When she learned Paddington had died, our neighbour said, “He was a cat with charisma, a true character”.
I didn’t realise I’d miss him so much. Paddington was the only cat, out of the 7 we’ve had during our married life, who preferred my husband to me. He immediately made it clear that my husband’s office was his favourite place in the house. He was very fond of my son too, so I guess he was a man’s cat. It wasn’t that he didn’t like me – he clearly did – but I wasn’t his first choice.
So I was surprised to find myself crying inconsolably for a whole day after finding him dead under a neighbour’s steps. Two weeks later, I’m still putting fresh flowers on his grave.
Much of Paddington’s life was shrouded in mystery. He came into our lives 9 years ago, after our diminutive Siamese, Dipity, died. Our second cat, a Tonkinese called Kasha, mourned loudly for weeks so we thought we’d better find her a companion. Our vet offered us Paddington. He thought he was around 4 years old.
He had been found on a road in Paddington (Brisbane), after being hit by a car. He had two broken hips and a broken leg. The vet repaired him, but nobody claimed him.
So Paddington came into our household. He settled in quickly, and though he wasn’t the cuddle-cat Kasha wanted, they became firm friends.
We were accustomed to small, female Siamese-style cats who talked loudly and often. Paddington was male, large, probably part Siamese and part Birman. He had a small, charming voice and rarely spoke … usually just to say ‘thankyou’ when we gave him something to eat which he particularly liked. He ate a lot.
It became clear almost immediately that Paddington could not be ‘owned’ by anyone. Before he was properly recovered from his injuries, or the fur had regrown over his hind quarters, he set about meeting everyone in the neighbourhood. He visited whoever would allow him in and soon had his favourites who let him choose a special chair for himself in their homes. He visited regularly, for about an hour, then moved on to the next on his list. He also established himself as ‘boss cat’ of the neighbourhood and had an ongoing battle/game with Proper, the cat next door .
He made enemies of the street bully people, but was never intimidated by them. When they shouted and threw things at him he ambled out of their property in what was to become his characteristic measured gait, and stopped every few steps to look back at them in disdain.
But most people just loved him. Even the bully people eventually stopped shouting at him. He knew more about the people in the neighbourhood than the rest of us put together.
He sat out in the street in the afternoons waiting to greet people as they came home from work. He found those who most needed love … the old, the lonely, and most of all, the children. There aren’t many children in our street, and we didn’t realise till too late how attached he had become to the children who lived on the corner.
He had a secret life.
Just over 2 weeks ago we learned he had been regularly visiting these children. It seems they had become his second family.
As he grew older, he spent more of the daytime in our garden and house, but he became more and more difficult to confine at night. He prowled the house in search of a window or door one of us had forgotten to close. We now realise that he accepted us as his ‘day family’ but he wanted to spend the nights with the children.
A couple of months ago, however, the children’s mother put their house on the market, and the children were often absent … staying, presumably, with their father. Paddington had become rather edgy, desperately trying to get out at night and becoming angry when we kept him in.
On the day the family finally vacated the house, Paddington went missing.
We searched for him for nearly a week, and put posters up all over the neighbourhood. Then one awful Saturday morning I got a phone call. The children had returned with a man I presume was their father to clear out the rest of their stuff. They saw our poster, then found Paddington dead under their steps.
We all cried together.
My husband and son were away and I couldn’t contact them. I spent the day crying and putting all Paddington’s photos together in an album on my computer. The next day we buried him under the white wisteria (which is starting to flower), surrounded by nasturtiums. Each year, when the wisteria blooms, we will remember him.
I will miss so much:
- the way he sometimes liked us to pick him up and carry him up the stairs, with his head tucked under our chin
- the abandoned way he stretched on his back (see photo below)
- seeing him curled up in a too-small box (marked ‘uncategorised’) in my husband’s office
- hearing his little thankyou ‘meep’ when I fed him
- the way he ran excitedly up the stairs when we returned from the supermarket (he knew we would have new food for him)
- hearing Kasha complainingly telling him not to play so rough
- feeling him beside my feet on the mat when I did Qi Gong in the mornings in the garden
- the way he loved to be kissed on the forehead
- his patience as he sat for ages beside his plate in the kitchen, confident that someone would come to feed him … sometimes we wouldn’t realise he was there waiting, and after a while he would come silently into my office and I would feel a nose gently touch my leg, followed by his signature ‘meep’
- the way he would rush at Colin’s closed office door and reach up towards the handle
- the way he kissed Kasha on the nose whenever he came home
… and a multitude of other gestures that were his alone.
Farewell Paddington. If there is a cat heaven, it is now a more interesting place because of you.