An Open Letter to Gordon – my cat

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Gordon – a face meant for smooching

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

Old age, our pets and our attitude

Our pets age, they get old, they slow down and get more demanding – a bit like us really.  One minute they are young and before you know it, time has flown by and at a glance they have become old; leaving us wondering just when it all happened.

I have read so many stories about owners surrendering their pets once they become senior and there are too many photos of grey faced animals with opaque aging eyes staring back at us from pound rescue photographs.

I find it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth when a pet is given up purely and only for being old and then quickly replaced by a younger pet.  What kind of message does this send out and are we really so arrogant to think that old age does not apply to us and we as humans will never get old or demanding?

This blog is dedicated to my senior cat Gordon who is stepping in to his senior years which is also bringing with it a change of personality – he has no boundaries, he is demanding, he is naughty and even chews my hair when I sleep.  Could I surrender him for these reasons and swap him for a younger cat?  Absolutely not, I love him and I love every ginger hair on his head and I love the old cat he has become.

This story details how I see Gordon, his behaviour, his appearance and how it is all too easy to assume that he will always be around.  I have written this to him as an open letter – yes I know he is a cat and can’t read, but if he could then this is what I would tell him.

So treasure your senior pets, treasure every single grey hair on their face – they have earned it and if you have loved them properly then you have earned the right to have them in your lives and for that reason; you should count yourselves very lucky.

Gordon

At 9 weeks you came in to our lives.  I remember we had to choose between you and your twin brother Anthony and we picked you because you were not scared of our dog – a whippet bitch called ‘Rema’.

You marched right up to her and smacked her on the snout and I will never forget the look of horror on her face as you did that.  A tiny little ginger kitten taking on a 12kg whippet that quickly developed respect for you.

You were young, energetic, naughty and ‘full of beans’ as I would describe you. You would shred the carpet, eat our towels, fight with the dog and hang round her neck and swing from the curtains in a small ginger bundle of fury.

Gordon and my whippet ‘Rema’ – best friends

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

At a year old you had the look of a ‘teenage’ cat about you.  You had developed retrieving skills and would play ‘fetch’ with your beanie baby toy panther that you loved to carry around with you and bring to us if we asked you to.

Gradually you grew into a fat cat that seemed to go more orange the more mischief you got in to.  You had developed a habit of stealing things which included boxes of matches, inhalers, jewellery, cotton buds – anything that you could fit in your ginger mouth.  Your ‘spoils’ were hidden in your favourite spots that I soon found and then you would move them somewhere else and it would take me ages to find out where.

At six years old we took you to Australia where you flew by plane and landed in Perth a day before we did where you spent the next 30 days in quarantine.  On release from quarantine you quickly settled in as an Aussie cat and adapted to the heat, the noisy birds and life in general, your life in London was now a million miles away.

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Gordon at Byford Quarantine, WA

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

You spent the next seven years looking fabulous with a glossy coat and having an energetic zest for life.  Being an indoor cat you had no predators and none of the usual risks associated with being an outdoor cat and we marvelled at your health and vitality for a cat of your age.

The parrots taunted you and you argued back in your cat-like ‘chatter’ as you made ‘clicking’ noises with your mouth at the window, no doubt threatening what you would do to them if you ever got out.

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Gordon looking very ‘orange’ – note his eyes starting to look old

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

Six months after arriving in Australia, we acquired our first ‘Aussie dog’ – a 4 month old kelpie called ‘Rocky’.  Within the first five minutes of meeting him, you had smacked him smartly on the snout and ‘boxed’ him with your huge padded ginger paws, making him pee himself because he was so scared of you.

The line was once again drawn with you and Rocky knew from that day on to never cross you and became and still is, your biggest protector to this very day.

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Then three years ago we fostered a 12 week old ridgeback/kelpie puppy called Brutus – which was meant to be a three day thing really, except that Brutus ended up staying.

You took to Brutus immediately and let him get away with a remarkable amount of rough-housing until a point was reached where you would get him into one of your ‘death-grips’ and pin him down by his throat (all 30kgs of him).

Brutus has adored you from the very first day he met you and enjoys washing you, cleaning your ears and following you around until he annoys you enough to get a biff on the snout (claws in of course).

A baby Brutus and Gordon and then a grown up Brutus and Gordon

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

At what point did I notice you got old

It kind of crept up on me really (probably like it did to you) but one day I was walking around the house getting various bits and pieces ready for work the next morning.  I happened to glance down to see your frail ginger body trotting after me as you struggled to keep up.

I laughed and thought it cute but on closer inspection you were like an old man trying to keep up with life as your joints hurt you and you stiffly tried to trot after me as I went from room to room to get things.

