usually spend his days outside, pacing round his turf or asleep under his beloved bush in the front garden, and he would come running, meowing loudly, when he heard my bicycle on the little close where we live, to follow me inside for a feed, a stroke and a snooze.

Of course, almost inevitably, there is a cycling aspect to George’s story, too. When handing over his vet papers, my neighbour told me that George really hated going in the car to the vet. Indeed, the one time I tried transporting him in a mini-cab, his mewls of displeasure were almost deafening (he was a very shouty cat at the best of times). The solution seemed obvious to me: don’t transport him in cars. I thus procured a backpack-style cat carrier and would cycle him to the vet’s or the cattery, enabling him to look outside and breathe the fresh air as we went. And, although he obviously didn’t like being cooped up, he appeared significantly less miffed than when inside a motor vehicle – another feature that we shared.

George ready to head out on the bike together.

In October 2017, when George was 15, I had him at the vet’s for his jabs, and the vet noted that he was a bit skinny. Blood tests were run and it turned out that George was suffering from fairly advanced kidney disease, which is very common among older cats. I was distraught at the news, and the vet’s best prognosis of a life expectancy between a matter of weeks or a few years provided little comfort. So he was placed on a diet of prescription food and we hoped for the best. In the end, he carried on not only past that Christmas, for which my other half had commissioned a portrait of the little guy as precautionary memento, but also his 16th birthday, and Christmas 2018 as well. He really was a little trooper.

In his final years, George also developed an uneasy truce with Vulpe, the Romanian rescue dog who moved in during the summer of 2017.

However, over the past few weeks I noticed a decline in his condition. His appetite was less hearty than usual and he had grown painfully thin. This became particularly apparent last weekend, where he was eating barely one pouch of food a day as opposed to his usual four. Bearing in mind the vet’s advice that it’s better for him to be eating something rather than nothing, I bought him some cooked chicken. The first portion, on Sunday, he verily gobbled down, but by Monday evening he couldn’t even manage one slice. Still, he sat on my lap for a little while for a stroke, as was his custom of an evening, and then settled down under the bed for the night.

One of the most vocal cats you’ll ever meet.

When we woke on Tuesday, he cried out to us from under the couch in the back room. He had clearly lost the ability to move and was lying in his own urine and vomit. He also seemed very disorientated and hissed at me when I tried to stroke him. It was obvious that this was the end, and I resolved to take him to the vet’s when it opened at 9:00 a.m. However, during the course of the next hour he was overcome by a violent convulsion, which he didn’t survive.

And thus George departed his life as he lived it: on his own terms. When we took his body to the vet’s for cremation (we walked him there on the front rack of a shopping bike in the snow – so for me his last journey was also by bicycle), the nurse said that precious few animals get to die at home these days, and it is fitting that George was one of those few, spending his last moments in one of his favourite places in the house.

Sad as it is to say goodbye, I’m grateful for all the joy he gave, the companionship and affection he showed, and the opportunity to share those precious years with what anyone who ever met him would describe as “a right character”.

RIP my little mate. I miss you x

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