Ripley is the first cat I’ve ever had from a kitten. I got to name him, and I named him after Patricia Highsmith’s self-confident, sociopathic but amiable arsehole; he’s always lived up to his name. He’s cuddly, but shouty. He always comes home at the end of the day and he always plays nicely with the children, but sometimes he gets stuck on the roof of a perfect stranger’s house and sometimes he’ll leave a severed head next to a neatly arranged pile of entrails under the dining room table every day for a week. When I lie in bed with my left foot tucked under my right knee he’ll come up and make a nest with his chin on my shin and go to sleep. You can hear him purr from the next room.
But tonight he’s stalking around the house, scratching at the carpet, or my trousers over there, or the bedspread, and spraying. The only reason why the house doesn’t reek of his musky micturated felinity is because I’m following him around with a bottle of aftershave. It’s like a 1995 disco in here. By the way, it’s 2am.
A few years ago Ripley got into the habit of pursuing primal scream therapy in the middle of the night. He wouldn’t go out, but he would shout the place down, usually at about 4 in the morning. It was driving me Bad Insane ™. My youngest son was teething and every time I went to bed it was a toss up whether I’d get a whole three hours before I had to get up again to comfort the little bastard, and then even when the teething wasn’t dragging us out of the bed the damn cat was. In the end I had to sit down with Ripley and make peace. I had to accept that he was a god damn lesser creature that we had brought into our family and fallen in love with, and he had to accept that I was powerless to stop him from doing whatever the hell he wanted. Several hours later, we had a deal.
Ripley has been a great friend to the boys, and he still lets me cradle him like a baby and tickle his tummy, just like I did when he was a tiny kitten. He’s eight years old now, and these days he mutters to himself as he wanders around the house because three or four months ago we got a new kitten, Lucifer Balls. Lucy likes to pounce on Ripley when he walks by, and I think Ripley thinks he deserves a little more respect than that.
Freya certainly believed that she was due more respect than that when Ripley used to pounce on her, when she was eight years old and he was the kitten. Freya is Ripley’s grandmother and she came to live with us when we got Ripley. Ripley used to sneak up to granny and try and suckle on her. Freya usually kicked him in his head for his trouble.
That’s a picture of Freya at the top of this piece, sleeping next to Lucy.
Freya would have turned seventeen on Sunday. But her kidneys stopped working a few days ago and they poisoned her. Multiple organ failure, in the end. When we took her to the vets on Monday night she was the size of a kitten herself, but she was all bones and loose skin, and she could barely move. Just enough strength to push her little face into the crook of Lex’s arm when she cuddled her. We had to have her put down. It’ll be a while before my youngest son trusts the vet again: he’s drawing pictures of Freya and accusing them of murder. We’ll get the ashes back tomorrow.
Freya was a gentle thing. She was overweight when we got her, and not as cuddly as her grandson, but she would follow Lex into whatever room she was in and sleep on her bed every single night. Every single day for the last eight years that Lex has tried to work on her laptop, she has had to scoop that old cat up off her keyboard and set her down on the carpet, usually with some affectionate profanity. Until this week. Freya spent every morning sleeping in the sun. She’d follow it around the house, but seemed only to move when you weren’t looking. She wasn’t half as noisy as Ripley, but every now and again she’d let out a warbling mew and bring us one of the boys’ smaller cuddly toys as a present. Lex and I found one of those toys under a cabinet this afternoon. Freya probably left it there a couple of days ago.
Poor Freya. She had a good life. She liked to punch her grandson in the face and she always muscled her way to the front of the queue when I put the food down. When she was nervous she would over groom a spot on her left back leg until it was raw, but she hadn’t been nervous in years. To quote the poet: “her breath smelled like cat food.”
No wonder Ripley’s in a state. I’d piss on the carpet if it would bring her back.