To non pet owners, losing a pet probably seems like nothing; “it’s just an animal”, “it’s not like it was a family member”, “you can get another one”. No, no, no.
Losing a pet, especially one that you’ve had for over 15 years – and is very much part of the family – is heartbreaking. And that’s what happened to me at the end of 2015.
I was 4 years old when we got Marmalade from Cats Protection – a charity which is so worth donating to, which you can do here. She was a lovely 18 month old ginger cat, and had been named Jane at the adoption centre, which happens to be both mine and my Mum’s middle name, so of course we had to have her. I don’t remember much from the first few years as I was still so young, but I do remember she wasn’t much of a lap cat. That was until she got a bit older, then she was happy to lay on our laps, and I think that was when I really started to appreciate the love and affection a cat can show – there were times I was upset and she’d walk up to me and nudge me and give me kitty kisses.
We moved house a few times in my last couple of years at high school and although we kept her in for the recommended amount of time, each time that we let her outside for the first time I was always worried that she wouldn’t come back, but of course she did. Losing her was just something that I didn’t even want to think about, I knew it was inevitable that we’d lose her one day, but I was never prepared for it to be that day, even when it came.
Christmas morning 2015 my Dad had to work, so it was just myself and my Mum. Being as lazy as I am, I was still in bed when my Mum got up, but she shouted upstairs to me that she couldn’t find Marmalade so I got up to have a look. My Mum eventually found her laying in her litter tray unable to move her back legs. We had no idea what was wrong with her, my Mum panicked and called my Dad, called my Grandma, but neither of them could do anything. We spent the next few days doing our best to look after her until we could get her to the vets, and on that morning we knew she wouldn’t be coming home. The vet didn’t know what was wrong, they could have done blood tests and scans, but in her condition and with her age we didn’t want to put her through that knowing that there was a chance she may not even survive the anaesthetic. So sadly my parents made the difficult decision to have her put to sleep. The church near the vets that we took her to has a special place for pets and so her ashes were scattered there, it’s not ideal because it’s not actually in our town. The alternative was to bury her in our garden but as our house is rented we knew one day we’d have to leave her behind, so the church was the best decision.
It didn’t help that we all had flu that Christmas, and the morning of the vet appointment I felt terrible. I didn’t even get out of bed to say goodbye to her, and to this day it’s still my biggest regret in life. I missed my last chance to say goodbye to the cat I had loved for 15 and a half years. I felt awful about it for weeks.
Months passed and the house felt so empty without a cat, myself and my Mum knew we wanted another one, not to replace Marmalade, because that could never be done, but to fill the silence in the house, to have another cat to love and look after. My Dad was the one who had to be talked round, and eventually we ended up going to Cats Protection and we came home with a gorgeous 2 year old black and white cat. We chose to call her Smudge because her face is all black with a white mark down her nose.
I don’t feel like we’ve replaced Marmalade, I feel like we’ve given a home to another cat that was in need of one. Of course I still miss her, not a day goes by that I don’t think about her, and I have a photo of her in a frame on my bookshelf.
Rest in peace Marmalade, gone but never forgotten. ♥