"…hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light." – Aesop
5 January 1996 – 15 May 2012
The quote at the top of this post has the famous phrase “sweetness and light”, which was one of the endearments I used to call Lizzie the cat. When I called her this, she would swish her tail and smile at me. She loved attention, any sort of attention.
Alas the sweetness and light she shed on our lives is now gone.
On Tuesday at about 3.20pm we farewelled our beautiful cat and had her euthanised. Her condition had deteriorated over Monday night, and Tuesday morning she was unable to walk. Her death was peaceful, and we were there with her, stroking her, until she breathed her last, which only took a few seconds. It was better than watching her slowly die over a protracted time –neither of us could have borne the heartache. The cat we knew had lost her will to live and hardly registered our presence.
We first acquired Lizzie as a kitten in March 1996. She was a replacement for a cat that had gone missing. We shopped around and finally noticed an advertisement in The Age from a breeder in Kilsyth (in the Eastern suburbs) for Oriental-Abyssinian cross kittens at a reasonable price. We drove out to Kilsyth, walked into the house, and saw tiny Lizzie playing with her brothers in the living room. “That’s the one!” we both cried simultaneously. There was something vivid about her even then. She was the only Abyssinian looking kitten in the litter; her brothers were all a solid reddish gold colour and were beautiful as well. But the little female kitten, that was to share our lives for 16 years, was the pick of the litter.
The photo above was taken the day we adopted Lizzie. That miniature cat on my knee had just been introduced to Oscar our five year old male cat. She doesn’t look in the least freaked out, and as it turned out it was the beginning of a love affair between those two cats.
Oscar was a big brown oriental cross cat and was a sweetheart of an animal as well. He and Lizzie were the best of friends and ate off the same plate, slept entwined together, and played elaborate chasing games. They also coordinated in hunting rodents. One time, a rat had escaped and was hiding behind a bookcase. The cats staked themselves at each end of the bookcase, and kept vigil, waiting for the rat to emerge. Lizzie was more on the ball, and when she caught Oscar napping would give him a nudge, then hasten back to her corner. Lizzie was the one who caught the rat in the end.
Oscar died in 2004, another traumatic event in our lives. We had him euthanised as well, after he had been diagnosed with a cancerous growth in his throat. It took three months from the diagnosis until the hard decision became necessary, when we saw him gasping for breath one night and couldn’t face seeing him go through it again.
Lizzie mourned his passing, by looking forlorn and lost and off her food for a few days. She always remained true to Oscar, never establishing the same relationship with another cat, Willy for instance.
She was also a very loyal cat to her human companions, and followed us around in a doglike manner. She always came when called, and was always waiting to greet you when you came home, sitting on the front verandah in anticipation.
When Willy joined the household as a kitten in 2004, Lizzie was not impressed and developed a “touch me not” attitude towards him. He was always a bit apprehensive of her and she definitely was the top cat. However, she was not hostile to him, just cautious. She even brought in baby mice for him to play with when he was a very small kitten. He hissed at the first mouselet but got the idea pretty fast. They were together for eight years, so they ended up tolerating each other well and didn’t fight. Willy was very gentle with her during her last days. He knew she was not herself.
As well as being an exceptionally pretty creature, Lizzie had one of the most vivid personalities I have ever encountered in a cat. Even as a tiny kitten she had presence and commanded attention. She adored being patted, and responded to any touch, leaning in to encourage you to continue stroking her, and appeared to listen earnestly when spoken to. She was a highly intelligent animal and had a sweet and gentle temperament. She never bit or scratched. A most excellent cat.
She could be very pushy and persistent and generally got what she wanted. I’m glad I caved in to her a week ago, and gave her a bit of quality time; a solid patting, where she eventually rolls onto her back for an extended stomach rub. Little did I know it would be the last time she wanted such attention.
She had a good, happy, healthy and soft life. She only ever went to the vet five times over the sixteen years she lived with us and three of those occasions were for vaccinations and neutering.
So now there’s an empty space where once a bright and beautiful cat used to live. We’ll no doubt cope with her absence, and remember her always as one of the best cat companions a person could wish for.