A biography of my cat of 18 years: Helga.
We were told that our cat might lose its leg after a car accident just before we met Helga. Her owners abandoned her after she could no longer walk. When we got to the vet in Cardiff there was this adorable white cat with a stylish orange smudge to decorate her fur. Her leg had recovered. She was not a brave kitty hence the strong Germanic or Viking name we gave her. She hid behind the stereo in the vet's house and my wife went in and shutting the door spent about twenty minutes trying to persuade her to come out. Eventually, she did and received a warm embrace in return, the first of many. We put her in the special cat box we had bought for her and I drove, I still remember her wide eyes taking in the sights as we went on the longest journey of her life thus far. My wife sat beside me while I drove and a conversational style of interaction was born as we explained to Helga the sights and how much better her life was just about to become.
Helgas new English home
We had a three-bed English-sized house - meaning really small. It really was not that big and our double bed filled most of our bedroom. At some point, I explained to my wife that Helga would not be sleeping in the bed with us. For the first week, Helga had the guest room to herself. She needed clear boundaries. She was frequently visited and stroked and pampered by my wife, a lifestyle which she seemed happy to adjust to and her confidence started to rise. We gave her the freedom of the house. One of her first regal acts was to join us in the bedroom indeed from the first night she left the guest room and pretty much every night since. However, she never slept on my side of the bed. Think it had something to do with me lying on top of her by accident early on in our relationship, There was a squeal and a frightened little kitty has never returned to my side of the bed. But as a result of her imperial demeanor and needs, her royal highness took up half the bed leaving my wife and me to sleep in the other half. I got used to the purring and she got used to having to leave the bed when things got romantic, I wonder though if my wife has actually slept a full night through in the last eighteen years.
Helga in England
Eventually, we realized that Helga was ready to roam outside. So we opened the backdoor and both of us watched as she made her first steps out. She boldly strolled across the garden, clambered up a six-foot fence, and in one heart-stopping moment, we will never forget, disappeared over the other side. We waited and we waited and she did not come back. There was this sinking feeling that we might have lost her on her first day out. Then suddenly she appeared at the top of the fence and clambered down and back into the house. She had come back and spent the rest of the day receiving our gratitude with regal graciousness. Though more confident now she did have a few embarrassing moments. For instance, there was the time that a mouse got in the house and our cat having discovered that went and hid. We had to catch the mouse with a piece of cheese and a mousetrap. However another time she took on this tomcat twice her size, on the top of our shed, while I watched from the bedroom window. This was her garden and we made sure that trespassers knew that also chasing other cats away and even spraying them with a hose on occasion. Her royal highness would then nod her approval and settle down to sleep in the sunshine. Helga liked our son when he came along, maybe because initially, he was very small. My son, and a girl he knew, would even share Helga's cat food. Even now that he is six foot four she still likes him more than me but no longer shares her dinners with him.
Helga moves to Germany
When we moved to Germany Helga got her own passport, a European one issued in the UK, which probably is not valid post Brexit, so her imperial majesty might now be an illegal immigrant. She never learned German so we only ever speak to her in English. She has adjusted very well to having a big garden. She became quite fierce in fact catching nine mice in a single day. She played with her prey of course in front of us, no doubt showing off her skills as a huntress before gobbling them down. But after six mice she was full and so she brought the last three into our bedroom as a gift. So my wife is standing on the bed pointing at the slightest hint of movement and I was assigned to catch the mice. I caught them one by one taking them outside to execute and bury them in our garden. In our next house, Helga caught a blackbird. She was so proud and again brought it up to me in the bedroom to show off huntress prowess. I took the bird from her and noticed it was still breathing and though shaken it seemed intact. So I threw it out of the window. It flew off, but still dazed and terrified it flew straight into our neighbor's window and fell to the ground. I checked to see if it was there moments later but it had gone by then. Helga was funny in the snow her white fur the perfect camouflage though she decided not to linger too long in it. Our second child came along and Helga loved her and by this time I was feeling left out. My role was feeding her, finding her in the middle of the night when she was late coming home, and bringing my wife coffee when the cat had her pinned down. She has only ever lain directly on top of me twice in her life and I suspect that was a mistake.
Helga is now between eighteen and twenty years old and has not long for this earth. She caught her last mouse at a birthday party I had in Germany which my entire family attended. But she did not eat it, she played with it and mauled it, we found it on a neighbors doorstep dead later on. She would climb two floors to our bedroom for most of the last ten years but it got harder for her recently and she would mau strongly at us if we're not ready to receive her and wine and dine her in the style to which she had become accustomed at the end of her journey. One day we came home and we suspect that she might have fallen and hurt her leg. We wondered if this was the moment when Helga would leave us and there were not a few tears about that. Everybody spent time with her drinking in every last moment. After visiting the vets we saw that she was not yet ready to die and still had a zest for life. She just did not like stairs anymore. So we put MFI boards over the key points and nets over the gaps so that she could roam on a single floor at a time. Now she has a toilet on every floor which is more than we have and she enjoys sleeping most of the day, sleeping in the sunshine, with expensive organic sunscreen on her ears, preferably with someone in a hammock beside her, reading a book. The next-door neighbors have a noisy dog which we have called Barkie. This dog barks every time it is let out or goes for a walk. In the old days, this would have scared Helga. But now she is almost completely deaf and cannot hear the dog barking. So she will be sleeping in the garden, while the dog is barking its lungs out, completely oblivious to the din. Actually, the fact that she is stone deaf may not have really registered with us yet as all of us chatter with the cat continually even if she is no longer listening.
Helga might not have long for the world, she is after all like 150 in human terms! But she is still loved and knows it and she still purrs loudly at night.
Everything is slowing down now in her twilight years but she is not dead yet!