Ms Phoebe

Ms Phoebe was a beautiful soft British Blue cat. Here is her story.

Our Ms Phoebe was born in 1994 in Wales , one of seven kittens in an aristocratic family of British Shorthairs. From the very beginning she was special, being the only one of her large litter who did not require additional bottle feeding. She made sure from the start that she got her fair share of the milk.

I first saw her when she was just three weeks old. She was a gorgeous little bundle of blue fur, climbing all over the place exploring her new world. She was bigger than any of her brothers and sisters!

At the age of nine weeks I was able to collect Phoebe and take her home to her first house in Manchester . After the usual initial fears and distress, she soon settled in to her new home, and we began a routine that she would continue all her life.

Each morning she would wait impatiently outside the bathroom until I had finished my shower. She would then rush in and dibble dabble in the water in the wet shower. Next it was time for food, and she made starving kitty noises in spite of the fact that her dish was seldom empty. She always saved some of her food, just in case there was no more forthcoming.

Phoebe loved to play pounce from behind the hall curtains. She also had a black furry spider on an elastic that she would tug on determinedly. Eventually the spider had no legs left, but the small pompons that had been its feet were chased all over the house for years.

Phoebe was strictly an indoor cat, and for the most part she displayed no interest in the outdoors, except that she enjoyed dozing in a patch of sunlight, and she was an avid birdwatcher. One day, she decided it was time to explore the big outdoors, so she set off through the window of my study. It was on the third floor! She made her way carefully across the gutter onto the neighbour’s roof, which she climbed up and over to the back of the house. From there she got down to the second floor window of Dick’s study, which was also fortuitously open, and she returned indoors none the worse for her adventure.

In 1996 it was time for Phoebe’s first international move. She found the whole process quite disruptive to her routines, as one thing and another disappeared into boxes, and then all her favourite furniture was wrapped in brown paper and cardboard. She spent a few days with a friend, not at all an experience she enjoyed. Far from finding friendship with the three resident cats, she was appalled by their attentions and wanted nothing to do with such brash individuals. She retreated in disgust to her room and remained there until it was time for her flight.

The house in Prague was a good one for a cat, because it had lots of very wide window ledges for sleeping in the sun or watching the world go by. The layout of the rooms was excellent, and it was possible to terrorize the young man who stayed with her by parking herself in the door of the kitchen in order to swipe at ankles if he tried to pass. Best of all, the house had a bidet. A bidet is a bathroom fixture especially invented for the enjoyment of cats (clearly Europeans must all be nations of cat-lovers). A cat can sit or even curl up in the nice cool porcelain, and if the owner is paying attention, wonderful little fountains can be made to play for the cat’s enjoyment.

After three years in Prague , it was time to return to England . At the time they still had the pointless and unnecessary quarantine laws that required the family pet to be incarcerated for six months. I was fortunate to find a place that provided considerably better accommodation than the usual cage, and at half the price of the better known facilities. Dick still complains about the two thousand pound bill for it. Phoebe had a two level room with an outside run that backed onto an aviary. I visited her weekly, driving an hour and a half each way for a twenty minute visit. It was only twenty minutes because after ten minutes of cuddling and petting, and ten minutes of play with her toys, Phoebe invariably was ready to resume her nap, and she made it quite clear that it was time for me to leave!

Once the quarantine was finished, Phoebe came to live with us in the house in Epsom. She was much happier there than she had been in Prague . Probably the air smelled right, and certainly the incessant sound of barking dogs was absent.

Our Ms Phoebe never enjoyed being picked up or patted by strangers, beyond a respectful stroke between her ears on first meeting. This caused some difficulties, because it doesn’t seem to matter how often you tell people not to pet the cat, there are always some who disregard the instruction, with inevitable and painful consequences. Occasionally she met someone who she really disliked, and that person could annoy her merely by speaking to her! She also believed firmly in her sovereignty in her own home, and she tended to object forcefully to being shut out of guest bedrooms or prevented from investigating their belongings. This was how my Mum and Dad earned her displeasure, and she never really forgave them.

