The Minister’s Cat

Dear Margaret, my deliciously eccentric organist, passed on some Lenten reading to me after a conversation about our shared love of Timothy Radcliffe. There were some worthy Lenten books in there but the ones which really caught my eye were two little books both called The Minister’s Cat. One is full of delightful Scottish words like ‘bogshaivelt’ = knocked out of shape, and ‘kirkie’ = enthusiastically devoted to church affairs. The other is full of gorgeous poetry about cats.

The Minister’s Cat is…


Obadiah’s on the sofa;
Obadiah’s on the chair.
No, he isn’t there in person;
But they’re covered in his hair.

Obadiah’s on the carpet;
Obadiah’s on the mat.
He’s perpetually moulting,
That infuriating cat.

Obadiah’s on my sweaters;
Obadiah’s on my suit.
When I’m going out on business,
I could kill the little brute.

Obadiah’s on the bedspread;
On the pillow as I sleep.
If he doesn’t keep his hair on,
I shall shear him like a sheep.

I’ve been asking Obadiah,
As he grudges me his purr,
In the name of all that’s feline,
Why he’s prodigal with fur.

Obadiah, to his credit,
Has a reason for the hair:
He’s afraid he’ll be forgotten
Any time he isn’t there.

It’s a token of his presence,
When he’s temporar’ly gone;
And a comforting assurance
That his mem’ry lingers on.

by Douglas Kynoch, Scottish Cultural Press, 1994

(For Obadiah read Lucy Pussy.)

In which Rita Kitten makes a miraculous recovery

SAMSUNGLet me bring you up to date with the tale of woe which is Rita Kitten. A few months ago I got a reminder from the vet to say that Rita Kitten is due her annual jab so I took her along. (When I say I ‘took her along’ you must understand that this involved a three hour siege during which Rita Kitten ran up one staircase while I chased her cooing ‘Rita darling, come to mummy, puss-puss etc’ then she ran down the other staircase – yes, I have two staircases* – and so on it went until I had to cancel the 9am appointment and settle for one at 2pm by which time I had dragged her out of a hidey hole by her neck and folded her into the cat basket… four times.) It was all very exhausting and rather annoying to be told that they might not do her jag because of her illness (immune anaemia something or other). Told to bring her back next week by which point they would have checked out if the jag is safe for her to have.Rita 080812

During that time I noticed that she wasn’t as perky as usual. No climbing over the mountain which is my desk and keeping guard on the window sill, running a mile if anyone comes past. No wrecking the laser printer by climbing over the paper tray. No winding her way round my ankles in the morning. And when I thought about it, I realised that she had been getting quieter for the past week or so. (Except for when she has to go to the Vet of course.)

Next week, repeat the process of chasing Rita Kitten up and down stairs, in and out of rooms, hiding goodness-knows-where while mummy runs herself into the ground, Vet decides not to give her annual booster but listens to heart and decides that her heart murmur has become worse and she is indeed looking a bit anaemic. ‘Make an appointment for a blood test,’ she casually says, unaware of my own heart murmuring “Please, NO, not another chase up and down the stairs!’

image1.jpgNext day, repeat the process but this time I have been advised to throw a towel over Rita Kitten and bundle her into cat basket that way. All my towels are rather lovely and frankly I don’t want to toss my lovely white fluffy guest ones over the cat, nor my even more gorgeous purple ones. So I throw an unusable prayer-shawl instead. (Unusable? Cat had been sleeping on it.) This was reasonably successful but suspect I’ll not get away with it again. Rita Kitten is taken away for blood test and I’m told 10 minutes later that it her level is 10. Clearly I am meant to remember whether this is a good or bad thing. I don’t. Judging by the Vet’s sad face I assume a similar expression and guess that 10 is not a good thing. Vet decides to give Rita Kitten a long-lasting steroid injection and home we go. ‘Come back next week,’ she says. My heart murmurs and sinks.Rita feather duster 0713

Next week, I buy a fleecy pet blanket for a fiver in purple and blue. This is the for the sole purpose of throwing it over Rita Kitten in the big chase. It works and we are in our basket within 10 minutes which is not bad. Of course our appointment is not for another hour but at least we are ready. Rita Kitten’s heart murmur is getting worse, as is her anaemia, and she is now pretty lethargic. Second long-acting steroid and antibiotic jag given too. I suspect they don’t really know what will work but let’s throw all we’ve got at it/her.  Rita Kitten takes to the back stairs.

One week later Rita kitten is living on the back stairs in the dark almost permanently. She can only walk a few steps before she has to lie down and her breathing is incredibly rapid. She is not eating and only drinking a little. If she does come to the kitchen the jump up on the table leaves her breathless for some time. It is agony to watch. She half-heartedly runs away when the fleecy blanket appears but I’m able to catch her quite quickly. A different vet gives her a short-acting steroid jag and tells me that she probably needs a blood transfusion. The Maine Coone cat who gave Rita Kitten blood last time has moved away; the Cat Blood Bank has none of her type; and it will cost about £1,000 to get it from a Vet in Glasgow. That doesn’t include all the tests which would have to be done afterwards. Rita Kitten’s pet insurance has run out. This means I have to pay it all. So far the jags and blood test have cost me over £100.Rita in box 2013

The next few days are spent watching Rita Kitten on the back stairs. She lies there staring into space. She eats nothing that I know of. My heart bleeds. She is 16 months old and has been at the Vet so much with this illness. It now looks like it will reappear every 5 months, perhaps more often in future. She has never really had the life of a kitten except for brief moments of fun. Who can forget the day she blocked the upstairs loo with everything off the shelf while chasing a moth? Not me, that’s for sure. Nor the man from Dynorod who gave me the bill for unblocking the loo.

On Monday I took her back to the Vet. I caught her straight away because she can hardly move. That’s no fun.  She growls for the first time at the Vet who says her heart murmur is still getting worse. What is the future? We decide that if I can get Rita Kitten re-homed with someone who can afford the expensive bills which are to be part of her future then I should do so. If not, it would be kindest to put her to sleep. The vet says he will ask around to see if anyone could take her and I cry myself silly on the way home.

Rita 310812Son #2 comes out to say goodbye and takes lots of photos. Rita Kitten perks up a little and comes to lie on the table. Son #2 goes home, feeling sad, and Rita Kitten eats a little food. The next day Rita Kitten appears at my bedroom door in the morning demanding to be fed. She seems remarkably perky. The Cat Charity cannot take her because they have no money to pay the bills. I am waiting to hear from the Vet, hoping he has found someone who might re-home her. Not a peep. The next day Son #1 comes out and says that I have exaggerated the whole story as clearly Rita Kitten is as playful as ever. How could I think of putting her to sleep when she is so lively? And indeed, as I type this she has just climbed over my desk to guard the window sill once more.

So, it has been rather a traumatic few weeks. I have watched little Rita Kitten go rapidly downhill with her strange auto-immune disease. I have watched her lungs looking as if they’d explode and her heart race. I’ve tried to tempt her with a little chicken or a little fish, to no avail. I’ve been ready to watch her be put to death because that is no life for a little cat. And I don’t mind telling you, I’ve cried. And I’ve prayed.

Now? I’m just confused. Rita Kitten is a miracle on my window sill. Her eyes are bright. Her desperately pale gums have pinked up and she was eyeing up my pie at lunch time today. She lives another day.

* I have a lovely sweeping staircase with lovely wooden handrail and then there are the servants’ stairs which are dark and narrow and grotty. Every home should have a servants’ staircase on which to fade away.