Your agility and balance has slowly declined over the years and last week you jumped up on to the sofa while I was sitting on it and as I looked round, all I saw was your ginger face appear full of panic as you lost your grip and fell backwards to the floor.

As if you were embarrassed, you sneezed, shook yourself and limped off as if to say ‘That didn’t hurt, I meant that to happen’.

Your stomach has become more sensitive as you have aged and whilst you have always been prone to vomiting – probably due to you grooming the dogs and ingesting their fur, your vomiting has become more frequent and now you can do it without warning whilst managing a somewhat splendid Exorcist style projectile vomit as you hit the blinds and the walls with the contents of your stomach.

Your bones have started to ‘crack’ when you are picked up and despite our attempts to treat you like a piece of fine bone china, the extent of your fragility is apparent.

It doesn’t stop you being naughty though and you still like to bite up and down our arms like you are chewing a corn on the cob, except that now your jaw kind of ‘clacks’ as you bite down, your bite is weak and your stiff legs somewhat feebly bicycle against my arm as you try and kick me.

Knock, Knock – who’s there? Gordon, that’s who!

A habit that you have had since you were a baby was to stand on your hind legs and use your front legs to scratch at the door.  You had the ability to do this for hours on end until we relented and would let you in the bedroom.

These days you still do it but I can barely hear you but I know you are there.  I can hear you meowing and crying and the oh-so-faint sounds of your paws weakly scratching at the door.  I let you in straight away, I always let you in because I don’t like the idea of you wanting to come in so bad that you will still use what energy you have to scratch at that door and I know how much it must hurt your arthritic paws.

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Still in charge – no matter how old you are

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

Sometimes you have those mad half hours where you take a shit in your litter tray and then run around the house with a joyous expression on your face as you skid along the floor and bump into doors/windows while the dogs look at you as though you have gone mad.

Talking of dogs, you still have the power over Rocky and Brutus.  You can get Brutus on his back in submission in a matter of seconds as you try and get him in a ‘death grip’ by biting his throat and kicking him with your hind legs.  He could kill you with one bite but no, he has a healthy respect for you and is so protective of you.

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Brutus has your back Gordon

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

Everyone needs a hug sometimes…

Every evening when I get home from work I sit on the sofa and relax with a cup of tea, just unwinding as people do.  Like clockwork you always jump on my knee and demand my attention.

In your younger years, you started off subtle and would never sit on my laptop or push drinks out of my hand but as you have aged, your boundaries have long gone and you are more than happy to shove my cup of tea right out of my hand or sit square on top of my laptop and ‘make puddings’ on my chest as you knead my boobs and go off into a trance of delight because you quite simply love your cuddles.

I have learned that resistance is futile and as soon as I see you march across the coffee table, I know that my cup of tea must be quickly finished, my laptop shut down, phone on the table and the blanket gets put on my lap so that you can get comfy.

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Gordon – simply cannot be ignored

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

Then as quickly as you demanded to get on there, you decide that you have had enough and walk off with your tail held high in an act of defiance that says ‘I can do what I want’.

‘He won’t be around forever you know and one day you will miss all of this’ My husband warned me one day when I complained that you wouldn’t leave me alone.

I stared at you when he said that and tried to imagine life without you, life without Gordon – the cat that flew from the Motherland to Perth, the cat that had been with us through thick and thin and has seen us through our life stages.

I realised that he was right, that you wouldn’t be around forever and there would come a day that I would be regretting the day I chose my privacy, laptop and cup of Yorkshire tea over the cat that I loved so dearly.

Now when you want a cuddle; you get it and as for me going to the toilet on my own, well that is so overrated and I no longer complain when you want to sit on my knee while I am trying to pee.

You still love your life, you still enjoy your life, you are just slower and older but you still know how to demand what you want, get what you want and you still know how to be naughty.

So when did you get so old my darling Gordon and why did it take me so long to realise that you are not replaceable by a mobile phone, laptop computer or ‘time alone’.

Now I make the most of each time you want a cuddle, I am privileged that you are so desperate to sleep on my lap and I love the fact that you follow me around.  But most of all I am proud, proud that you are my cat and that we bought you with us from London to Perth and I am privileged to be seeing you into your senior years.

You are getting older Gordon and you won’t always be around but while we have you, we promise to look after you, never to let any harm come to you and love you for the rest of the time that you have with us and when the heartbreaking time comes to send you over to Rainbow Bridge, we will walk right beside you to that entrance.

Thank you for being our cat

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The gift of owning a senior pet cannot be underestimated

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright January 2016

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Gordon – my cat

  1. Oh Sam, I love your stories.
    This one got me reflecting on my own babies, past and present. I never have and never will abandon my darlings. I will never fathom why or how anyone can.
    Bless you.

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