Boris started life in the most desperate of circumstances. Stuffed in a bin bag with his brothers and sisters as a new-born kitten and left by the bins at the bottom of a Glasgow tenement garden.
Thanks to the brother of my then work-colleague, whose garden it was, he was rescued, nursed to health and eventually landed on my doorstep, tiny and black and curious. I knew there was something quite special about him from that first day, when he fell asleep under my bed and snored with that wheezy snort he always had.
He lived with me for the best part of five years in two far-too-small flats, but it wasn’t until I moved into the Stockbridge Colonies in Edinburgh with Alexis that he really was able to be his true, happiest self. We had a little garden, and the street was quiet so he was finally able to enjoy and explore the outdoors, even though the flat was still pretty damn small. He sunned himself on the bench in front of our bay window, sat amongst the daffodil leaves and ferns sniffing the air, watching blue tits and robins, hoverflies and bumblebees. He was a pacifist. He never really hunted, preferring to watch the birds flit from the laburnum tree to the bride tree and back again. He occasionally toyed with a beetle or a cranefly in that cute, slightly obsessive way cats have, but seemed to just enjoy following their crazy progress with his huge expressive eyes.
Everyone thinks their cat is the best in the world, or is the most eccentric character and truly the greatest cat by far. That says so much about the special bond that can exist between a human and a cat. It’s a relationship of mutual benefit. Boris was never shy about expressing his opinions. I’ve never met another cat with such a large vocabulary. From the tiniest little half-meows and throaty grunts and snorts, to his multi-syllabic meow-screams, telling you off for not doing what he wanted you to do, thoroughly putting you in your place. I’ve never known a cat to express indignation quite so pointedly as Boris could when you weren’t quite living up to your part of the bargain as human-owner.
He loved his fuss, his food (particular favourites – olives, cheese, tuna and ham) his catnip mouse, scratching post, sunbeams, eating grass (even though it made him sick nearly every time) and most of all, preening his shiny, immaculate midnight-black fur to perfection. He loved to sleep buried under blankets where he would leave an indentation coated in that fur. His hairs would follow us around the country. It wouldn’t be unusual to be 300 miles away and suddenly find a Boris hair in your eyeball.
He would tap you on the arm if he wanted fuss, or if you stopped with the fuss too soon. It wouldn’t be unusual to be lying in bed and have a paw stretch up from below and touch your arm. He would headbutt you, violently rub his cheek on your laptop screen, knock the book you were reading out of the way so you paid him the attention he deserved. He loved having his belly rubbed, would purr like an engine, loved having the bridge of his nose stroked with the tip of a finger, would get the hiccups when he became too excited and the fuss was just too much.
He had an uncanny ability to tell the time. His concept of routine was quite something to behold. He knew when I was coming home, would wake from his afternoon slumber about ten minutes or so before I got in and would be sat on the arm of the sofa waiting for me with a feed me meow. Sometimes we were like E.T. and Elliot. If he was feeling a bit under the weather, so would I. If I was nervous or upset, he would always pick up on it.
Like many cats, he inherited many names. Some cute, some cuddly, some profane, some ridiculous, some whose meaning would take far too long to explain…
He was: Fluffyhead, Fluffmonster, Fuzzyhead, Little Pal, Supercat (because of the way he stretched his front legs straight out past his face when he slept on his stomach). He was: Jobby-ferret, Spunk-badger, Shit-weasel, Captain Dingleberry, Spaghetti-head, Fluffbum, Dude and many many others. But most of all he was my Buddy.
Nearly three months ago we left Edinburgh. Through various miracles we managed to buy a beautiful house surrounded by woodland in a hidden valley, deep in the Ochil Hills. I had hoped it might be a fabulous retirement home for Boris, approaching his 14th birthday.
He enjoyed his time here, while he could: chasing his favourite treats up the long hallway, watching the pheasants and chaffinches from the many large windows, snoozing on the sofa, stretching out in sunbeams on the wood floors, tentatively exploring the garden and a house bigger than he’d ever seen.
He had been losing weight, and starting to go off his food little by little, electing to sleep under the blanket on the sofa more and more. I thought his poor old teeth were giving him trouble so took him for some dental work at the vet. They found something more troubling, and over the last couple of weeks the liver disease ate away at him, taking away the things that made him Boris.
On Friday 2nd September, one day after his 14th birthday, and after the most difficult and heart-breaking decision I’ve ever had to make, the vet came to the house and helped him find some final peace.
I had hoped he would get to experience life here in the new house for much longer. To enjoy the heat of the wood-burner in winter; to explore the bushes and pine trees and fields of ferns. Still, what a way to come from the bottom of a Glasgow garden, dumped ignominiously by some callous bastard to a home where he was loved and cherished and had all the space in the world to be Boris.
We buried him in a small glade, between two vast old pine trees, with a handsome stone cairn to mark his spot. He can sleep peacefully now in the place he began to love.
Night night, Buddy. X