Darkness has fallen and it’s going to be a still, cold night.
In the living room, the wood-burning stove casts an orange-red glow across the hearth rug. But the fire gives no warmth or comfort: between us and the flames there’s a huge gulf where Cleo should be, enjoying as usual her evening of luxury sprawled out in front of the fire, occasionally moving away when she gets too warm, or turning her head to check we’re still there and to purr and meow her pleasure with life. But tonight Cleo is out in the garden – under three feet of cold wet earth.
A neighbour who’d called round late morning came running back to the house to say one of our tabby cats had been driven over by a white van: she (Tabatha or Cleo?) had run in through the main gate and disappeared. A wounded or frightened cat goes to ground, so Denise and I searched the garden methodically, calling her name softly and listening. Working my way along the foot of a hedge on my hands and knees, I found Cleo: she was struggling to call out for me – she was clearly in great pain. Denise crawled in under the hedge and got her out: no external wounds, but there was something seriously wrong internally, and the poor girl was struggling to breathe and with blood coming from her mouth.
Cleo was the most beautiful of cats: oh yes she was very pretty and elegant, with her long thin body, extraordinarily long legs and tail, dark tabby coat but almost apricot tummy; but beauty that really counted was in her personality. Although there are other cats competing for our attention – and Tilly too, Cleo was never jealous or irritable, always ready to talk (the special language cats develop for communicating with humans) – very chatty indeed; alway quick to acknowledge others with a short prrr and a smile. She had very nice indoors manners, and was always sociable with visitors. An extremely good mouser too, catching them in the garden or across the road on Cnoc a Deas or amongst the seaweed on the beach, and bringing them home to us as her contribution to the household economy. In fact she was crossing the road with a large mouse when she was run over. But she was a bit too confident for her own good: we’d tried to dissuade her from crossing the road with us when we took Tilly for a walk, but she would simply wait back a while then appear behind us on the beach, keeping close-by, chatting away to us. We learnt to shut her indoors when we went over the road, but to stop her doing it altogether we’d have had to keep her shut in all day. She loved her home life, but she loved outdoors too.
Cleopatra: a beautiful, brave and loving cat, a free spirit but also wonderful companion. We mourn the loss of her innocence and beauty, all the joys of life yet to come: Oh but how we loved her! We shall miss her always.