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On Missing Mr Pussy In Winter

December 3, 2017
by the gentle author

There is an empty space by the fireside since the death of my beloved old cat in August

On dark winter nights, Mr Pussy seldom stirred from the chimney corner. Warmed by a fire of burning pallets, he had no need of whisky to bring him solace through the dark hours, instead he frazzled his brain in a heat-induced trance. Outside in the streets, Spitalfields might have lain under snow, the paths might have been coated in sheet ice and icicles might be hanging from the gutters, but this spectacle held no interest for Mr Pussy. Like the cavemen of ancient times, his sole fascination was with the mesmerising dance of flames in the grate. And as the season descended towards its nadir in the plunging temperatures of the frozen byways, at home Mr Pussy fell into his own warm darkness of stupefaction.

When Mr Pussy grew old and the world was no longer new to him, his curiosity was ameliorated by his love of sleeping. Once he was a brat in jet black, yet he became a gentleman in a chenille velvet suit, as tufts of white hair increasingly flecked his glossy pelt. One summer, I noticed he was getting skinny and then I discovered that his teeth had gone which meant he could no longer crunch the hard biscuits that were always his delight. Extraordinarily, he made little protest at this starvation diet, even as he lost weight through lack of food. I learnt to fill his dish with biscuits and top it up with water, so that he might satisfy his hunger by supping the resulting slush. And through this simple accommodation – plus a supplement of raw meat – his weight was restored to normal and he purred in gratification while eating again.

Once Mr Pussy was a wild rover, ranging over the fields in Devon, disappearing for days on end and returning proudly with a dead rabbit in his mouth. Yet in the end, he did not step beyond the end of the alley in Spitalfields and, in sub-zero temperatures, he only ventured outside to do his necessary business. Sprinting up the stairs and calling impatiently outside the door of the living room, he was ever eager to return to the fireside and warm his cold toes afterwards, sore from scraping at the frost in the vain attempt to dig a hole in the frozen earth. Like a visionary poet, Mr Pussy acquired a vivid internal life to insulate himself against the rigours of the world and, in the absence of sunlight, the fire provided his imaginative refuge, engendering a sublime reverie of peace and physical ease.

Yet Mr Pussy still loved to fight. If he heard cats screeching in the yard, he would race from the house to join the fray unless I could shut the door first and prevent him. Even when he had been injured and came back leaking blood from huge wounds, he appeared quite unconcerned. Only two small notches in his ears persisted as permanent evidence of this violent tendency, although I regularly checked his brow for tell-tale scratches and the occasional deep bloody furrows that sometimes caused swelling around his eyes. But I could stop him going out, even though it was a matter of concern to me that – as he aged and his reflexes lessened – he might get blinded in a fight one day, losing one of his soulful golden eyes. Since he was blissfully unaware of this possibility, I had no choice but to take consolation from his response when he could not eat, revealing that Mr Pussy had no expectations of life and consequently no fear of loss. His nature was to make his best accommodation to any exigency with grace.

Be assured, Mr Pussy could still leap up onto the kitchen counter in a single bound. He could still bring in a live mouse from the garden when he pleased and delightedly crunch its skull between his jaws on the bedroom floor. If I worked late into the night, he would still cry and tug on the bed sheets to waken me in the early morning to see the falling snow. When the fancy seized him, he could be as a sprightly as a kitten. Come the spring, he would be running up trees again, even if  - in the darkest depth of winter – he only wanted to sleep by the fire.

When I was alone here in the old house in Spitalfields at night, Mr Pussy became my sole companion, the perfect accomplice for a writer. When I took to my bed to keep warm while writing my stories, he was always there as the silent assistant, curled into a ball upon the sheepskin coverlet. As the years passed and Mr Pussy strayed less from the house, I grew accustomed to his constant presence. He taught me that, rather than fear for his well-being, I needed to embrace all the circumstances and seasons that life sends, just as he did.

In the spring of 2018 I will be publishing a memoir, collecting together all the favourite stories of my beloved old cat, entitled The Life & Times of Mr Pussy

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So Long, Mr Pussy

58 Responses leave one →
  1. December 3, 2017

    Wonderful … I can feel him with you, even though he has gone … my thoughts for this winter without your beloved Mr Pussy – take care … Hilary

  2. nightsmusic permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Though I always read, I rarely comment, but this was such a lovely tribute to Mr. Pussy. He always sounded like a most excellent companion and wonderful friend. *hugs to you*

  3. December 3, 2017

    Love and hugs to Mr. Pussy in cat heaven.

  4. Kristine permalink
    December 3, 2017

    I am always struck by the Gentle Author’s beautiful gift of expression, no matter the topic at hand. I was especially touched by this story as it reminded me of my own sweet companion who has since left this world, a rescued shelter dog named Maize. She was my dear friend for 13 years. I miss her but I too, comfort myself with the memories I have of her and of all her antics. I look forward to reading the Gentle Author’s collection of stories about Mr. Pussy.

