In the dim and distant past when I first had a job, I used to get a lift to work with a friend.  In return I would look after their family animals while they were away on holiday.  This meant feeding and mucking out three or four rabbits and four guinea pigs which lived in a huge wooden hutch in the garden. He would ruefully remark to me at times that he wished the animals he had bought to teach the children about life and death would actually oblige. They must have had the longest living rabbits and guinea pigs I have known.

Fast forward thirty five years and the cats of my lap in the Alentejo shed are giving me a prime example.

First the hellos.

Torrega has had her kittens; three were too weak to survive longer than about 36 hours.  Two have made it thus far, a little ginger tom who we are calling Mr B until the real life Mr B comes to name him and a Tortoiseshell female who will be called “little witch” or Bruxinha in Portuguese and who has been claimed by our neighbour “M.”

Black Momma has also had her kitten — we could only find one — a little grey Tom called Nimbus.  They are currently in an impossible place to photograph.

Mr P did manage to get Nimbus out to check on him and make sure he is OK — so I took a quick photo.

Now the goodbye.

Fleabag, who has been a fighter all his life, lost what was to be his final battle in the early hours of yesterday morning.  We had found him listless and unresponsive the previous day and rushed him to the vet. The vet was superb; they saw us straight away despite it being lunchtime.  He was given a thorough check over and the first indications were that he had been poisoned. He was given injections to protect and support his liver and kidneys and a heavy-duty broad spectrum antibiotic.

At this stage his heartbeat was strong, and we were told we could take him home so long as we fed him special fluids and liquid food every two hours AND reported any changes in his condition and checked and reported his bodily functions. There was one indicator that gave her real cause for concern, one of his pupils; the one in the right eye was not reacting to bright light.

So we brought him home wrapped him up warm and started the two hourly rota of liquids.  At first, he appeared to be responding well.  We got little purrs whilst feeding him with the syringe and his feet were paddling our tummies and legs like he always used to do when he was settling down for a cuddle.

We found out his bladder was still fully functional and promptly rang the vet — no there is no blood, it’s a bit strong, but with all the medications that was to be expected. At her suggestion, we fed him the last time around 2.00 am before going to bed – he took his water fine but could not swallow the liquid food.  He changed position after we laid him down into leaping position — or take-off, launch position, rather than curled up in a ball — I think even then he was reaching for the stars. Sometime in the early hours he reached his final destination.

Yesterday, we buried him under his favourite orange tree, wrapped in his best blanket with his special toys.

There is a huge hole in my heart; there is an empty space in the house, Infinity is confused because she can no longer find him and Shadow stood on guard by his graveside for hours.

My bedroom windowsill is empty.

My one consolation is that we did everything we could, and that he did not suffer in any way.

R.I.P Fleabag — Happy Hunting.

21 Comments

  1. What an emotional ride, Nicola! From midwife to coroner all in the span of just a few days. I’m so happy for you and so sad for you at the same time. I cried when we came to the demise of Fleabag.

    He was such a special cat for you — lost for a long time — and then returned to you in full only to be taken away again.

    The lesson of life is that there is always undeniable cruelty — and the challenge is overcoming our deep grief to press forward.

  2. It has been rather a rollercoaster to say the least. There have been a lot of tears for Fleabag and no doubt there will be more as people he has touched in his short life hear the news. Life can indeed be cruel and the more you care the crueller it can be. Time and perspective help – at the moment I need distraction as he was so much part of my routine.

    1. That’s excellent advice. “The more you care, the crueler it can be.” And so what choice are we left with? To care less? To create distance from who and what we are supposed to be?

      No!

      We must live and love exposed and we must challenge those who wish to remain disconnected because, in the end, it is the distance between us that will end us.

      We are bound to each other through thoughtful caring and love and loss and grief are the price we pay for that tether.

  3. Spot on … to live a life without care, love, would be my personal hell. To experience joy we have to experience loss and heartache – there is no light without darkness and to experience and get meaning from life we need to experience the whole spectrum of emotion and experience.

    1. Right! So funny that us INTJ-ers are such “feelers,” eh? We are so totally misunderstood and disregarded.SMILE! We are not unfeeling or disconnected — it’s all how we view and interpret the world around us.

      I love the “circle of cats” image as the introduction to your Circle of Life article!

      Do you mind sharing what you told me in email when I asked about the other cats mourning. Some seemed to know he was gone while others were still looking for him.

  4. yes we do feel but the clue is that we rationalise those feelings and usually direct them into something else and not wallow in them.

    The circle of cats was pertinent to this , I have others that I could and probably will use at another time.

    Not at all . His stepbrother and partner in crime – and similarly marked – Shadow stood watch over his grave side ………. he is of the same bloodline – I suspect that both parents are the same given the similar markings. He appears to understand the loss of his blood brother.

    Little Infinity who used to play with fleabag a lot and hassle him – as in I am going to share this box with you – is looking for him everywhere. Every time the door opens she looks up and has been looking in all the boxes and in his favorite hiding places for him. She is not of his bloodline – to her he has just vanished and she is bemused.

    The two mums are busy with their little ones – no real reaction from them. Pepper is awaiting the arrival of her little ones and has taken up residence on the sofa, Salt is now the favoured playmate of Infinity – he is not too sure what to make of that !

    1. Thanks for sharing the genetic markers of mourning, Nicola! It’s fascinating that Infinity is searching for Fleabag, but the others who know what happened, won’t tell her he’s dead — or are they unable to tell her?

  5. I am not sure it is will not – I suspect it is cannot and I think it is because Infinity is the new one pf the pack and there are no bloodline ties. She is much more of a house cat than the others are so there is a genetic and a social difference.

  6. Good suggestion – that might be worth a shot – he is a good four foot down and is surrounded by herbs and flowers and the top of the grave is covered by orange blossom after the winds last night. I have no knowledge of any odours and how they would travel.

  7. Such a sad loss and a beautiful story. I am a true cat lover I find them to be so intelligent, resourceful loving and SOCIAL. Too often I hear people describe cats as cold and standoffish but you and I both know this is not true. They are highly social and very in touch with their kind and their humans. You and Infinity will be a good comfort to each other during this time.

  8. Thank you Marie,

    They are certainly social both with their own kind and with humans ………….. I find myself like David Attenborough at times when observing them. Infinity has been very affectionate this morning and she came and curled up on our bed last night – something she has not done a lot of in the past,

  9. Nicola- poor Fleabag. what loyal friends you were to each other. This poisoning thing is so strange to me. My friend whose brother and sister in law live in Portugal, and she spends several months a year there, has had a number of their dogs poisoned. They are out in the country (are you?) What is that about? What an awful thing to do and what a dreadful way to die. Thank you for trying…. Hope the new babies do ok….

  10. Nancy ………. I have just done a follow up article on the dangers to cats – and dogs in rural Portugal

    We are out in the country – we have natural predators to deal with as well ……. however the biggest poison dangers are water polluted by engine oil, diesel. or petrol – eating pisoned rats and mice – and chasing /touching/catching poisous frogs and toads.

    Just done my check on the little ones they are all thriving …………… growing quickly.