This morning, we had to put our cat down. Belisma, my beautiful, insane, grumpy 13 year old cat.
Fred and I got her in our first year of marriage, shortly after moving into a rented accommodation that allowed us to have a pet. From the start she was a little insane, and always a highly vocal, highly strung madam. She would complain very loudly if you shut a door between you and her, she would sit on you at every single possible opportunity (for example, while doing bench presses) and generally did everything she could to make sure you could not ignore her.
That was a trend she did throughout her life.
When our first child was born, as we had a home birth, we had to shut Bell away in our bedroom out of the way. She did not like that one little bit. She was even less impressed when we released her and she discovered another small, loud creature and invaded her home. That caused her a little bit of a nervous breakdown.
But she continued to make her presence known. She was particularly adept at choosing the most inconvenient places possible to be – from trying to claim the top of the hat rack as her home, hanging off the banister or out of the kitchen window, the top of the compost bin, the centre of the hall gangway and the stairs, her aim always seemed to be to be in the way and claim that place as her exclusive own.
She also considered anything left out in the kitchen as hers. Dog food, the remains of the children’s cereal, the remains of chicken soup from the pan, these are all fairly common affairs. But her claim over food tended to extend far beyond what I would expect from a cat. In one memorable occasion, she consumed most of a block of tofu that my partner had been carefully pressing and marinading.
Obviously, alongside hating babies, she also hated other animals. When Marlyebone came to stay, a vulnerable kitten missing her mother, the kitten refused to come out for anyone or anything until, one morning, she heard Bell come wonging into the kitchen in which she was hiding. Marlye was delighted and mewed, clearly hoping for an older cat’s companionship. Bell’s reply was the same one she would give Marlye, the dog (whom she was never afraid of), any dentist her entire life, she hissed. The two cats were never able to get along, despite Marlye’s best efforts. The main advantage that Bell found the second cat in the household is that suddenly we seemed to be presenting her with two bowls of food at every meal. Her possession of both bowls and her resentment at Marlye’s apparent claim to one of them would, again, continue for the rest of her life.
My poor old Bell, as she entered her later years, struggled in a number of ways. Long haired, she always struggled to groom herself and was distinctly averse to being groomed by us. We investigated professional cat groomers and indeed the vet, and were told that, due to her temper, they would only do so under sedation. So the job was left to us. The poor thing had lost a couple of teeth in a fight at one point and this added to her difficulties with grooming.
To the last, however, she continued to be herself. She would cry very loudly whenever anyone came close to where her food was delivered – as her food was provided in the utility room by the front door, this essentially meant she would complain vocally the moment you got home. Our next door neighbours toddler started asking after her and imitating her cry with delight. Bell’s singing was renown.
Her health really started to decline over the last few months: arthritis, kidney failure and a tumour on the face tore into her and eventually it became clear the kindest thing to do was to let her go.
I spent one final night’s vigil with her last night. We stayed up watching Doctor Who: Survival and she slept on my chest most of the night, purring her delightfully loud and contented purrs.
I will miss her a great deal, for all the nuisance she perpetually was, she was a real diva, a loud, bad tempered madam her whole life. I doubt I will meet the like of her again.