Yesterday, I took Mr. Whiskers, our nearly-16-year-old moggie, to the vet, to be put down. It was a sad but serene occasion: he was ready to go, and when the moment came he just stretched out and relaxed, just the way he used to in the sunshine.
People who knew Mr Whiskers in his London years will remember an unpredictable, occasionally aggressive, cat who walked by himself on his three legs. Those who encountered him over the last 19 months since we moved to Northumberland have known a friendly, chatty cat who was always looking for a lap to sit on and someone to scratch behind his ears.
Goodbye, Mr. Whiskers, and thank you. I’m glad we found a place where you were happy.
Here’s the story of Mr Whiskers, first published here in June last year. That place where he’s lying in the sun in the photos is the spot where we have buried him.
Bah! revisited: Cancer Free Friday: the adventures of Mr. Whiskers
Walking through the garden on the way to take Joy to school this morning, I said, ‘I need to think of something to write about for Cancer Free Friday today.’
By the gate, our 14 year old 3-legged moggie, Mr Whiskers, was getting in a bit of early morning sunbathing.
Joy said, ‘You should write about Mr. Whiskers’.
‘Yes,” I said, ‘I should’.
Mr. Whiskers was bought as a kitten by Jason (Ned and Joy’s Dad) and I, when Ned was 2, Joy was a baby, and we lived in an upstairs flat that had regular mouse visitors. So Whiskers was a creature of necessity: mousetraps/poison and toddlers didn’t seem like a brilliant combination, so we hoped that the smell of a cat might keep them away.
Ned chose Mr Whiskers from a cardboard box full of mewling infants, and we brought him home. He was everything a kitten should be: cute, sweet and an excellent mouse deterrent. We did worry about him – he once escaped and was found in the leather factory down the road, and he did seem quite reckless where traffic was concerned. He wasn’t very old when he was hit by a car and his leg broken.
The vet fixed it. A metal kneecap and an eye-watering bill were involved. We got Mr Whiskers insured. Mr Whiskers was very cross while his leg healed, then he got better, then he climbed a tree, and fell out of it, and damaged his bad leg again. Jason drove him to Welwyn Garden City where a cat leg specialist took a look.
That afternoon, Jason was back at work, Ned and I were playing with trains, Joy was sleeping, and the phone rang. It was the vet. He had Whiskers on the operating table and the leg was unsalvageable. What did he want us to do? Did we let Whiskers go, or should he amputate? I asked his advice: would it be cruel to amputate? “Cats are basically a 3 legged animal with a spare,” the vet said, “He’ll be fine.”
I put down the phone and did the tricky bit.
Me: Ned, that was the special vet that Daddy took Mr Whiskers to, and he’s going to make Mr Whiskers better by taking his leg off.
Ned: (after a pause for thought) How will the vet take Mr Whiskers’ leg off?
Me: Well, he’ll make him go to sleep, and he’ll make sure he’s having a really nice dream, and the he’ll… unscrew…. the leg that’s making Mr Whiskers unhappy.
Ned: How will he unscrew it?
Me: Um…. with a special unscrewing saw.
Ned didn’t look completely convinced, and was upset at the thought of Whiskers losing a leg.
So then we went to Waterstone’s in Wimbledon and found, and bought, a book called ‘The Three Legged Cat’, about a cat whose three legs don’t stop him from having a wonderfully exciting and happy life, and Ned and I read it and read it and read it again, all through Mr Whiskers’ recovery. (I often think that my need for that book, right then, somehow willed it into existence.)
Mr. Whiskers’ recovery was swift and full, apart from the missing leg and the newly acquired, and totally understandable, short fuse. He and Ned still have a special bond.
He gets by brilliantly on his three legs, and none of us who watched his string of disasters 12 years ago would have believed that he would still be here, basking in the sun, today.
It just goes to show.
Enjoy your Friday. Mr. Whiskers is.