My support worker and I were outside our local Asda when we noticed a cat carrier box, as we are both cat lovers we went to have a look and what was inside? A tiny 10 week old kitten who’d just according to the owner who was with it had just had its first injection. Immediately we started talking about our cats when they were kittens. In my mum’s book “Tilly” cats are featured, mainly Gilbert who my parents had before me and my brother where even born. Gilbert died when I was 11 years old and I was devastated, however, he was soon followed by Flo who had a completely different personality. Flo died 20 years ago and I still miss her.
So my first experience of pet ownership was rather accidental as was the fact that my parents had a cat at all, they are not natural pet owners. But once we got passed the tail pulling and general mauling of Gilbert when I was small, Gilbert soon became my best friend. Once Gilbert sat on you, you knew you were sat on. He was a big tom cat, all black but still in my eyes adorable. Gilbert was a bit of a wimp and was rather bullied by other cats. He very much did his own thing, going out a bit then spending the day asleep. He enjoyed being stroked and had a quiet purr, he also “padded” before he sat down. This drove my aunt who is a lot younger than my mum to the edge of madness. He would do a good five minutes before he could settle. He was also the subject of many of my early art works and well reported on in my “what I did at the weekend” book on a Monday morning. Gilbert was my first experience of that kind of unconditional love but was also my first major death. I could cry for Gilbert many years after he had gone. He was a very important part of my life and very wise. I used to tell him everything and he would make me feel better.
Flo on the other hand was in many ways what Gilbert was not. She meowed and purred loudly, making her presence known. She was small and all white and was bossy. If we visited a friend in the street Flo would follow and meow outside their house to be let in, even if they had a dog. We had to hide when we went out to outwit her. She hated not to be where the action was and would throw herself against any closed door demanding to be let in.Unlike Gilbert she was friendly with other cats and enjoyed nothing more than sitting with her friends on a garden wall. But Flo was highly strung. She would “nuzzle” into your armpit as if getting milk and in later life developed an OCD thing which left her bald on her stomach through constant licking. I think it must have been hard for Flo. We got her just as my problems started to be serious rather than just “well that’s interesting”. She witnessed it all and even saw me self harm which must have been destressing for her. Flo only lived to 12 as opposed to Gilbert’s 15. In some ways she was a damaged cat from the start taken from her mother too young, nearly dying of cat flu but how I loved her. She again was my best friend like Gilbert but was so entertaining and loveable.
Having these two pets enriched my life in so many ways. They say pets help with many different illnesses and disabilities and I would definitely agree. Ok I haven’t had a pet now for twenty year but it’s not for want of trying on my part. We’ve moved around and my flat now doesn’t allow pets, not that I think I’m capable of looking after one. I do have a carer from the NAS who tells me about her cat which I love hearing about. So maybe I just have to remember Gilbert and Flo and cling to their memories – the happy times, the snuggling times. Maybe they will always be the only ones who ever understood.