I am sorry to report that Fishy, feline companion for nearly thirteen years now, is no more. She went rapidly downhill over the last few days: stopped eating, lost weight visibly, dribbled blood from the nose. I took her in to the vet this afternoon, and he confirmed my feeling that it was the beginning of the end and she was actively unhappy. I've never had to have an animal put down before. It's a horrible mix of awful and relief: at this stage, it's all I could do for her.
I acquired Fishy while I was still in Masters, when our next-door-neighbour at the infamous wytchfynder digs found Fish and her two kittens in a drain in Sea Point. The neighbour kept the black kitten, the tabby went (in a bizarre and completely unrelated coincidence) to the digs where my sister happened to be living, and I got Fish. She started a long career in reserved and dignified suspicion by spending two days under the dining room table. When we moved into our current house, I was convinced she'd run away, but she turned out to have been curled up under my duvet the whole day, presumably protesting the rearrangement of her environment.
She was never meant to be called Fish. I wanted to call her Ariadne, for no adequately defined reason, but my flatmates didn't like the name. The debate was still raging when Carlo wandered in to visit, walked over to stroke the new feline, who had finally consented to emerge from under the table, and said, "Hello, little fishy!" It was one of those Lightning Naming Moments: it stuck. I used to defiantly write "Ariadne" on the front of her vet booklet, but in later years she's just been "Fish." It has a certain ring to it, and causes mass outbreaks of giggling in vet waiting rooms.
She's always had an enormous dignity, a matronly calm which telegraphs "Don't fuck with me!" to all but the most oblivious. She has, in a long career of reserve edging into bad temper, bitten me, bumpycat and the vet, and clawed enough people that I've lost count. For a somewhat ponderous and overweight feline she could move at lightning speed, and friends soon learned to pet her cautiously and to avoid the sensitive spot at the base of her spine, a sure ticket to a slashing. She nonetheless had something of a fan club, headed by first_fallen, who I have had to regularly shake down on leaving the house to guard against Fish-napping.
Fish was never demonstrative, mewing extremely seldom, and when she did in a somewhat small and rusty voice. Her purr was likewise restrained. Demands for affection entailed standing adjacent to the object of desire and death-glaring until affection was forthcoming. In rare moments of extreme demonstration she would stand on my sewing table and rest her forehead against my stomach. She always preferred men to women, having a positive adoration for my ex-housemate Mykal. Even now I darkly suspect she was fonder of my Evil Landlord than she was of me. She slept on his bed right until the end, leaving small bloodstained dribbles on his sheets.
She was always a small-framed cat, but when we acquired Toad and Golux she started eating their feline growth formula food, and rapidly ballooned into a small, furry blimp. Jokes about my fat cat have long been a tradition in extemporanea-baiting. herne_kzn once incurred my wrath by referring to her as the "Death Fishie" ("That's no moon!"). I fondly remember a pizza delivery guy who, encountering her unexpectedly, made some remark about how fat a cat she was. The laser quality of my glare caused him to quickly backtrack, and he left trailing a string of retractions: "she's just furry!" "big bones!" "a fine figure of a cat!" He's just lucky we'd already tipped him.
She was fat enough to have a slightly rolling gait which nonetheless had tremendous dignity: Fish walking across the wooden floor was a small, slow peal of thunder. She was undisputed Top Cat in our pecking order. The saddest thing about the cancerous growth which killed her was that it made it too painful for her to wash properly, and her usually pristine white bib ruff and prim white paws became matted and grubby. I am very glad that I asked stv to take the beautiful portraits in this post before she was too changed by her illness. She retained her feisty temper to the last moment, though: even weakened, she growled at the vet when he injected her.
Our vet is a wonderful combination of practical, compassionate and sympathetic, and he made the whole thing as easy for me as it could be. I have to agree with his comment that these endings we offer our animals are a lot kinder than some of the ones we offer our fellow humans similarly afflicted and with no such access to an easy release from pain.