  5. Annabel permalink
    December 3, 2017

    You write so beautifully about your furry friend; I’m so sorry for your loss. Maybe, one day, you might adopt another furry friend who needs a good home to your mutual benefit. Merry Christmas.

  6. Cynthia Lowe Wolfe permalink
    December 3, 2017

    I love reading your stories about Mr. Pussy. I hope someday soon you adopt another cat, both for your own happiness and to honor his memory.

  7. Susan permalink
    December 3, 2017

    It’s hard without them. I lost my beloved field spaniel, Flossie, last May. This will be my first Christmas in almost 14 years without her.

    Mr. Pussy was a beautiful cat, btw. I volunteer at a local SPCA and we have several black kittens in now, all extremely shy. I’ve never looked closely at kittens’ feet before, but noticed that one of them – a gorgeous, sleek little creature – had the most glossy, inky-black pads on his paws. It was lovely.

  8. December 3, 2017

    I really look forward to your book on Mr. Pussy.
    I have a close relationship with my cat and I can relate to it all.
    No photograph can capture who they are and their wisdom, but I am sure your words will.

    My blog is still just in my nervous head, but I am hoping our group reunion will make me abandon my other pressures and Get On With It.

    I hope you are well and haven’t had the dreadful cold that is around.

    Best wishes, Sally

  9. Marina permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Dear Mr Pussy lives on in our hearts!

  10. Danny Fields permalink
    December 3, 2017

    What a beautiful a memory of a wonderful friend. Thank you, Gentle Author.

  11. December 3, 2017

    I will buy, read and cherish The Life and Times of Mr. Pussy, and buy some more for presents.

  12. December 3, 2017

    Alas, poor Mr. Pussy, and poor you. I think he’s with you in spirit. That love doesn’t die.

  13. December 3, 2017

    Mr Pussy had a good life, you must miss him a lot. Valerie

  14. December 3, 2017

    To me this piece says all that ever needs to be said about aging, love and loss. Mr. Pussy did it the right way. No complaining for him. He got on with life and savoured every moment in the best way he could

    GA is doing it right too, creating a celebration of his life that can be shared with and enjoyed by others. Long live the Mr. Pussies of this world!

  15. December 3, 2017

    When I married Diddley I didn’t like cats. But marriage came with Frank. Her beloved tabby.
    I grew to tolerate him. Then be friendly and eventually to love him. He watched tv with me. In the garden he was always watching me sitting on top of the fence. His old age was accompanied by hair being left in favourite sleeping places. I didn’t mind. He had been an adventurer. When she moved house before my time a couple of miles away he disappeared. Six months later they were reunited in her old village. He a lot tougher. He was named after Frank Mansell the Cotswold poet. Now they are all gone leaving me with wonderful memories that inevitably make the festive season one of mixed emotions. They were irreplaceable and I live on for the day happy with what I have now. A talking teddy bear called Bertie. Thank you GA for this beautiful insight into your dearly departed friend.

  16. Jean Clements permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Thank you so much for this reminder of dear Mr Pussy.

  17. Herry Lawford permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Marvellous as always. And a perfect conclusion: ‘He taught me that, rather than fear for his well-being, I needed to embrace all the circumstances and seasons that life sends, just as he did.’

  18. Ken Powell permalink
    December 3, 2017

    All your readers will feel for you – losing a pet is a great blow and Mr P was obviously a companion in a million. Will you get another cat?

  19. Alison Felstead permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Thank you for this beautiful piece, and the photographs. I look forward to reading The Life & Times of Mr Pussy next year.

  20. j woolf permalink
    December 3, 2017

    What a lovely cat he was. I loved reading your description of him.

  21. December 3, 2017

    I hope you still feel his presence and that it consoles you. so beautifully written – a lovely tribute to an old feline warrior poet

  22. December 3, 2017

    I lost my own much loved cat two weeks ago: I still think I hear him about the house, and then remember he is gone. This made me very tearful.

  23. Sue permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Cats have the marvellous ability to come into our lives and steal our hearts whilst retaining a certain aloofness.
    He was a beauty.

  24. Jane Young permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Very fitting a memoir for Mr. Pussy … he will be missed on these pages

  25. December 3, 2017

    ‘His nature was to make his best accommodation to any exigency with grace’ – something we should all aspire to!

  26. December 3, 2017

    I have shown this to Susan, as she lounges on the newly-washed pillows resting on top of the radiator. She too is making the best of what comes to hand. That’s why cats are so great. A fine winter tribute to your absent friend.

  27. December 3, 2017

    I have not commented before but felt compelled to do so with this beautiful post.
    I have always had cat companions and have five at the present time.
    Thankyou for such a warm description of Mr Pussy.
    Briony
    x

  28. Ashley permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Your “silent assistant”. I think I would have loved him too.

