Guest blog: Simba was a supersized, creamy ginger kiss, and about as calorific. He had the finest, softest pale-ginger-and-white fur, which regularly shed over the carpets and furniture all year round.
Simba - with the most insistent and relentless meow when food was at stake, or when he thought it was time for me to go to bed so he could have a human on whom to dribble, purr into at jet-level decibels and generally crush the breath out of.
Simba - not well endowed in the brains department but what was lacking there was more than compensated for by his sweet, generous, loving nature.
He came to us in a roundabout way. He was about 3 years old when he and his late sister, Neela, were adopted by my daughter about eight years ago. When my daughter went overseas, Simba lived with us for a short time, but as we had several other cats and my mother, unusually, had none, he became the perfect companion for an elderly lady.
When my mother went into care two years ago, Simba came to us permanently. Being an uncomplicated boy, he fitted in well with the two other cats and life settled into a pleasant routine. Simba was always the first to meet me when I got home and in a frenzy of feeding anticipation he would always shove the others out of the way to get to his bowl first. Our catfood bills grew, and so did Simba.
Christmas 2013 was Simba's last. The children brought him a Santa suit, which he wore with good grace, and he was the centre of our attention. As summer went on I noticed he had lost some weight but as he had plenty to lose and seemed happy, I put it down to the warm weather. It was only when he stopped eating for a couple of days that we thought something could be amiss.
Off to the vet, to be given the hammerblow news that he had a huge tumour and was in an advanced stage of kidney failure. How odd it is with cats that so often there are no real early signals and by the time you realise, it's far too late.
Too much, too soon. Simba spent a few days at the vet being rehydrated but he never ate again and became slowly weaker and sicker. It was time to make the hardest decision, yet it felt too early to say goodbye. But we didn't want him suffering - which he was already, and he would only get much worse.
It was hard to tell the children and my mother, who all had great memories of him, and heartbreaking when the time came. I spent nearly an hour stroking and talking to him, telling him through tears how much we loved him. Even then, his heroic purr never deserted him.
The vet was very kind, and said to let her know when we were ready. Well, "never" was the answer I wanted to give, but how long can you delay the inevitable?
Simba stopped purring when the vet came in, but was calm. Maybe he knew? The end was painless and quick, and the light left his eyes so quickly. I've seen it before and it just reminds me that the body, no matter how beautiful, is just a receptacle for the soul.
Fly free, my lovely boy, and join the others that went before you. I'm sure we will all meet again.
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