I like cats.
Carla was the first and last of our once magnificent pride. We first met just under fifteen years ago, in June 1999, at the RSPCA in Southport when they were about a year old – at first we thought there was just one massive boy cat in the cage but then a second nose and pair of eyes appeared, and there was Carla. We didn’t want just one boy cat but when Carla appeared, the deal was done: we fell in love and took them home about two hours later.
As soon as we let them out of the box, timid little Carla dived behind our big desk and didn’t re-emerge for about four hours, until nature called: she crept out and did a wee in the blanket I’d put out to be their bed. A few minutes later, when I’d pointed her in the direction of the actual litter tray, she did a poo and I had my first “these are my cats” moment when I realised that no one else was going to clean it up: I’d had cats all my life but that was the first moment I became a kitty mum.
I remember her gaining confidence when she realised she was safe and loved. I remember her being a little pesk, wanting cuddles when we wanted sleep, and after we’d wedged our bedroom door shut with a bath towel, she painstakingly pulled the towel under the door an inch at a time. I remember her tootling up and down the ramp to our flat’s window (ground floor but 8ft off the ground). I remember her climbing a tree like a koala bear. I remember her love of cooked heart.
I remember her Barry White meows for the journey from Liverpool to Leeds. I remember our first night in the new house, with her and her brother Carbs chatting on the window sill. I remember nearly losing her about a week later, when she went missing for a whole day (very unCarla like) and how fast she ran to me when she found her way home again. I remember going to work, leaving her under the duvet, and returning home to find her in the exact same place. I remember her returning from an outside potter with a small leaf stuck to her head and declaring it to be a gift, “the leaf of friendship” (I still have it). I remember when she used to sleep on the little plastic greenhouse in the sun until the roof sagged and tore
under her hefty girth for no related reason, it’s just an unflattering picture, ok?
I remember going to sleep with her nearly every night. I remember her tubby belly wobbling as she pottered around the garden and street – that almost trot that we called “minkling” (which, beautifully, Tilda does now). I remember her curling into me whenever I was sat on the sofa. I remember her having a .. well, characteristic certain aroma at a certain part of her body which we dubbed “LaLa bum smell” and I remember her accidentally expressing her infected anal glands into my face. TWICE. I remember her demanding cuddles when I was on my laptop of an evening: she would literally grab my wrist and put my hand on her head. I remember her sleeping on the bins in the sun. I remember the time we accidentally got her stoned on valerian (we didn’t know it affected cats; she didn’t even eat any of it, just smelled some dry leaves) and all the different times she ripped things open to get at cat nip inside. I remember when we realised she didn’t have a bald tummy any more: that she had conquered whatever was making her anxious and oh my, it was so furry. I remember how she loved traveling around on my back or my shoulder, my lovely parrot cat. I remember her always doing a little stretchy thing with her back legs.
I remember her meowing like Barry White again when we moved from Leeds to Bradford (a thankfully much shorter move than the last one). I remember worrying I’d lost her the day we moved in. I remember her exploring the house and the garden for the first time. I remember her finding a voles’ nest and bringing us presents every day for about a week (the extent of her lifetime’s hunting). I remember her chewing prawn crackers. I remember telling her, and John, that she would make a cracking pair of mittens – so warm! so soft! I remember her sitting with me at my desk while I worked. I remember her discovering wood burning stoves. I remember her sunbathing on the wood store and on the chair on the balcony – and am glad that she got to do that one last time on Tuesday.
I remember her love of the little cat cardboard cat house we have in the living room. I remember her exploring the woods with me and Lily, sitting amongst the wild garlic near the beck and at the top of Wood Hill. I remember her playing a practical joke on me. I remember her discovering, in her later life, the wonder of fish’n’chips fish – even in her last weeks, she came to steal some from us. I remember her magnificent fluffy tail. I remember her slowly becoming such a friendly and happy little cat, welcoming big clumsy dogs and new whippersnappers into her home, and happily sitting on whoever would have her (human or animal). I remember how she would talk to me – chirping hello every time she saw me, even up to her last days by which point she’d been deaf for years. I remember her loud meows when she couldn’t volume adjust any more. I remember how loudly she would purr when I stroked her, even at the end.
La, you really were the best.
The cat sits on the window sill, gazing longingly at the sunny garden.
“Sighhhhhhhhh,” she exhales, “I’d give anything to be out there. Catching things, in the sun. Oh, if only, if only!”
“You could just walk out of the door, the open one, about two foot from where you’re sat.”