Saturday, 20 February 2016

Goodbye, my kitten

20 years ago my mom and I returned from the Germiston SPCA with a little tabby girl kitten. She was tiny and scraggy and had caught our attention when we spotted her climbing the front fence of her cage. We thought she was a he until standing at the reception desk the lady writing the slip said, "Female tabby". We said, "Oh, we wanted a boy" but this little thing was snuggled up in my neck so we said, "Nevermind, we'll keep her". This was the best R30 we have ever spent.

I named her Bracken, after a mole; a central character in the book "Duncton Wood" by William Horwood. I liked the character and also the strength in the sound of word - perfect for a little stray kitten.

We took her home on 30 March 1996.

When she was young she was a fairly regular cat. She was always sweet natured, never one to claw and scratch - unless you tried to tickle her tummy. She ran up curtains, climbed our legs and spent a lot of time outside doing cat thing. She wasn't very affectionate. She didn't really do sitting on laps and wouldn't let us her pick her up to hold longer than 10 seconds. In her youth she was a pretty good bird catcher, leaving us gifts to show her affection.

Bracken. March 2012.
We almost lost her when she was 11 or so. She went to her vet for dental work (recurring tooth infection) and had a bad reaction to the anaesthetic and pain meds. Thank goodness she was a little on the overweight side because this certainly saved her life. She lost a ton of weight but recovered. She continued to have teeth issues. Even so, she never complained and still loved to munch her crunchies, although I doubt that she had more than three teeth in her mouth in recent years.

Bracken. April 2013.
Bracken lived in one home her whole life - until recently - and while I came and went - travel, races, living in a different house - my mom was her constant. There was usually always one of us with her. If I was away, she had mom. If mom was away, she had me. Only in her younger years did she go to kennels and for the few times when mom and I were away together, loving friends came to stay with her.

Bracken. September 2015.
I returned to live with mom and Bracken at the end of 2010. This 14-year old girl was no longer a young cat focused only on doing cat things. She took to sitting on my lap while I was working - as if she'd been doing it her whole life. We'd spend hours each day like this. I took advantage of her mature-cat affection, 'training' her to be a holdy cat. Initially I was delighted to be able to hold her for 20 seconds without her wriggling out of my arms and over the years we progressed from seconds to minutes until I could even walk around doing things with her draped over my shoulder.

Bracken. August 2014.
I can barely begin to describe how the past few years of being with this magical kitty has been. She has been deaf for some years but with this came more communication from her. Vocalisations to call us, because she couldn't hear where we were in the house (of course we came running). Affection in abundance. Communication between us on another level.

To say she was sweeter every day... So many days mom and I would look at each other bewildered. How was it possible that she could possibly be more caring, more attentive, more communicative and more sweet? Yet she was.

With her gran. June 2015
With gran. March 2015.
At the end of November last year I put our kitty in her cage and drove her the 125 kilometres to her new home in Parys. This was the longest drive in her life and her first time moving home. After two weeks indoors she took to her new, large garden like she was an old hand at moving home and settling in - although she only liked to venture out with one of us accompanying her. She had a bounce in her step and renewed kitten-ness. We think she must have been quite bored at her old home. This change was really good for her. She enjoyed watching the visiting monkeys in the garden.

Three weeks ago I went to Cape Town for a week and on my return I noticed an aged look to her face. Mom had noticed it too. Although she'd been a poor eater and very skinny for a long time, she seemed to have lost even more weight. I had sleepover with my girls on Wednesday night. Mom said she was drinking and peeing often. Diabetes or kidney issues were likely. We knew already that we didn't have long.

Sleeping perfection. We could watch her for hours. And we did. December 2013.
Yesterday she didn't eat. She wanted to but seemed nauseous. We took her to the vet here in Parys. Mom had checked them out when we moved. The friendly vet looked with sad eyes at our kitty. Her symptoms and white inner eyelids pointed to a very low red blood cell count and she said Bracken was very likely already in kidney failure. She suggested sedating Bracken for blood tests, the outcome of which would possibly have recommended a blood transfusion, which may have only given us another week. We chose to take our kitty home to love.

This morning I woke my fast asleep kitty-daughter, cuddled her and put her in her cage to take to the vet. It was an enormously hard thing for mom and I to do and we were with her, our fingers running through her soft fur, at the end.

We have buried her in my garden and mom and I will mosaic a paving stone to place over her.

This little girl has been a shining light of love and joy in our lives for 20 years. She leaves not a hole, but a gash in our hearts.

Bracken, my kitten, thank you for 20 years of love.

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