This week has been a particularly sad one, on Tuesday morning my wife phoned me to tell me that our elderly cat Pumpkin had died overnight. It wasn't entirely unexpected but his sudden decline was still a shock and it has left us with a wee ginger space in our lives that is going to be very hard to replace. 

I know, 'my cat has died' isn't exactly the most earth-shattering news that anyone can share, and God knows I'm not exactly the most sentimental of people, but his passing has left me sadder than I could have imagined possible. Although that's nothing compared to what my daughter is going through, she can't remember a time without Pumpkin in her life, we got him when she was three years old and he'd been with her ever since. Much as I hate anthropomorphism, they were like siblings in some ways. Occasionally squabbling; her whingeing that he was noisy/smelly/always hungry, and him grumping at her if her cuddles were too tight or taking a swipe at her if she was being too playful. Invariably though you could find him holed up in her bedroom taking advantage of the one person who was guaranteed to fall for his ginger charms.

He was a rescue cat that we got from the SSPCA way back in 2004. A cat wasn't top of my list of priorities, I've always been a dog person, and I maintained that cats were smelly, unhygienic and a pain in the arse to clean up after. And I was mostly right! However any hassle was quickly forgotten when he turned out to be one of the most personable and chilled out pets I'd ever had. We snuck him back to our house in Nairn, we'd been told by the landlord that pets weren't allowed, but she kept turning up unannounced with her stinky, yappy Bichon-Frise things. Utterly pointless, stupid, hateful animals that would bark at their own shadows, the best thing you could have done with them is stick a pole up their arse and use them as mops. And yes, I'm a dog person. Seriously, if you're going to get a dog get a proper one like a lab, or a Staffie or a Collie or a mutt. Anything but one of those pompous little monsters. So to hell with her. 

His day mostly comprised of lying in places. It would change from day to day, never really ever settling in one particular spot for more than a couple of days before moving on to another that suited him better. Whether it was a better view of what was going on outside or a more strategic position where he could plan on intercepting us to remind us that he hadn't been fed in at least half an hour.  He was like a slovenly ginger version of the Doctor Who Weeping Angels

A box. Or a bed. 
In fact lying around was exactly what he was best at, to the point where he ballooned up into Garfield-like proportions when he was mostly housebound during our tenure at the flat in Tomnahurich Street. It wasn't the nicest of flats and we shared it with a family of mice who seemed keen to evict us with an avalanche of mouse droppings. Fortunately Pumpkin The Merciless Mouse Botherer was there to apathetically bat them about the house before leaving them to die a slow death under the bed or on one memorable occasion, in Rhiannon's buggy. 

He spent an hour catching it and spitting it out at various locations around the house so he could chase it down again. Eventually I managed to intervene and put the bedraggled thing out of its misery. All at 3am. Lovely.

So as you can see above we had a fine specimen of a Ginger Cat. A hunter (sort of) and at his peak physical condition. Unfortunately a few years of not venturing out an awful lot took its toll. He was never one to stray far and the the busy road outside meant that he tended to scuttle back inside and never go beyond the stairs to the garden, which was pretty secure in of itself. But he was never one to shy away from an easy life and with a few staff to dote on his every need why bother going outside? So this was the end result and I warn you, it's not a pretty sight. In fact if you have small children around or if you're of a delicate nature I'd look away about now.....

'And finally monsieur, a wafer-thin mint'.
Like I say, not a pretty sight! Stick him in a white vest clutching a copy of the Sun in one paw and bottle of Irn Bru in the other and we've got white van man material right there. 

So he got a bit lardy and that was admittedly our fault for pampering him. However subsequent moves to bigger houses with better gardens soon meant he dropped the weight off, although (much like me) he was never at peak physical fitness. And despite all that he still mostly seemed to just lie about. Sometimes being a door stop...

Ok, so the door is about 3ft away but it's the thought that counts, and it does look he was heading in the right general direction before giving up. His later efforts were far more impressive though....

But he was a skilled seat-warmer-upper. Managing to get maximum coverage across the seat before willingly sacrificing his spot to any visiting guests. Ok... 'willing' might be a bit strong. 

He was also a skilled sports pundit and his 'love' of golf was unmatched anywhere in Drumnadrochit, although his perspective was slightly eccentric...

Not only that, but he was a Feline Style Icon. 'Cat' from Red Dwarf took style tips from him and celebrities such as Cat Stevens, Cat Deeley and um... Meowly Cyrus would all phone to get his views on what's 'in' for the season. His specialtity was always head-gear though, and last winter's number was particularly fetching....

A photo posted by Toby (@leodhasach) on

And that was Pumpkin. His last six months were, I think, blissfully happy. He had an unmatched view across the garden and out towards the village. There were plenty of passing cats to keep him interested, dogs to pretend he wasn't frightened of and bats would flutter by the window which would occasionally pique his interest. Although the bat that ventured into the house a few months ago had him the most animated he'd been in years! 

Wherever you are my friend, I hope cat heaven has plenty of places to sleep on, roll about on and generally mooch about on. 

           Pumpkin. 2001(ish) to October 18th 2016. 

A photo posted by Toby (@leodhasach) on


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