On the 26th of this month my family and I will light a candle, place it in the window and remember. This is the night, exactly a year ago, that our cat Jimmy disappeared just two months short of his eighth birthday. Now, before you go and dismiss me as one of those crazy cat ladies, let me just clarify something to you here: Jimmy was no ordinary cat. Ok, I may be crazy, but it’s not only cats that I love, having had the experience so far of four cats, Mad Max the dalmatian dog, six chickens, Ratty the rat and a couple of pervy tortoises. So all animals are welcome in my home, but only Jimmy holds a special place in my heart.
We parents know that pets teach kids important life lessons such as responsibility, commitment, love and affection but ultimately the cycle of life and death. When a pet disappears without a trace, a whole lot of other questions are thrown up and honest answers are difficult to give. It’s not a lesson I would have wanted to teach my kids. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, and at the risk of sounding like a line from a corny movie, it’s the not knowing that’s probably the worst.
Jimmy was trouble right from the start. We got him from a small farm in West Wales, and soon discovered he was an accident-prone hypo-chondriac who never learnt to purr but meowed the word ‘Hello’.
The first time Jimmy was let out to go exploring, when we lived in the UK, he managed to get stuck up an apple tree in our next-door neighbour’s garden. My friends still maintain it was just a cunning ploy to get the Fire Brigade boys round, but I suffered terribly from gestational vertigo and it’s never really gone away. Well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Jimmy liked a bit of night prowling and regularly got into catfights with the neighbourhood moggies. However, rather than shake off these encounters with a shrug of his tail, many of the injuries Jimmy received required overnight vet stays with expensive operations to drain infected abscesses from his wounds. I’ve lost count of the number of times he was shaved. He also developed congenital tooth decay, and had his incisors removed, and so cleaning his teeth became one of my weekly duties after that, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He developed quite a taste for poultry flavoured-toothpaste.
At great expense, both emotionally and financially, we brought him out to Dubai with us when we moved. Within a couple of months, after he’d settled in and started prowling the neighbourhood, I received a rather confusing call from my next-door neighbour on our compound in Umm Suqeim 3. Apparently she was in Oud Metha and she had Jimmy with her. How strange, I thought, that she should take my cat for a sightseeing joy ride in her 4x4. It took a couple of minutes to sink in that she was an unwilling participant in his incredible journey, having driven all the way there with him clinging onto the engine. He spent four hours sedated and attached to a drip in the vet’s just to get the fluids back into him, but he lived to tell that tale. Maybe that was a life too far.
I suppose having a wandering cat is a bit like having a teenager. They’re out, you don’t know what they’re up to and there’s no guarantee they’ll be home on time, no matter how many times you call. How can you teach a cat the lessons of life? How do you tell them about crossing the road and the danger of strangers? My imagination has run riot over the last year, what with horror stories of air pelleted pets and the illegal cat trade in stolen moggies. If someone out there has taken a fat, friendly, tabby cat with some teeth missing, who meows ‘Hello’ in a Welsh accent and keeps getting into trouble, please give him back. We miss you Jimmy.