What greater gift than the love of a cat? – Charles Dickens
Disclosure: I am a cat person. Some might refer to me as a crazy cat lady. So be it. I have always had at least one cat in my life and the stories around the acquisition of cats in my life since being married are quite hilarious, to me anyway if not my husband. In summary – ” My wife wanted to get a cat. I didn’t so we compromised and got a cat.”
About a year before my mother died, my daughter and I were in the process of colluding to get a kitten. Not just any kitten but a kitten whose mother was a Ragdoll and father a Birman. Possibly the most beautiful cats I had ever seen. The deal was done; but the breeder had one more kitten left to sell, so I convinced my parents (who were also cat people but were without one since retirement) to let me buy him for them. I was prepared for all objections.
So two little kittens came home with us for 24 hours before Mum and Dad took possession of one the following day. Or rather the kitten took possession of them and their hearts. Their names are George (ours) and Oscar.
What a good decision that turned out to be (in many ways). Oscar soon became the light of their lives, and whenever I called or called in, I would get a blow-by-blow description of what Oscar had been up to. He was like a new child, and treated as such. A spoiled child.
When Mum died, Oscar became even more important – he was Dad’s sole companion. It is now well recognised the impact pets have on humans, but particularly the elderly. Decreased blood pressure, decreased depression and stress, increased communication and motivation. Personally I’m not sure it has that much to do with the pets themselves, but the company and activity they provide. I have seen nursing homes with chooks who become very attached to the residents. Then there is the nursing home with a resident cat who seems to know when someone is about to die and settles on their bed. Not so keen on the Grim Cat Reaper to be honest.
But back to Oscar. I now get even more detail about Oscar and his day – what time he went to bed, what time he demanded food in the middle of the night, how much he ate for breakfast, how many lizards he ate and then threw up, and his preference for organic chicken breast rather than regular chicken breast.
It became abundantly clear exactly how much Oscar means to Dad in the early hours of one morning. I had a call at 4am – Oscar was very distressed and panting heavily. My first thought was snake bite so I threw on a dressing gown, grabbed the cat basket, drove to Dad’s place, caught Oscar and off we went to the 24 hour vet (or Vee Eee Tee, as we refer to them in the pets’ hearing), which was a 25 minute drive away, silently praying to every deity that he keep breathing.
The vet found a large engorged tick on Oscar’s back and he had to stay in for 24 hours for treatment and observation, as the poison could still cause more damage. Dad reached out to hold the vet’s hand and said ‘please don’t let him die; since my wife died, he’s all I’ve got’.
So I’m standing there, bare feet, pyjamas and gown, holding the car keys, feeling like the third wheel, but feeling a bit weepy at hearing this vulnerability from Dear Old Dad. But I get it – Oscar had become someone Dad could look after and talk to. I saw him once a day, whereas Oscar was the permanent resident and listener to Dad’s stories, and sharer of his thoughts.
We drove home just as the sun was coming up and shared a cup of tea before I returned to my own home. His farewell hug was a little bit tighter, and his ‘thank you’ a little bit more intense that morning.
Oscar resumed normal programming shortly after losing one of his nine lives.