Winter is often a challenging time for this contentment seeker. Greyness and coldness and long hours of darkness don’t always sit easily with my need for sun and light and balmy air. But this year something is different, I feel a mellowness, a silent waiting, a sense of gratitude for being allowed to love. I feel these things and they are mixed with a certain irritability and impatience – caused entirely by watching my dear old kitty age and slow down and show signs of incipient dementia. I was concerned – I looked it up – it’s a thing.
Orlando wearing his hat for a special Skype meeting in 2014
Orlando has always been a cat who has excellent message collecting skills. But, being Maine Coon, he also glories in being one of those special creatures ‘the dog of the cat world’. He comes when whistled. He used to like going for little walks with me BP (Before Puppy). He loves water and the seaside. When I lived by the sea he would often be seen trotting along the sand at low tide, coming home smelling of salt and seaweed. All my early attempts to have him be an inside cat were completely ignored by him and after a few months I gave up trying. He would usually be home and indoors with me when I was home and indoors.
Nowhere is sacred – tables are for getting closer to his favourite person
Orlando hasn’t had a cat door for some time. Not since his inclination to catch rats and bring them home and set them free became an issue for me. In these later years he would knock at the door, I would open it and he would enter.
Last summer things began to change. He stopped knocking. So I would open the door to see if he was there and wanted to come in. Any or all of the following messages could be the result of multiple door openings:
‘I wanted to come inside, but you opened the door too fast, now I can’t come in’
‘I want to come inside, but the puppy looked at me, I can’t come in when he looks at me’
‘I can’t come in right now, I’m thinking’
‘I wanted to come inside, but you opened the door too slowly, I can’t possibly come in’
‘I want to come inside, but I’m not sure – what have you got hiding in there? No, I can’t possibly come inside now’
‘Why did you open that door? You disturbed me. I’m thinking, I can’t possibly move!’
‘I WANT to come inside – but is it safe? Yes? Maybe? No, it’s not safe. I can’t possibly come inside when there’s a shadow somewhere’
‘I want to come inside! About time! What’s for dinner, I’m soooo hungry mumma!’
‘I can’t possibly eat that!’
‘I have to go outside’
‘No, I want to stay inside now. No, maybe I want to go out …. I don’t know – I’ll think about it’
‘I have to go outside NOW’
Of course I always knew that my lovely orange marmalade boy would have a shortish stay with me, all of us who share our lives with pets know it is not forever – but heck time flies past so quickly! Orlando is approaching 12 years old, which puts him up there, in the upper average life span of a Maine Coon cat which is 10 – 12 years. I was hoping he would make it with the 25% of MC cats to really old age, which is 16 and possibly even beyond – but this in-out thing is stretching my patience somewhat and I sometimes find myself wondering if he will last past tomorrow!
Stretching my patience but also making me very aware that our time is limited. Every moment counts in an animals life – after all, one of our years is equal to seven of theirs. I look at him and feel that little rush of affection for all his catlike foibles and recognise how they mirror my own. I’m more ‘cat’ than I like to admit! But still, I feel concern at this change of ‘in-out’ behaviour.
He’s still a lovely boy, a liquid ripple of orange-blonde fur, a magnificent tail often coated in leaves gathered from the garden and a wide variety of vocalisations that include hurrunphing, gurgling, chirruping and purring at different volumes and speeds.
He is a boy who adores his mumma and loathes when the house has other people come in and look at him and disturb his peace. He has learned over the years to ‘quite like’ or even ‘become rather fond of’ some regular visitors and even, reluctantly, a puppy who moved in to profoundly upset his kingdom three years ago. At that time he was forced to live on top of the fridge for a whole year as being at ground level meant being at eye level with an extremely enthusiastic black and white fluff ball that just wanted to play. But time and familiarity and a great deal of coaxing persuaded him down and into the happy orbit of his new best friend.
Orlando, a person he is quite fond of and his puppy friend. Photo taken last summer
He’s a boy who waits for the sound of the car returning and then he trots through the front garden, gathering more leaves on his tail, moving with that liquid flow that so identifies him to me, calling out as he approaches. The puppy tumbles out of the car and rushes up to say ‘Hullo!’ but the cat ignores him, his eyes fixed on me, waiting.
He’s waiting for me to organise myself. I cram as much as I can under one arm for both hands are now required. I walk to the edge of the garden and hold out my arms, as you would to a small child. Orlando sits up on his back legs and holds his forepaws up to me, I lift him, like a little child and I scoot him over onto my right hip and arm. He puts a paw about my neck and cuddles in, looking satisfied, harrumphing and purring. I stagger indoors under the weight of my golden cat and anything else I happen to be carrying. The puppy trots along at our heels looking up at us and smiling.
We go inside. I put down my paraphenalia and eventually coax the cat from my arms. He jumps to the floor and sits by the kitchen door.
‘I need to go outside now.’
I sigh. Then I open the door and let him do whatever he wants to do. He is my precious cat, probably my last one and I will let him do and be as he likes for whatever time we have left. The puppy bounds up and scrambles at my knees. “I’m here” he seems to be saying “I’ll stay with you til kitty comes back.”
Orlando waiting for Santa Christmas 2015
I hope kitty keeps coming back for a while longer!
Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did.