A Little Grey Cat’s Tail
A story about Missy, mum’s little grey lady, and love.
Missy came to visit our garden one day in the summer of 2014. We had always been a pet family but after losing our previous cat to cancer in the autumn of 2011 we had decided that we would take a break from pets as saying goodbye to them at their time of passing was too hard to do.
Mum suffered from long term agoraphobia so was house bound, so when Missy, a stray appeared, it was like a breath of fresh air. Mum always enjoyed watching the squirrels, foxes and birds that frequented the garden as it gave her some interest and escape on a daily basis. Then one day, there was an additional little grey face peeping out from one of the bushes.
Over the days that followed it became apparent that our little visitor wasn’t planning on leaving in a hurry and as we could find no local information relating to lost or missing pets, plans were put in place to welcome our addition to the family.
Cat food was purchased and as she was so timid, the garden shed was modified so that she would have somewhere warm and dry to stay whilst she built up the courage to decide whether she wanted to come into the house or not.
As the days passed, we moved her feeding bowl closer and closer to the back door, then one day the magical moment arrived when Mum was sat on the doorstep by the bowl, and Missy came to feed whilst Mum sat there. Slowly, slowly, slowly Mum extended her hand and a little grey wet nose gingerly inched forward until they touched. - a major bridge had been crossed.
Weeks passed and Missy entered the house more and more often. We always left the back door wide open in case she felt the need to bolt to safety but as the weeks rolled on, she soon became comfortable at being indoors and was soon a full-time member of the family.
Mum being at home all day was Missy’s firm favourite and as mum was also housebound it was an unseen blessing that Missy was around to keep her company but also independent enough to come and go as she pleased giving mum additional interest throughout the day.
In spring 2015 I noticed a slight change in Missy’s body shape, she was definitely appearing a little "swollen”. By the 24th April it was startlingly obvious that Missy, despite her reluctance to be anywhere near other cats, would soon be providing us with some more mouths to feed in the shape of kittens. As she grew her behaviour changed and she would take to hiding upstairs away from us. A cat igloo was pur-chased, and she soon took to hiding inside it and her food and water were moved to the room to allow her some solitude. We suspected that this would be in preparation for the impending births.
In May during a daily check on the igloo, we found that Missy, on her own, had delivered 4 tiny little bundles and knowing nothing about kitten parenting decided to leave Missy and her kittens to find their own way in life.
Mum contacted Beverley and Sue at C.L.A.W.S. for help as we realised that decisions would need to be made regarding homes for the kits as well as retrospective care for Missy. When she had arrived with us some months before we had been remiss in not having her scanned for microchips nor screened for health vaccinations and decided to correct that error as soon as possible.
The team at C.L.A.W.S. advised that best policy would be to wait until the kits had weened, and we could then begin the process of re-homing them and catching up with Missy’s health updates.
Missy was an amazingly good mother, a real lioness. Fiercely protective, always standing her ground in front of her kits when we entered the room even though she would have been powerless to defend them against someone many times her size.
The kits soon grew and had their own plans on exploration, and we would soon develop the habit of walking gingerly into rooms in fear of colliding with one or more little bundles of fur. They soon abandoned the igloo except for bedtimes and at any time could be found on our top stair landing or lying on Mum’s bed, as they had developed the knack of climbing up the side of the duvet with their sharp little claws. As we had planned to have the kits rehomed we tried not to interact with them too much in fear of building the inevitable bond that we would then not be able to break.
The sad time soon arrived for the kits to leave home. We discussed the possibility of keeping them but decided that the long-term view of them being elsewhere would be the best outcome.
One of the kits was rehomed to a family member whilst the others along with Missy were bundled off by C.L.A.W.S. to start the next stage of their lives.
Missy was away a few days whilst she was checked and neutered by a veterinarian to prevent any future kitten accidents. We were concerned on her return that she would be distressed by the fact that her kits were gone, but it was as if in the few short weeks that they had grown, that they had become independent of her and she didn’t show any outward detrimental behaviour.
Missy soon settled back into her routine of being outside whenever she could. For all of her feline independence, she soon took to hanging around the garden with another cat that appeared from nowhere. We gave this cat the nickname "Bandie” as the black and white markings on his face made him look like a bandit and whenever they were seen together, they were "The Odd Couple”. They would sit or snooze in the sun feet apart seemingly ignoring one another, but as soon as one moved then the other would get up and follow along.
Autumn 2015 became Autumn 2016 and Mum had a stroke. She spent seven weeks in hospital, made an 80% recovery and came home in time for Christmas. Missy was quite distressed for those weeks of Mum’s absence as her daily routine was in upheaval and I think they provided each other with immense support when they were reunited.
December 2016 became December 2017 and Mum was advised that her health was failing. Mum accepted this news with great stoicism and returned home to Missy for the weeks and months ahead.
December 2017 became December 2018 and Mum was in hospital again. Unfortunately, on her release her health was not sufficient for her to return home and she was moved to a nursing home.
Missy’s behaviour began changing around the end of December 2018, one month after Mum was admitted to hospital. Despite food and water being plentiful she had become used to the company in the house during the day and due to work commitments, I could not be there to provide that company for her.
In January 2019 when it became apparent that Mum would never be returning home, I took the difficult decision of commencing with the rehoming of Missy. For all the years of joy and company that she’d given Mum and myself I wanted to keep her near, but it was hugely unfair to keep her locked up in the house all day whilst I was at work.
As C.L.A.W.S. were full of residents I contacted another local cat service. We had several discussions and their policy of not destroying healthy cats, even if they are difficult to rehome, convinced me that this would be the right thing to do for Missy.
I took Mum’s little grey lady to the cats’ home on Saturday February 16th along with all her little treats and trinkets. They used a cat calming spray on her blanket, and she was soon dozing. I gave her a stroke, a kiss, wished her luck for her future and said goodbye.
I contacted the home a week later and they said that Missy was still a little anxious but had been making progress with her carers. I was amazed and pleased at this as she had even been reluctant to approach people who had been regular visitors to the house when she was at home, even preferring to go outside to keep out of their way.
I called the home to check on Missy on Saturday 2nd March 2019. Amazingly in the two short weeks that she’d been at the home, Missy had socialised enough to be offered for rehoming, and not only that, a mature couple had been in to see her several times, had had their own home screened and had collected her that very morning!!! The home had stayed true to their word and Missy had gone to a home of a mature couple with no other pets who had a garden that was away from main roads.
Whilst filled with sadness that she is gone; I am also warmed with love by the fact that Missy, the little grey lady that filled Mum’s life and my own with so much joy for the years that we had her has now found her forever home with another couple who will also love her and offer her the freedom that she deserves.
October 10th 2019. Mum passed away peacefully in her sleep this morning. The cancer that had been pursuing her since June 2017 finally conspired with other issues to take her from us.
For her entire life mum placed the welfare of pets above everything else, even pets of other people, even pets of other people that she never even knew! She wouldn’t hesitate to intervene if she saw a pet being treated badly. All of her pets in their lives showed unconditional love and from previous conversations with her I know that more than anything else, all she wanted when she passed on was to be with her pets again.
I believe that she is now at peace.
RIP Mum Eve Bates
March 1942 – October 2019
It is appropriate that ZAC, one of Missy’s kittens, should appear on the front of the C.L.A.W.S. 25th anniversary calendar. A fitting tribute to a very special lady. Ed