They say that families don’t own cats, that they are just their servants. Some people even add that we don’t adopt cats, they choose us. Well! In the case of our cat both of the above observations are definitely true.
We first met Squeaky, strange name but that is what she came to be called, when she was just a small kitten. She had taken up residence in the storm water drain on the road at the front of our house. A number of the surrounding families had tried to coax her out with offers of food and a home. She resolutely refused all their approaches until our children approached. They had no food to offer and had certainly not spoken to my wife or myself about a home. When my daughter, who was in the lead, with the two boys, (not as inquisitive as her), trailing behind the cat rushed out of its hiding place and rubbing itself around her legs began to purr loudly. She picked it up and it nestled into her arms and promptly went to sleep.
Later that afternoon there was quite a division in our household; my daughter and my wife voting to keep the cat, our two sons voting no and myself sitting on the fence. Meanwhile the cat had been locked in our laundry with a freshly bought tray of kitty litter, a bowel of milk and a plate of cat food. After a long, unproductive, discussion it was decided to bring the cat into the kitchen where we were gathered. This idea was put forward by my daughter as she believed that we were discussing the future of the cat and therefore it should be present.
Well! You would not believe what happened next. Placed on the by now cleared kitchen table top the cat made a bee line for the two boys who after each giving it a pat and a cuddle changed their votes to yes. That left just me who was still unsure about the idea of having a pet around the house. As usual in our family with a vote of four to one, with me being the one (no reference to any TV reality shows) it was not deemed necessary to further canvas my opinion. I was left sitting at the table, rather bemused at what had happened during the afternoon, while the others rushed about with the cat and a multitude of ideas as to how to make the animal feel more at home.
Well the days and then weeks passed and the cat had definitely adopted us as her servants. I suppose I should, from now on, call her by her name, Squeaky. As I said before a strange name for a cat, but one that eminently suited her as when she was excited her meow turned into a high pitched squeak. My wife had early on decided that she could not just be referred to as “The Cat” and had started to refer to her as Squeaky. The name was adopted by the rest of the family but as a protest, probably childish and futile; I still referred to her as the cat. The cat. Oh. Ok Squeaky was showered with presents; a cat bed, a coat for the cold weather, her very own little door in the bottom of the laundry door and even a little soft stuffed toy cat so she would not feel lonely. The toys! Yes toys for cats. In no time at all the floor of the laundry and the rumpus room, read those as Squeaky’s bedroom and lounge room were a health hazard. They were strewn with all manner of things for her to chase, chew on or scratch.
Squeaky and I developed a healthy respect for each other that did not involve any close contact. I never patted her and she flatly refused to sit on my lap in front of the television. There was however the occasional outbreak of hostilities such as the time I woke in the middle of the night to find her asleep on our bed. I yelled, she ran and my wife yelled – at me. I refused to allow any more nocturnal visits and there were a few days of frosty looks from both my wife and the cat. As usual, in these circumstances, I retreated to the garage or the garden shed. Needless to say the cat won in the end, but as a small gesture of defiance I would not let her sleep on my side of the bed.
Over the years we moved house and city a few times and Squeaky always went with us. She inspected every new house as if its acceptance by us depended on her approval. She would always decide where she wanted her bed and her toys placed.
After a number of years we moved back to Sydney and much to the disgust of my family I developed an allergy to cat fur. I could not even sit on a lounge or chair where Squeaky had been without developing very itch, watery eyes. The only relief was to wash my face thoroughly with cold water. It took a few weeks for me to work out that it was Squeaky’s fur that was causing the problem. The family, of course, had different ideas. My daughter thought that I was just tired and rubbing them too much, my wife that it was hay fever and my oldest son just told me, “To toughen up.” We went away down the coast for a week’s holiday, children stayed at home to house and cat sit, and the problem with my eyes immediately went away. I had proved my point.
There was no way that Squeaky was leaving so we had to work out a compromise. She became an outside cat, banished from the house. This still did not stop her from occasionally trying to sneak inside. She came to know that I could not be won over and all I had to do was confront her and point out the door and she would turn tail and run outside.
A few more years went by under this new arrangement. Our family grew up and my two sons now lived with us with their partners. Squeaky was visibly getting older and slowing down. My wife and I went overseas for a few months leaving our extended family to house sit, mow the lawns (yeah right!), Look after the swimming pool, (new pump required on our return), water the plants (not the inside ones every day; flooded soggy carpet), mind Squeaky. This last simple task turned ugly. You might well ask how? We certainly did on our return. Squeaky had got very sick and the vet offered only two alternatives; expensive cure or euthanasia. The house sitters were divided evenly with one son and partner opting for cure and the other two for euthanasia. A rather acrimonious discussion continued for days. Neither of the parties thought to call us for a decision. Eventually the cure camp won out with the other side washing their hands of the whole thing. So! Result. We arrived home to an elderly still quite sick cat and a horrendous vet bill. Apparently Squeaky had spent a week in cat hospital on a trip. I must admit it brought a smile to my face imagining her lying back on a hospital bed with a number of nurses to order about.
Squeaky never fully recovered and eighteen months later my wife had to make the sad journey to the vet to have her put to sleep. She could not eat properly and was becoming weaker by the day. By then it was only my wife and I in the house so we decided to not tell the children until it was over.
Over the years I had grown so accustomed to having her around that I found myself missing her presence rather badly. Sometimes working out in the back yard I was sure that I had seen her out of the corner of my eye walking purposely towards the back door as if to challenge my authority one last time.
Rest in peace Squeaky you were an integral much loved part of our family.