An ode to Kipling, my family cat
An impromptu post this cold crisp Friday afternoon. I found inspiration in the strangest of places — a job interview. It took my back to my childhood and a cherished memory. I am sure you have many of the same.
Our family used to own a cat called Kipling. Kipling loved the car of all things. This is quite unlike most cats that generally detest motor vehicles, especially if they are coerced into travelling in one. I use the word “coerced” because cats are not like dogs in this regard; dogs will happily jump onto the backseat and slaver all over the upholstery (even if it is a visit to the vet) whereas a cat needs to be seduced into its Pet Carrier (which should have a cat treat and warm blanket at the ready) and then carefully lifted into the motor vehicle. But cats are not easily fooled and woe betide getting any fingers close to the grid because you are most likely to come away clawed and bloody! At the very least, listening to Magic on the way to The Vet is in all likelihood going to be interrupted by a good deal of low wailing coming from the carrier!
But as I say Kipling was different. There was something almost human about him. He used to slouch over my sister’s shoulder as if elasticated and he didn’t really seem to have a care in the world. He was a chilled dude; the “surfer cat” of the neighbourhood. He was completely at ease around humans and their gas-guzzling toys and didn’t mind being manhandled by small people either. He was not a precious cat; he didn’t stare down his nose at other animals with any sort of disdain — he was in many respects a better version of ourselves. Of course he liked to tease our dogs, but always with a playful sense — it was never a game of one-upmanship with Kipling; to him all animals were created equal.
And then he died suddenly. We had a relatively long driveway leading up to our house with a very large plane tree about half way up. The family had been away for summer holidays; our kindly neighbour used to come over and feed Kipling as there was no ways he was going to be cooped up in a cage for two weeks. He was a South African outdoor cat! We drove up and usually Kipling, on hearing the car, would come and welcome us home. However on this occasion he did not appear. Worriedly we called for him but he didn’t come. Our holiday already forgotten, we searched the house and garden. And there we found him lying peacefully under the plane tree as if asleep.
We often talk about people passing before their time and I do sometimes wonder why Kipling left us so early on in his life. He was a perfectly healthy cat and was loved dearly by us and he made such a lasting impression on all those he came into contact with — both furry and otherwise. At the time I felt robbed; Kipling had been taken from us but as I grew older I began to appreciate that in fact he hadn’t left us; yes he was gone in physical form but his spirit, both playful but in some respects soulful, would endure until it was my time to join him.
I am writing this some 30 odd years after that precious time; many of those childhood memories have faded like medieval parchment but Kipling will always occupy a special place in my heart. He was a magical creature.