  29. Paul Loften permalink
    December 3, 2017

    There should be a Roll Of Honour for cats . Cats of caracter like Mr Pussy serve their life on this earth as loyal friends to man as well as fullfilling their role of reducing the rodent population that blights our lives in this city and we give them no status. I feel your loss. He was a cat of caracter perhaps the first cat on the Roll .

  30. Richard Smith permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Our lives are certainly enhanced by our pets. God bless you Mr Pussy!

  31. December 3, 2017

    Beautful, tender and insightful wiritng as always from the Gentle Author.For those of us who love their animal companions, this piece resonates. Over time we ourselves have said goodbye to one dog and two cats, who now run with the stars.

    I look forward to the publication of The Life & Times of Mr Pussy, which I think – having followed your writing about him over the years – may become a classic.

  32. December 3, 2017

    As an owner who lost their beloved puss in April this year, I was moved by your beautiful written memories of your Mr Pussy bought back the pain of the loss, but in a lovely way only you could express.

    I remain bereft but thankful for your tribute.

  33. Helen Breen permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, this is one of your finest pieces of writing. No doubt because the subject is so near to your heart. I just have to reflect again on these magnificent sentences for which I am grateful:

    “When Mr Pussy grew old and the world was no longer new to him, his curiosity was ameliorated by his love of sleeping. Once he was a brat in jet black, yet he became a gentleman in a chenille velvet suit, as tufts of white hair increasingly flecked his glossy pelt.”

    “Like a visionary poet, Mr Pussy acquired a vivid internal life to insulate himself against the rigours of the world and, in the absence of sunlight, the fire provided his imaginative refuge, engendering a sublime reverie of peace and physical ease.”

    “As the years passed and Mr Pussy strayed less from the house, I grew accustomed to his constant presence. He taught me that, rather than fear for his well-being, I needed to embrace all the circumstances and seasons that life sends, just as he did.”

    Mr. Pussy, RIP …

  34. gioconda permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Please let us know how to purchase your collection of writings on Mr. Pussy! I want to hold your words in my hands, and savor them when I need their warmth. I worry that keeping my cat indoors is protecting him from life, the life he wishes to lead. But to see him wounded as you describe would put me out of my mind.
    I miss Mr. Pussy too, so lovingly painted with your words. He lives in your heart, and through this post, in ours as well.

  35. December 3, 2017

    You say it so well, what it’s like to love, lose, and live with an animal. He was very lucky to have you caring for him. I look forward to the book.

  36. Fran Tucker permalink
    December 3, 2017

    I’ve often thought of your dear Mr Pussy and of you over the last few months. I always enjoyed reading about him and worried for him and for you as he got more frail. We all know the inevitable end that will come and that the friendship and joy that you had will be paid for with sadness. Hold on to all the good memories, hold them and him in your heart …. even though you just want him back, happy and well. It’s not so easy as I’ve learnt from experience.
    I look forward to reading your book it will be a fitting memorial to your friend.
    Take care of yourself this cold dark winter, I’m sure Mr Pussy’s spirit is with you in your old house, those beautiful golden eyes watching over you.

  37. pauline taylor permalink
    December 3, 2017

    I echo all the tributes left here, and as our vet said to us when we lost our last cat, Napoleon, they just do not live long enough. I miss all the pets, both cats and dogs, that have been my companions throughout my life, Jane (a bull terrier) and Bessie (a springer spaniel), Tim ( black and white cat), Nod ( a tabby) Sampson ( ginger tom) and Napoleon (another.r tabby), all individuals and all lovely. And I often think of your very special Mr Pussy ~~~ and I miss him too, they may be lost to our sight but the joy and love that they give us last forever, but oh how hard it is sometimes to bear the empty space. I feel for you GA

  38. December 3, 2017

    This is such a lovely tribute to your precious companion and, as a fan of Monica Edwards and Derek Tangye, I look forward to learning more about the memoir in the new year.

    More than that, it has put me in mind of other feline tributes, such as Samuel Johnson’s Hodge (‘for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature’) and Christopher Smart’s Jeoffry:

    ‘For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
    For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night …’

    More, still, your words have granted us a place at your Spitalfields fireside, too. Thank you.

  39. Judith Haxton permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Gentle Author….. your words about Mr. Pussy left me in tears. He was as lucky to have you as you him and I especially love the photograph of him by the tree, very poignant.
    Judy

  40. mark permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Lovely . Identify with all that. Your period of mourning must come to an end sooner or later. These beautiful creatures ARE replaceable. Love another!

  41. MARIA GONGORA permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Thank you for remembering and writing about your wonderful Mr. Pussy and his life and manners… I look forward to reading your book!

