We first met Sophie 11 years ago after a stray Tom cat turned up at our door one day. He was in a sorry old state and very bedraggled and riddled with fleas. We didn't want to risk our 5 other cats catching any illnesses so we took him to the Cats Protection League for help. They took him in and we said that, if they were unable to find him a good home, we would bring him back to live with us. A few weeks later we went to visit him but he was at the vets (and looked likely to have found a home) so the lady showed us all the cats she was caring for around her house (and pens in the garden). We already had 5 cats and I didn't really want any more (I have enormous respect for the people who look after all these animals but was attempting to be realistic about how many we could look after whilst both working full-time) so I resisted the cute little kittens and bolder older cats mewing "pick me pick me" but Daddy was taken with a very sorry looking black cat who sat at the back of her little pen with manky, gooey, eyes. She had been found in a shed with her kittens and was estimated to be around 4 years old. I think it would have been unlikely that anyone would have ever chosen her to be honest.
"Can we have Sophie?" Daddy asked "She really looks like she needs a home".
That was probably the understatement of the year!
It wasn't an instant happy ending. Introducing a new cat into a household of 5 cats is not easy and we also didn't actually realise quite how timid Sophie was. Would you believe me if I told you that she hid under a bookcase for around the first year she lived with us? She'd stick her head out for something to eat; we managed to hold her for long enough to put endless amounts of eye gel in her eyes that were full of infection; and she used the litter tray. I will be honest and say that I wondered what the hell we had done on many occasions for that first year.
After about a year she started to venture out more and started to let me brush her. Her eyes had cleared up by now and she seemed to be feeling a tiny bit happier. She would hide instantly the moment anyone else came into the house though so no-one really believed this cat actually lived with us. One day, not long after this, she slinked up to me in the lounge and suddenly jumped up on my lap and snuggled up. I could barely breathe and was trying to whisper-shout to Daddy to come and see what had happened. From that day onwards Sophie claimed me as her Mummy. Every night she would jump up on my lap and snuggle with me. Slowly she started climbing further and further into my arms until she eventually found her favourite place of sleeping with her head under my chin; snuggled in my arms with her paws stretched out in front of her. It was like having a warm, purry scarf. That remained Sophie's favourite place to sleep until a few weeks ago. We called it her "Super-Cat" position.
Sophie remained extremely timid and anxious for most of her life. We think something must have happened to her whilst she lived the feral life. She remained mistrustful of most men although made an exception for Daddy (she never liked men's shoed feet though). She loved being out in the garden but didn't trust humans generally, although in later life she learned to make exceptions for houseguests who offered her food! When we moved to our current house she loved our new, enormous, garden and would spend all day outside, sunning herself on a patch of earth or sleeping in the gazebo. It was only over the past few years that I would say that she started to say hello to people who visited our house frequently.
Once she settled in we realised that Sophie was a real character. She would eat almost anything and particularly loved crisps, prawn crackers, chicken, lamb bones and would love to lick a plate clean of anything that had been on there (including Thai green curry or baked beans!). She was a little hoover! She used to slink around the house with this cute little bottom wiggle and earned herself the nickname "The Dark Destroyer" and "Slinky". She was so black that when she closed her eyes she would almost disappear. It was quite disconcerting seeing these beautiful eyes suddenly appear in the darkness. Up until quite recently she liked to sleep near me at night and would often be on my pillow or even asleep in my arms when I woke up.
About 4 years ago a routine visit to the vet revealed that Sophie had a heart murmur and further tests revealed that she also had high blood pressure. This explained her skittishness. The vets weren't overly optimistic about how long she would live with this condition but started her on Istin and Benazecare to help her blood pressure and Asprin to thin her blood. After a few months of tinkering with the doses her BP came down and it was like having a different cat around the house. She was so much calmer and far more chilled. She even started to show herself when guests were in the house and people finally believed that she lived with us (although she never did feel comfortable around children). She took her medication like a total trooper when I crushed it into her food (although she totally refused Tramadol!). I have spent the past 4 years cutting tiny Istin and Asprin tablets into quarters (and more recently eighths when we had to add an additional dose in the morning as well). Sophie had to go to the vets once a month to have her BP checked and she recovered so well that eventually she only had to go once every three months. She literally blossomed. It was wonderful to see. Other than needing a few teeth removed as she got older she was in great health.
I feel so sad that Sophie is no longer in our lives but relieved that her fight is over now. She was the bravest thing I have ever met in my life and she overcame so much in her life. She reminded me a bit of Princess Diana and would look up at your with her head down and her eyes lifted to make eye contact. She taught me that you can trust again despite having difficult circumstances and a tough life. She taught me how to be brave. She was an amazing little lady and we will miss her tremendously. My arms will always feel a bit empty in the evenings now my little chin warmer has gone.
RIP Sophie-Cat Aged 15 and a half (aprox).
Rest peacefully under our apple tree.
Have lots of fun in moggy-heaven.
We will never forget you or the lessons you taught us.
I'm sure she will be forever sunning herself in our garden as happy as can be.