In 2003 it was time to move house again. This time we sent Phoebe ahead, to avoid the stress of watching her belongings being packed and crated. On arrival in Calgary , she was whisked into the vet’s office and divested of her front claws which were increasingly becoming a problem for our friends and family when they visited! In spite of Phoebe’s age, the vet was excellent, and Phoebe never really knew that her weapons had been taken from her. She still gave a vicious swipe to anyone who annoyed her, and had the satisfaction of watching the offenders jump back in dismay, even though no damage was done.

The house in Calgary was not really Phoebe’s cup of tea. It lacked convenient window ledges for bird watching, but she made the best of it. Eventually it was time to move again, and this time, instead of flying, Phoebe embarked on a new adventure. We decided to drive with her across the US to Upstate New York. She sported a handsome red harness for the trip, and after the initial fear of the strange moving room, she quite enjoyed sleeping on the special shelf that is built into all cars behind the back seat for cats to lie on. Each evening Dick would carry her into the hotel room, and every morning we would have the great game of getting cat out from under the bed in order to get her back into the car.

The house that we lived in so briefly in Allegany was Phoebe’s favourite. After her initial fear she loved the open plan with the cathedral ceiling and the huge windows that came right down to floor level for optimum bird watching. Far from being frightened by the slippery wood floors, she raced all over the house and up and down the stairs, losing pounds in the process. It was as though she shed years with the pounds, and she was playful and even quite friendly with visitors for the short time we lived there.

Ten months later came another move, this one a complicated endeavour that was in two parts. First was another long drive, across the US to Texas with the usual stops each night in hotels. On the last morning we returned to the room to find no sign of the cat. We looked everywhere, and began to think that somehow a maid had come in while we were at breakfast and let her out. Not so, she had found a hole in the muslin of the box spring of the bed, and had crawled up into the springs. By the time we retrieved her, the room was a shambles and certainly the cleaners will have been full of speculation on just exactly what we had been up to the previous night!

Houston was not a happy time for Phoebe. The townhouse did not have windowsills or any way for a cat to enjoy the views, nor are there refinements such as bidets or walk-in showers. Also I had to be away for much of the first four months, and Phoebe was lonely and went into somewhat of a decline. She rallied when she moved to Malaysia in the spring of 2008.

Although the apartment lacked good windowsills, there were places for a cat to soak up the sun beside balcony doors, and the bathroom was perfectly equipped for a cat’s pleasure with a large walk-in shower and the essential bidet. Now quite elderly and sedentary, Phoebe had her daily routines and her favourite sleeping places, and she was quite content in her final years. Each afternoon she would move to a good vantage point on the back of the family room sofa, where she could expect petting and brushing each time I walked past. Eventually it would be lap time. Most people who knew her did not think of Phoebe as an affectionate cat, but every evening of her life, when I sat down to watch television, she would make herself comfortable on my lap. There she would remain, with occasional forays to have her head rubbed by Dick, until the tv was turned off and it was time for the evening play in the bidet.

As time passed Phoebe spent more time sleeping, and in her last years she lost all the plumpness characteristic of a British Shorthair. Her coat was still beautiful though, if a bit more silvery than it once was, and her golden eyes still glowed with interest when it was time for play or feeding. She became very affectionate, and even tolerated being petted by strangers. She always greeted our guests with great interest, and enjoyed being part of the conversation for a while after they arrived.

Any time that I had been away, Phoebe would make it a point to sleep on the bed with me for at least a week after my return. It was as if she thought that by doing that she would ensure that I did not leave again. The sight of suitcases brought a woebegone expression, and she would hang around watching the packing, or occasionally helping by sitting on the clothes or even in the suitcase. She was not one for goodbyes though. As soon as the suitcases were put near the door she would disappear and hide in another room, so as not to have to watch us leave. The last time I saw her she was lying in her favourite spot on the back of the sofa, happy to be petted as I went past.

Phoebe went to sleep one evening and never woke up. A very gentle passing, exactly as we had hoped, without pain or trauma. She was with us for 16 years, traveled the world with us, and we are both going to miss her so much. I know I am going to be looking around for that quiet grey shadow for years to come.

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