This is Fifi. She was the best cat in the world until yesterday, when she died at the age of fifteen.
(This post is picture-heavy, because Fifi was very beautiful.)
Being a writer, I decided to write about her. She deserves an obituary, because she was an excellent cat.
Fifi came to live with me when she was nine. Her previous family had loved her very much, but they had to move to a tiny studio flat and could no longer keep her, so home she came.
I’d been thinking about getting a cat for some time, but in quite an abstract way. And then one day I was sitting in a client’s office browsing cats on Gumtree, when I came across an ad that seemed interesting. It featured a tortoiseshell cat with a lion-like mane, sitting on some stairs staring a bit offendedly at the camera. Fifi was not a fan of having her picture taken, but I did it sometimes anyway, because she was so beautiful.
The day she came home, I sent one of my best friends this picture.
He replied “Wait… is that your cat?!” And she was.
The day I brought her home, the first thing that struck me was the purring. She purred constantly: wandering around the flat, coming to say hello to me, sleeping, eating… all the time. I wondered at first whether it was a reaction to her new surroundings, but no. The purring continued, and she was still purring when she was peacefully put to sleep yesterday afternoon.
Fifi was the most un-catlike cat I had ever met. She was also uncannily like me in many respects. For years we got ill at corresponding times: both of us would come down with a bug and spend a few days curled up in bed together, feeling sorry for ourselves and watching Star Trek.
She was impeccably well-behaved, never jumping on counter tops or walking where she wasn’t allowed. She always had an allocated chair in the living room, and she would happily return to it, spending a lot of her time asleep even when she was younger. She did sometimes decide my plans weren’t her plans and so had to be changed, though.
She never scratched the furniture, except for the ottoman which was made out of scratching post material, so that suited us both fine.
Fifi was by no means a lapcat. She didn’t enjoy being smothered with affection, which was a good thing, because I don’t enjoy doling out lashes of it either. She was very much a companionable cat rather than a cuddly cat, and I always thought of her as more of a flatmate than a pet. She’d happily sit next to me on the sofa for hours, especially if that involved being brushed (her favourite thing), and she soon came to recognise the Star Trek theme tune and came running when it played, working out that it meant I’d be sitting on the sofa for ages and probably would be up for an idle brushing session.
Being a cat, she very much knew her own mind, and would eschew the fancy cat beds I bought or made for her, instead deciding to sleep behind the curtains, under the sofa, or on one puzzling occasion, sandwiched uncomfortably between a bookcase and a chair.
We had a level of understanding that’s lacking even between most humans, each of us knowing what suited the other and when. She learned some of my expressions – it amused me when I realised that when I said “Fuck it” and closed the laptop late at night, she’d run through and jump on the bed because she knew I’d be there soon.
She taught me well, too. Each morning she’d walk me to whatever she needed – the food bowl, the water bowl, the litter tray – and stand there staring patiently at me, making sure I understood that she wanted food or water or a clean tray.
We rubbed along well together over the years, and I could not have imagined a better companion.
Fifi also had a special bond with the BFF, also known as The Best Cat Brusher, and who gave Fifi the nickname ‘Owl Cat’ due to the wide-eyed excited expression she exhibited whenever BFF+Brush were in proximity.
Although her name was Fifi (a name she had when I adopted her), I most often called her Pretty Cat, because she was. Other nicknames included Best Cat In The World, because she was that too. A friend pointed out to me one day that all cat owners think their cat is the best in the world, but then he grudgingly added that Fifi might actually own that accolade, since he isn’t generally a cat lover and yet still liked her.
A while ago she started going to the toilet all over the flat, prompting many visits to the vet to work out what might be wrong, and even a bath, after which I finally found out what her “I hate you” face looked like.
Last week, after a long conversation with a vet, another long conversation with the country’s top cat behavioural expert, and a third session with an end of life vet, I decided it was time. Fifi was obviously uncomfortable and seemed to be in pain, and she’d lost her dignity. She’d always been such a clean and dignified cat that I could only imagine the distress this was causing her. On Thursday, after cleaning up messes for half an hour, I watched her slinking off towards her box and thought, I wouldn’t want to live like that. And that was when I knew it was time.
I found a wonderful vet who specialises in end of life services, and who comes out to the house so that pets can be put to sleep in their own homes, where they are most comfortable. It was never going to be a happy time, but it went as nicely as it could possibly have gone: I held her in my arms while she was being sedated, standing by the window so she could watch the people in the park below, one of her favourite pastimes. Then I sat down with her and the next steps happened, and then she was gone. The vet’s name is Caroline, and although I hope you never need her services, if you are looking for someone to kindly, compassionately and peacefully end your pet’s life in London, I could not recommend her enough. She also talks you through everything beforehand, so if you have any questions or you’re at all unsure about your decision, she can help with that too.
I’ve had pets before, and of course that means I’ve lost pets before too. The last one was Haxa, my beautiful python, who died one night, and I was very sad when I found her. Even so, and even though I knew Fifi was special, I didn’t expect to feel as heartbroken as I did. I only just managed to keep it together long enough to let the vet out before I collapsed in a heap. I’d never completely understood how people could be so sad about their pets dying, but yesterday I realised it must have been that I’d never had a pet like Fifi, and I doubt I will again. That’s the kind of convergence of souls that can surely only happen once in a lifetime.
When I adopted her I knew I was bringing home an old cat, and that this day would probably come within a few years. At the time, I simply hoped for a few nice, quiet years together; and that was exactly what we had.