A tribute to Tess

You walked into my life when I was eight years old. I will never forget that day. My parents chose you because you meowed at them from the cats home — I like to think that you chose them. We took you to our family home and you spent the rest of that evening sat with each of us in turn, whilst we sat in front of the TV. It felt like you were coming home for the first time.

Despite not really getting along with our other cat, Bob, I did occasionally catch you snuggled up with him. You both had such big characters, but you definitely wore the trousers.

A notorious hunter of mice and birds with very a very territorial nature, you wouldn’t let the neighbours cats anywhere near our garden, but of course you were often found in their house. You had a gaggle of male cats stalking you most of the time, I didn’t blame them because you were beautiful but it was quite amusing to watch.

Despite this making you sound feisty, you were kind-natured, patient and affectionate with humans, especially the ones that you loved. People often say cats don’t care about their owners but this couldn’t have been further from the truth. I know we could have unspoken conversations through eye contact alone, you probably knew more about me than I realised.

I remember slumbering into the early afternoon on weekends as a young teenager and being woken up by you clawing at my bedroom door.
I remember waking up to you sleeping above my head or peering at me, waiting for me. I remember when Mum used to sleep in my bed with me when I was little and you used to curl up between us.

You were there through the most memorable years of my growing up. I shared my fears and insecurities with you, cried on you, laughed with you and took your company for granted for many years. You couldn’t speak back, cry, or laugh with me but you didn’t need to. You were the only living thing on this planet I wanted to be alone with when I was going through a bad time.

In her prime

When I was 18 I left. I know you missed me, as I missed you, but I had to go about my life. If I could have ever taken you with me I would have, but fortunately you found a devoted friend in my brother.

Every time I visited, it was like quality time with a long lost friend. You would be straight over for a hug and fuss, spend hours sat on my lap and follow me around. “You’re back. I love you”. You never judged me for leaving, you just cherished the time we had.

Last Christmas you barely left my side, and I think you knew then that it was going to be your last. You even sat on my knee whilst I was at the dinner table. When I was told about the seizures I was scared. I am thankful that my Mum and Brother were there to help you through them but it was breaking them to see it happen.

Losing you was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I am so sorry that I had to make that decision for you, but I hope you knew I did it out of love. That morning before the car journey you crawled up my chest and put your face on mine, which was unusual even for you. I knew you were suffering and I didn’t want it to continue and I think you were trying to tell me that it would be ok.

Final goodbye

I wish I could have held it together better in the surgery, I know it made you feel uneasy to see me so upset. But to look your best friend in the eyes and tell them you love them, and to thank them for everything for the last time is heartbreaking.

When I left that building, the daylight hit me and it felt like being stabbed in the heart, it physically hurt. It still hurts now — but there was no way I was letting the last person you saw be anyone but me. You looked so peaceful and beautiful, even in death.

There are and will be lots of cats in my life but you were much more than that. I have lots of photos and a tattoo on my arm to remember you by but nothing will remove the memories. Thank you for teaching me all I needed to know about unconditional love.