I would have forgotten to finish this post, if not for a comment from my dear (but recently absent) friend, SheWeevil, the person who also first inspired it.
I have just treated myself to the Writers' And Artists' Yearbook and the Writer's Handbook, as a bargain package on Amazon. If I could have afforded two of each, SheWeevil is the person I would have most wanted to gift with the second set. Her poetry, when she turns her mind to it, is eloquent and restrained, thought provoking and deep and very moving - definitely not for the masses, but more the connoisseur. Fine art, if you will.
Anyway, back to the cats.
Mitzie and Mungo have been described, both acquired in the late 1980s, early 1990s.
By 2000 we had another cat, an adorable kitten that friends were trying to sell which, for lack of any particular creativity on our part, was at first called Mew because of her constant talking, but then properly named Milly.
Milly was a tortoiseshell, a small cat, but one with an eye for a bit of fun. She trusted us implicitly, which was handy, because she had a penchant for producing litters and would leave us babysitting whilst she took her time in the back garden. It seems the most successful beau (and there were many) was a large ginger tom who magically appeared with alarming regularity, to Mungo's disabled but earnest male annoyance. More than that, a fair proportion of her female kittens were born as ginger as the boys, still very rare, with blacks and torties making up about 40%, the rest of each litter.
Milly took to reproduction with a joyous determination and by her third litter was still so quick to look for some action that she fell before weaning the previous lot, and we could never time things to get her to the vets. The little ones were often left in the care of uncle Mungo, once they had found their legs, and he would follow them outside and play at torturing anything he could find; teaching them how to hunt. He began bringing small birds and field mice into the house - mostly half alive and in the middle of the night - for the kittens to practice finishing off. Padding out to see what was in the kitchen one time, I once trod barefoot on a shrew's tail in the middle of the hallway carpet. Only the tail, you understand, and this meant a search, at the crack of dawn, for the remaining parts which the kittens had spread right round the living room and hall. It wasnt unusual to wake to a kitchen floor covered in blood and feathers.
The first seven babies were sent to a new pet shop - the lady owner seemed lovely, but as my older son had fallen in love with a particular black tom, he would pop into the pet shop every day on his way home, to see if they had been sold yet. This is how we found out that two of the kittens had died gruesome deaths, most particularly his favourite, and I never forgave that woman for telling him. The cat (Spider, his unofficial name) had been bought by a dear and doddering little old lady who promptly invited her dog-loving friend to visit, neglecting to mention the kitten. Snap.
Son was devastated and we had to advertise privately to settle the next litter straight into proper homes. One was still with us, a ginger female of no name, when her mother reproduced yet again.
So there we were, with four cats and a brood of growing kittens in the house when Husband lost his job.
To cut a long story short we couldnt afford to have Milly neutered even if we could time it - for a while we could barely afford to feed them all, and I ended up phoning a pet rescue centre, shopping myself as a lousy cat keeper and arranging for them to take Milly and her kittens off our hands. For all the world, I would have kept Milly, if we could have afforded the vet, but as it happened the latest litter were too young, she couldn't be completely separated from them, and given the frequency of her outdoor trips we suspected she may even have been pregnant again.
We drove them to the farm where animals were rehomed, and, as the kittens were too young for their jabs, the whole troupe were housed outdoors, in a cage. They had never overnighted outdoors, and the look on Milly's face was torture - one of accusation and resignation combined. She looked lost, betrayed. Filling in all the paperwork was soul destroying, as was finding out that every single kitten would be neutered before being rehomed, but Milly did me in. I felt like such a Judas.
The second the car door shut and we were pulling out of the farm I sobbed uncontrollably and kept on all the way home. Like dear SheWeevil, sobbing is something I 'don't do' if its at all avoidable; this life has enough indignities already without public loss of control and on the rare occasion I am wracked with self pity, it is expressed behind a locked door; not even my family sees or finds out, even in retrospect. I 'don't do' wallowing, either.
We came back to what felt like an empty house. Mitzi and Mungo knew, and were subdued. Mitzi even decided she was too old for this, gradually stopped eating, started losing the sense in her back legs, and within a couple of months she died. She died in her sleep after purring when I fed her warm milk from an eye dropper - her system had shut down and all she could do was wet her mouth, but she loved it.
So now there is just my Mungo; the one who thinks he is human, who thinks he has a right to a share of our bed and even the bed covers. The one who will annoy me in my sleep until he has the middle of my pillow. He is around 15 now, although you wouldn't know it, to look.
We were never completely bereft, but the reflection of that time in our lives is still as effective as an old weepy movie, its one of those playbacks that tugs at the heart when something triggers the memory.
SheWeevil caused this post, as I said, but did it in her typically restrained and matter of fact way, when she mentioned having to have all of her animals rehomed, due to illness in the family and a sudden change of circumstance. Her dignity never ceases to amaze me.
All of them. I can't imagine. I can imagine losing half, from experience, and that hurts quite enough. For lack of words for a comment on that post, I just wanted her to know that she has earned my admiration, yet again; the woman is amazing.