If your are not a cat-lover then don’t bother to read any further.
In recent days my facebook pages have been filled with friends mourning the death of their favourite felines. We are not talking about maiden aunts or reclusive authors. We are talking about tough men who are on projects in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border retraining ex-Taliban chiefs in correct mineral extraction. We are talking about young revolutionary Marxists who have visions of more equable societies. We are also talking about people, rather older, but still young in spirit who having braved the rigours of WWII and quite unsentimental about their academic work have suddenly found themselves without their cat.
We all have to die – to go we know not where, to lie in cold obstruction and to rot – as our greatest playwright and poet once put it, and somehow the death of a favourite animal brings this all the closer to us.
What is extraordinary about all this is that animals know, far better than we can ever know when their allotted span on this earth is over. In the case of the older person the cat paid one last midnight call to him – the changed hue of his fur and the strange look of his eyes – was a wordless message to say that this would be the last time the two would meet, at least upon this planet.
I don’t quite know what I would do if my favourite Napoleone disappeared. It’s another big bridge I’ll have to cross some time, I suppose.
All those friends whose experiences have been recorded in letters or in facebook just this one year have thoughts linger on those places favourite to their felines where they would have a cat-nap, on the way they would perform individual welcoming “ballets” when their “owner” returned home, on their particular expression, on everything else a cat does so much better than a human – indeed on that supernatural bond of affection and empathy which humans have for too long forgotten between themselves.
Even the dead mouse presented to me by Napoleone this morning was a special token of this love. OK, the mouse was gone but it had gone in a dignified way, knowing my cat – been given at least a little chance to recover its life which now had joined those of all the other mice and those of all the other cats who have treasured our company in the same way that we have treasured theirs. May they have God’s light shine upon them and may their love influence our love towards all animals and sentient beings!