Arthur Jenkin was born somewhere in South London and dumped with his three siblings, at my friend’s petshop. Walking by one day, with plans now that I owned my house, to get an older cat that no one wanted (for the cat) and a kitten (for me), I was drawn instead to a local petshop.
The last time I felt that sort of urge, which was also the last time I had stepped foot inside a petshop, I had found a three week old kitten, half comatose in a bird cage. So there was no way I was going to ignore the urge. A “Kittens for sale” sign was in the window and accompanied by a rather confused-at-my-I-hate-pet-shops-growl-and-subsequent-perambulation towards it, Sally, my friend and lodger, I marched into the shop.
A rather robust conversation ensued … our friends have heard the story 100s of times, about how I waltzed in, asked about kittens, discovered they were ill, demanded to see them, had a stand up fight with the owner, eventually getting my way and discovering that despite my worst fears, they were getting excellent care.
We were talking only yesterday how Marion chose me as their owner some time before I did. I checked on them every Saturday for weeks, as Marion battled to save all four, then as the girls stabilised, just the boys and then just Arthur as Merlin stabilised and he battled catflu, vision problems, hearing problems and was finally deemed well enough to rehome, with several reservations.
To describe him as a fighter, would do discredit to his loving nature. To describe him as a loving cat would belie the very fire in him that fought to survive.
And survive he did, from frail kitten to frail undersized cat, who always had biggie paws he never quite grew into. Several times, he nearly lost the battle. At 10 months, his first vet agreed to give it one more shot, warning that I would be doing well to get him to one, Merlin to 10.
I, guided by Arthur’s purr, his will to live and his determination to get up and wobble to the food bowl or the litter tray, or lift his head up when he saw me, no matter how ill he was, did whatever I could, culminating in a major turning point in both of our lives when I sat on the floor in my hallway and, with Arthur at my feet and a book in my lap, tried energy healing for the first time and felt it work out of me and into him and felt him accept it.
That night, he made noticeable improvement, astounding everyone. I always told him I wanted a little fat Arfie, not a skinny one and whilst he never ever got near fat, despite the copious amounts he ate, he filled out, his skin cleared up and his fur shone. He eventually developed a little tummy which I used to pat.
The first time he climbed halfway up the pear tree I cried from sheer happiness. The first time I spotted him on the conservatory roof, with Merlin I knew he was going to make it.
Aged about a year and half old, he was still frail when we were having Outsides one weekend afternoon and two strange foxes came into the garden. Aware that they were not “our foxes”, he took one look at them and gave chase, a tiny cat chasing two of the largest foxes I had ever seen. My visibility impaired by the trees, I ran upstairs and watched out of the window, my heart in my mouth, as he chased them two gardens away. When he turned to come back, they were still running. He ran back home, a smile of satisfaction on his tiny mouth.
As my life changed gradually from “woman with two cats” to “mad rescue woman” (https://titflasher.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/looking-back-in-fondness/), he loved and looked after all the frightened, sick and traumatised cats and kittens who found their way to my door. It is always wiser to keep new cats in quarantine for a while if you have resident cats, so Arthur spent many hours stretched out on the landing, purring through a closed door to the cats inside.
He cleaned kittens, played with them, showed them the litter tray, loved the fur of them, resulting in me making a promise I was never then able to keep https://titflasher.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/a-kitten-for-arthur/.
He and Merlin were a complete unit, Merlin the mischevious one, Arthur his rock. My father called them The Bookends, because they unconsciously mimicked each other, in mirror image; always like one cat in two bodies. Whether sitting on either side of the bay window, when I caught them unexpectedly up my curtains in the front room, side by side at the food bowls, curled up in each other’s paws on the sofa, wherever one was, the other would be.
When Guinevere arrived, I was worried their close bond would prevent them fully accepting her, but from the first moment they saw her, they opened their hearts to that tiny orphaned kitten and let her be queen.
When Merlin started to venture out the front, where he was strictly not allowed, Arthur would come and tell me, running to the front window or door and pointing with his nose and meeping until I brought him in, failing only once when Merlin ventured out front quickly late one afternoon and was attacked by a dog. He made it back home and underwent emergency surgery, staying at the vet for nearly 10 days. Arthur fretted the whole of the time and bopped his nose when he arrived home, stitched up like Frankenstein, before spending two weeks loving him back to health.
A legacy from their kitten days, they trusted me completely, one draped over each shoulder, or both on my back. Up until a few weeks ago, Arthur was still climbing up people’s trousers to get on their back if he really liked them. It was an Arfie badge of honour if he did this.
They let me groom them eventually, and we made it into a game. I would yell “showcats” and they would come running, falling over each other to get under the brush or comb.
Always willing to get me up and well aware that I could sleep through anything, he would be me feline alarm clock. Lately, with my new waking up time, he had taken to waking me up at 5am every morning rather than six, something that was never welcome but always ended in me bringing him into bed with me and him curling up in my arms or in the curve of my side, next to my tummy, purring his wonderful Arfie purr. If he slept next to me, he would put his paw in my hand, holding gently with his claws.