  42. Caro permalink
    December 3, 2017

    Your words are never more beautiful than when about Mr Pussy.. Looking forward to the collection!

  43. Robin Call permalink
    December 4, 2017

    The sting of the loss of a constant companion takes a terribly long time to fade. He was a handsome little lad.

  44. Kitanz permalink
    December 4, 2017

    Such Sweet Winter Pussy-Moore Please!!

  45. Frances permalink
    December 4, 2017

    Dear GA –

    what an absolutely lovely tribute to your dear friend. I am so sorry that you no longer have Mr P around, but he has, as others have said, brought out some of your most lyrical and heartfelt pieces of writing. I so enjoy everything you write – it is a highlight of my day to read your latest piece, or peruse the fascinating old imagery you publish.

  46. Mary Moulder permalink
    December 4, 2017

    In my family, we have always believed and found true that our beloved animal companions don’t want us to be sad without companionship. The pet will soon send another beautiful companion to comfort you. Keep your eye open for the wonderful cat companion that Mr. Pussy will be sending you. It may be a lovely kitten who appears at Mr. Pussy’s favorite outdoor places, or as unromantic as a call from the vet with a rescue pet needing a home.
    Mr. Pussy loves you too much not to be concerned for your comfort.

  47. Adrienne Roche permalink
    December 4, 2017

    Beautiful words for a beautiful cat. A pleasure to read, thank you.

  48. Helen permalink
    December 4, 2017

    A lovely tribute to your beautiful cat! Our family moggy died over 20 years ago and we all still miss him, and even though he was a curmudgeonly old boy, he was always curled up on his own chair by the fire with us (woe betide anyone who sat there!) Even though my parents live in a different house now we still feel he’s around somewhere. My thoughts go out to you.

  49. December 4, 2017

    Oh yes, I can understand all this. In my own neighbourhood there appeared now a little cat called “Chico”, a real tiger with a wonderful and pretty physionomy. He is always after the birds which I feed all year round on the balcony. When I come home, even in the late evening, my tiger welcomes me with a loving purr. I take him in my arms, cuddle him and bring him into my living room — where he examines everything closely. And then heb goes “hunting” for the birds on the balcony! (Lucky for the birds: Chico is always too slow to get them! :-)

    I am so in love withe this small tiger!! And my thoughts are with the G.A. …

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  50. Ruth Fleming permalink
    December 4, 2017

    I was entranced reading this blog, and hope that the pain of losing Mr Pussy will lessen. At the moment we share our lives and house with 5 cats, all different personalities and all loved and needed to keep me sane. We have had so many cats come into our lives over the years. Hope another will come into yours, not to replace, but to add love and zest to your life spent sharing things with an almost wild creature who can easily get into your heart.

  51. Margaret MCDermott permalink
    December 4, 2017

    Oh Mr Pussy you are sorely missed.But you brought grace into the lives of others.

  52. Debra Matheney permalink
    December 4, 2017

    Cats are such a comfort, particularly on winter nights. I know you miss his company. I hope you will consider adopting a new cat. I now have 3 and the bed it truly toasty. My husband says his American Indian name is sleeps with pets! I had 2 brothers and one died so he was replaced with 2 new ones a little over a year ago. The amazing thing is how well they get along and have done so since the day they were introduced.

    Look forward to reading the new book.

  53. Adele permalink
    December 4, 2017

    It’s been ten years since I lost Ms. Tuppence, but I still think of her often, snuggling up with me in the crook of my arm on a cold night. We never forget them, but the loss eases and we hold then in our hearts forever. Mr Pussy will never be replaced, but perhaps one day you’ll be ready to adopt another ..

  54. Sonia Murray permalink
    December 5, 2017

    As a gravestone in Norfolk says so eloquently, “Friends, though absent, are still present.” You still have Mr. Pussy in your heart. He wouldn’t want you to be lonely. Somewhere, in a London shelter, there is a second Mr. Pussy, watching and waiting and hoping for your loving arms to gather him up and carry him home to the fireside this Christmas.

  55. Mitch Barnes permalink
    December 6, 2017

    What a superb piece of writing! My own cat is my constant companion when I am at home, never more than five yards away from me, mostly sleeping but occasionally attempting to attract my attention by stretching against a door and running her claws down it! I look forward to reading a copy of The Life and Times of Mr Pussy – I can hardly wait!

  56. December 6, 2017

    Beautiful words and images , a fine cat in many ways.
    And how generous to share with all of us your deep loss.
    Animals share parts of us that no one else can.x

  57. December 7, 2017

    An absolutely beautiful narrative which I just read to my partner. So looking forward to reading your memoirs of your life with your beautiful companion. x

  58. December 12, 2017

    ‘The Life & Times of Mr Pussy’ is going to be really popular – you know what we Brits are like about animals…more often than not they are our priority……

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