Mouse number one arrived as one of three kittens born to a stray cat I’d taken in back in 2002. She was the smallest of the litter, and though I found good homes for the other two I just couldn’t bear to part with her so she stayed and became one of my ever-growing family of pets. Her name came about because she could never miaow properly – she squeaked, like the ‘mee’ without the ‘oww’, and because of that and her very small size it seemed logical to call her Mouse.
A dark tortoiseshell with a ginger mark down one side of her nose, Mouse very quickly became my little shadow and would follow me all round the house. As she grew she developed a beautiful coat with fur like velvet, and when I sat watching tv in the evenings she would often drape herself round my neck like a fur collar or lie in my arms with her head snuggled under my hair. And she could purr for England, usually right in my ear if she was round my neck. She had many funny and endearing little ways and was one of the most affectionate cats I’ve ever had. When she wasn’t with me her constant companion within the cat family was Tiger and they could often be found curled up together.
It was one night in October 2006 that I thought Mouse had disappeared from my life completely – she’d been out during the evening but didn’t come back when I called her later on, and as I knew she never went far from the house I had the awful feeling that something bad had happened to her. Posters on lamp posts around the area and days and hours spent searching produced nothing but my own heartache and tears – even finding her little body somewhere would have been preferable to not knowing where she was or what had happened to her.
Then three weeks later I got a phone call from a vet’s practice in a town twelve miles away – Mouse had been found. A young couple had seen her wandering near where they lived and had taken her in, then went to the vet’s to see if she could be identified, and because of her microchip she was traced back to me. The relief that she was okay was overwhelming but getting her back wasn’t that simple. The couple had already had her a week before they went to the vet’s and they’d said they wanted to keep her if the owner wasn’t found. The vet’s receptionist wouldn’t give me their address for me to go and get her back, saying she would arrange a day and time for the couple to take Mouse into the practice for me to collect her from there, but the couple themselves spent so long stalling for time that I had to threaten legal action against both them and the vets before proper arrangements were made.
When the evening came to collect Mouse my partner came with me, getting to the vet’s just ahead of the arranged time, and as we got out of the car I saw the young couple carrying Mouse into the building though I didn’t speak to them. I’d only just sat down in the waiting room when the receptionist called me over to the desk and Mouse was transferred from the vet’s cat carrier to mine. I wasn’t allowed to just walk out of the building with her though – I was charged £28, and when I questioned it I was told it was a boarding fee. For what? Mouse had only been in there for five minutes, they hadn’t given her any food or treatment so why the charge?? Now under any other circumstances I would probably have argued about it but I was just so glad to have Mouse back I paid it anyway and brought her back home. I would have loved to know how she got to where she was found though – there was no way she could have walked there so I could only assume she must have jumped into a van or truck parked near the house on the day she went missing and jumped out again when the driver eventually stopped. If only she could have told me.
It was February 2007 when I lost Mouse for ever. She had a habit of sitting close to the gas fire in the living room and one night we noticed that her breathing was really heavy – thinking it was because she was close to the fire and too hot I turned the fire off but her breathing didn’t improve so the following morning I took her to the vet’s. He examined her, said he would keep her in and sedate her then do an x-ray to find out the cause of the problem and phone me later on. It was 1pm when he phoned and gave me the bad news; one of her lungs had collapsed completely and she only had a 20% capacity in the other lung – there was nothing he could do for her.
Now to have a pet put to sleep for any reason is very upsetting but to have to authorise it over the phone without getting to say goodbye was truly heartbreaking and I was in bits. The vet was a lovely man though, and when I went to collect Mouse he’d curled her round and nestled her in a soft blanket to make it look like she was just asleep. The following day I bought a small wicker basket with a lid and she was buried in a sunny spot in the back garden. It took me quite a while to get over losing Mouse; I’ve had many cats over the years and I’ve loved them all but every so often there’s been one that was just that little bit more special than most – Mouse was one of these, a very special little cat in many ways.