Arthur survived cat flu and its recurrences, severe food allergies, severe flea allergies, an allergy to his arthritis medication which resulted in a perforated stomach ulcer, arthritis and then a complication of it a few years ago, when he simply could not get up one day. He walked two days later after intensive treatment and the spurs on his spine grew over without trapping the nerves he needed to be able to walk. He subsequently survived a nasty stomach bug https://titflasher.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/a-heartbreak-waiting-to-happen/.
He survived so much, it I guess was hardly surprising we all hoped he would survive this too.
He was the origin of the term “persisticat” and “pesticat”, always willing to eat, often eating twice as much as the others. He loved grass, running out the front door at every opportunity to nom some and when there wasn’t any in the winter, the spider plant that grows outside.
He had eclectic tastes, from tinned asaparagus (but only the brand that an ex-boyfriend used to buy in Brighton) to tinned mushrooms, smoothies, bish and grapes. I discovered the grape fetish by making the mistake one day of popping my shopping down in the hallway and going upstairs to start the ironing. As I only had fruit and veg in the carriers, I didn’t think twice when I heard rustling but when I heard the distinctive nomnomnom noises he made, I went to investigate. I discovered he had not only torn the plastic to get at them but had neatly bitten off all the tops of the grapes. He could be driven mad with frenzied passion if I showed him the tin of mushrooms.
When he wasn’t pesticatting for noms, he pesticatted for cuddles and was never happier than when on my lap, his brother draped across my shoulders. He loved his chin rubbed, his nose kissed, bring brushed, being warm and secure, snuggled along my tummy, in my arms, across my neck, in his brother’s paws.
Whenever Tony arrives, all my cats go into raptures but Arfie tended to wait until Tony was in bed. Poppet tends to take over Tony completely but Arfie would often just join in, paying no heed to cat manners for a cuddle. One of the last photos I have of him is a couple of weeks ago, doing just that. He loved to climb onto Tony’s shoulder and purr in his ear.
I can’t actually describe Arthur’s character in words that would make sense to anyone who hadn’t met him. He was wise, funny, loving, pesticatting, fierce when he needed to be and tender always. I can’t describe his purr – it moved from normal purr to deep rumble to chirping when he was ecstatically happy. He purred no matter what was going on with him; the moment he saw me, he purred.
He existed to love and be loved in return. The only creature he ever really disagreed with were spiders and he soon cleared my house of them, several times running around with the spider in his mouse as their legs tickled his whiskers, which he appeared to like.
Because the boys were so allergic to so many foods, they didn’t get treats of any kind and I was always careful not to overdo the human food. However, they never seemed to do him any harm, not even the first grape overdose.
When he was at the vet on Wednesday and so ill and we went to see him, thinking it was time, he purred gently as I held him and Tony, Marion and Chris all stroked his nose and his ears. He made a remarkable recovery, one last effort to stay with us.
On Thursday night when I went back to visit, he purred well, stronger and clung on to me when he realised he was going back into the cage, subsequently trying to claw his way out of it to get back to me. I think he knew then he wasn’t going to make it.
Tony brought him back on Thursday morning and when I got home after work, he had managed to get up and stand on the landing, greeting me. Friday night he did the same, but was noticeably weaker.
Yesterday, he made it downstairs so I wrapped him up in a blanket and took him outside briefly to watch the sky. We went back indoors when he indicated that was enough and he toddled back up the stairs to lie down again.
By last night I knew the fight was over. He didn’t want to be fed or disturbed, just left in the spare room to lie with the cats he had so welcomed a few weeks ago.
Those cats did a sterling job of looking after him, at one point both of them lay surrounding him, not touching but close enough, as he slept. Merlin did not move off the ironing board once except to go to the loo.
This morning, Arthur was nearly comatose but that didn’t stop him staggering up when Merlin got off the ironing board and into the bathroom to eat and drink (Felix at 22 gets to eat where she likes and lately that means feeding her in the bathroom). Arthur lay down next to him, a last gesture of love.
In hindsight, it may be that I should have just left him at home, to die naturally but I could not bear him to suffer until my vet opened tomorrow and with such a small window of time before the emergency vet I wanted to use closed, it was a very distraught me who gathered him up in my arms in a towel. Tony raced home to get the car and we made it to the vet with 30 seconds to spare before they closed.
As we sat and waited, me in absolute fits of tears but trying to stay calm to keep him calm, a lovely lady in there with her own cat, one of many, offered some wonderful words of comfort and stroked his nose. He was slipping away from me then, having I think a stroke in the car which was evident in his eyes.
It was the same vet practice who had treated him when he had the perforated stomach ulcer and as I explained what had gone on, he said in surprise, “yes, I saw his history on the computer”, amazed that this was the same cat.
Arthur’s breathing was imperceptible as he slipped from life to death, with Tony and I stroking his nose, after a life lived so exceptionally well, it is hard to think of an equal, in human or feline form.
The thought of having nocat to nick my smoothies (eventually we agree to share them, so I had the majority, undisturbed, as long as I poured some in the lid for him), nocat waking me up in the morning, nocat trying to get out of the door for grassnoms, nocat loving me quite the way Arthur loved me, is so painful I can hardly breathe.
It was my biggest fear that he would not survive Guin’s passing and sadly I have been proven right. My job now is to love and comfort his brother, the other half of him who, like the rest of us, has to learn to live without him.