Horror’s Story – The Final Episode
She used up most of her nine lives in narrow escapes and hazardous exploits, but hung on to that last one for another five years after the vet shook his head over her and advised us to take her home to be comfortable for her last few weeks. She recovered, relapsed, recovered and never ran out of determination for an instant even at the last.
Back when we lived in our London photographic studio, before the children came along, our cats were our kids. We bought them solely to solve our mouse problem, so we told ourselves, they were to be studio cats with a job to do... they quickly became part of the family.
The studios were old factories and warehouses with tin roofs, surrounded by railway lines and archways. Our kittens soon became streetwise, finding their way around the rooftops, making it safely along the street to the pub, playing with mice in the cobblestone yard, miaowing to be let in at our skylight at three in the morning, urban cool cats to the core. There were delivery vans and trucks in the yard, express trains on the tracks, long drops from the railing that they used to access the roof. Sometimes they featured in fashion shoots, other times they entertained visiting photographers and models and looked decorative. Certainly the mouse population moved out to safer pastures.
Horror (named Horatia, shortened to Horry and thence corrupted) among other exploits managed to stowaway on a trip to Birmingham in a furniture van (luckily being brought back to our yard on the return trip). We think she fell one time from the high platform that led to our first floor studios as she came in limping. She definitely lost one life one Christmas, when we were away: our friend came by to feed the cats for us and found her with her head wedged in an empty cat food tin, limp, almost out of air. He was probably more traumatised than she was and remembers it to this day.
Her middle and old age has been mellower. Since we brought her to South Africa, she adapted to country life and showed the dogs who was boss very early on. Last year she used to enjoy taking showers in the herb garden sprinkler, getting herself thoroughly soaked and washing furiously.
More recently she has been weaker, lying out in the sunshine in the middle of the path, where she would be right in the way, sprawling in the centre of the kitchen floor to be tripped over. It was as if she wanted to make sure she was close to the action, even though she was getting rather deaf and blind. I’d be making bread and step back only to find she’d crept up behind me and I was treading on her tail again. Yet she was still fiercely clinging on to life, demanding to be fed, expecting attention, purring, deciding for herself exactly where she wanted to be. With some animals you know it is time to take them on a final journey to the vet, that they are ready to go, but with Horror that moment never came.
We came back from our week’s holiday at the river to find her a little weaker than before. She greeted us and lay in our path as usual. The next day she didn’t bother eating and lay out in her usual place all day slipping gradually into a comatose state. We thought then it was the end, wondered about taking her to the vet, but decided that would be more traumatic than kind. It was the right decision; she slipped away gradually in her own time, at her own pace. At the end of the evening found that she’d gone. It was her time, she’d finally decided to let go.