I have deserted D and the cats to go and look after my mum’s cat while she is away. As a younger cat, the Old Gent was a bit of a bruiser, it has to be said. He ruled the area with an iron paw and, in spite of the urban area he lives in, he was a prolific hunter, once bringing home a pigeon that was bigger than he was.
His cauliflower ears are the only evidence now of his past as a fighter. At 18, he is a true gentleman, loved by all who know him. He has the loudest purr I have ever heard and a yowl to match. Like any elderly chap, he has a definite routine to be followed and it didn’t take him long to get me trained up.
Breakfast number 1 can be any time from 4.30am through to 6. Even locked downstairs, he is impossible to ignore as he lets the whole street know that it is time to get up. If he has slept on my bed, he simply purrs in my ear, guaranteed to wake me up. If I don’t get up fast enough, he draws my hand towards him with a single claw and then bites my hand. It might be more effective if he had many teeth left …
After a snack to fortify him, he is ready to face the world. I let him out and then crawl back to bed, wondering quite why I am up at this ungodly hour. If I am lucky, I get back to sleep for a while until he is ready to come back in. He is a bright cat and knocks at the front door. I drag myself back downstairs and give him breakfast number 2 then we both go back to bed for a snuggle. He is such an affectionate, purry boy and we enjoy the time we have until it is time for me to get up myself. It is an effort for him, I am sure, but he comes down with me for breakfast number 3 – just to keep me company, you understand!
After another quick trip outside, he tells me that breakfast number 4 is positively the last he will need for a while, so I leave him tucking in while I prepare his medication. He has daily treatment for his thyroid, in the shape of a gel rubbed into his ears. Always eager for attention, he purrs loudly while I rub in the gel and give him a quick brush, then he finally decides that, after all that pottering about, a chap needs his sleep and so he makes his slow way upstairs for a nap. He gets lonely though, so he calls for me and I have to go upstairs to keep him company while he settles.
Once he is asleep, the morning is my own apart from making sure there is food prepared ready for his lunch later. As he has tummy problems as well (like any older person, things just don’t work quite as well as they used to), he is on a very bland cat food, but it is supplemented by tuna or chicken and heaven help me if I forget to add them to his bowl. He looks at it, puzzled and then gives me a sorrowful look. “I think you have forgotten something,” he seems to tell me and I invariably pick up the bowl and promise to try harder next time.
Outside, he is often to be found soaking up the sunshine in the front garden or taking shade under the bench next door (which drives their dog mad inside the house – the Old Gent is either oblivious to his rage or considers it beneath his notice). The blackbirds who have nested in the hedge seem to realise he cannot move very fast any more and ignore him, although I chase them away if I see them. He might be old and slow, but equally, it could all be a clever ruse to lure them into his range. Certainly I saw him the other day trotting up the street at a pace I didn’t think he could manage any more. By the time I reached the house, he was sitting outside the front door as if he had never been anywhere else and telling me firmly that it must be dinner time. Mum tells me he is deaf, but it appears fairly selective to me – he always seems to hear that tin of tuna being opened …
We spend the evenings together companionably. He clambers on to my knee (his jumping days may be over but he doesn’t let it stop him and simply climbs wherever he wants to be) and settles there, at least until he becomes too hot. Then he rests on the sofa or the carpet until something catches his eye. He has always loved the Christmas tree and there are usually baubles about even in the summer for him to play with. He bats one about happily for a few minutes until he flakes out, exhausted.
Finally, another day over, it is time for bed. I give him his supper and then we go up to bed together ready for another dawn start. I know when my week with him is over and I am back with our own girls, I will miss his demanding yowl and aeroplane purr, at least until the next time.