It’s just days since our we said goodbye to our beautiful boy, Gizmo.
Sitting here in grief and so much pain, I thought it might be cathartic to look through photos of him and remember all those 16 years we had him. It’s hard but also lovely and brings back so many memories.
As if to demonstrate the fact that he was with us for so long, a lot of the photos of him when we first got him are on film. No iPhones in those days!
When we moved into our previous house, it had a cat flap. I had never been a “cat person” having had a dog and many other animals growing up, but never a cat.
One day, just before my sister’s wedding in October 2002 and around my birthday, this little kitten appeared. Thinking my husband, Duncan, had bought me a kitten for my birthday, I was smitten. He clearly wasn’t ours but we named him Bose, after the stereo Duncan bought me for my birthday. He stayed a day and a night and we left him on our bed as we went off to my sister’s wedding.
When we returned, he had obviously found his way out through the cat flap and returned home. We never saw him again.
A few months later, Duncan thought he heard him downstairs. It wasn’t him but that prompted him to say “right, let’s go to the Cats Protection League and find a cat to call our own”.
So one Saturday morning in December 2002 we met Gizmo. A feisty young male black and white rescue cat. They didn’t really know his story except to say he didn’t come from a family and that they thought he was about a year old. His certificate says date of birth 1 December 2001. They then did a home visit the following week to check our home was suitable and then we brought him home. We knew he was feisty and full of energy but nothing could prepare me for the handful he was.
For the first 8 to 9 months this gorgeous little boy was a total horror. We worked out he must have been brought up with dogs as he would retrieve balls and hair bands that were thrown for him. He wouldn’t come upstairs for months. He was aggressive and a biter and scratched me if I stroked him more than two or three times. Everything was a game of defence to him. I just did not know what to do with him. But, we loved him and giving him back was not an option. So I decided that he needed taming and to do that everyday when I got home from work, I’d pick him up and cuddle him. He’d try to bite me and scratch my face, but I persevered.
The next summer, Duncan and I had a holiday in Gozo. Gizmo had his cat sitter and he was allowed to come and go, an outdoor cat through and through. In fact, if you tried to lock him in, he’d just rip the cat flap off!
When we got home from that holiday, something had changed. It was as if he was so grateful we hadn’t left him and suddenly realised we did love him. He was ours and wasn’t going anywhere.
From then on his present-giving started. He was the most prolific mouse catcher I’ve ever seen. Often 2 or 3 mice a day, then progressed on to rats. Our house backed on to an old railway line and an allotment so a perfect playground and hunting territory for him.
We got Poppy from the Cats Protection League in 2005, mostly to keep Giz company but also to try to calm him down. Poppy was the only cat we saw who we thought had the right personality to handle him. She is the perfect foil for him, always standing her ground when he plays a little roughly. She’s a completely different character!
When we moved house in 2006, he cried for weeks. He missed his large territory of allotments and railway grounds. No more mice catching!
Over the years he became a big softie. The once aggressive little boy turned into the most loving and adorable cat. Always quite an intense and serious character, he demanded attention, especially at night – a full night’s sleep has been a rarity. Gizmo would be on our bed throughout the night with a 3am wake-up being his favourite time. Head butting our face or pawing us on the nose, chin and forehead until we woke up! We never locked him out; there have never been any closed doors for them.
I’m so grateful that’s he’s always been fit and healthy. Only a few incidents over the years – a painful stake lodged into his leg, a wasp sting in his mouth and a food poisoning episode were the only visits to the vets.
However, this summer, at the ripe age of 16.5 years old, we noticed he was losing a bit of weight. In an old cat you expect them to lose a bit of form and muscle, that’s what the vet told us in January when he had his check up. But we felt this was different.
He went in for a check up in July only to be told he had kidney problems, was very dehydrated and would need to be on fluids for a few days and have some scans so a proper diagnosis could be given. This summer, the hottest and longest on record for decades, had probably exacerbated his condition.
When he was discharged we were told he was in chronic kidney failure and there was not a lot more we could do. His kidney function was around 25 – 30% so we had to keep him hydrated with sub cutaneous fluids every day.
He was weak when he came home but weeks of looking after him and feeding him up he recovered well.
He had 8 really good weeks with us, jumping up on the fence, seeing off the local ginger cat (did I mention he really hates ginger cats!) and up and down the stairs in our house and hassling constantly for treats.
The last week of his life he deteriorated rapidly. Sadly we were in New York for work but realised just before we went that he was weakening. The final signs are not eating and their back legs going.
I will always be eternally thankful to my friend Hayley, who cared for both of them for a few days and especially to Julia, who has looked after both of them for about 10 years and saw him through his last few days. They have never been in a cattery when we’re away, always having someone at the house to cuddle and feed them.
We got home in time to spend one last night with him. He was so very weak and off his legs but was made comfortable. He knew we were home and with him. At the vets, he was in my arms and moved his head under my chin and then went to sleep, peacefully.
Life will never be the same without this special boy. He was the love of my life and my boy. So much love and devotion, both ways; he loved me unconditionally – so many years together.
In human terms he was 83 years old (3 months short of his 17th birthday) – a good life, you’d say. But it’s never easy to say goodbye to someone you love. But he will always be with me, in my heart forever. I love you Gizmo and always will. Sleep well baby boy xx.