The Thing Is with Steve Canavan

Steves daughter Mary with Percy, the family cat
Steves daughter Mary with Percy, the family cat
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Percy’s gone on the long walk to cat heaven

Brace yourselves – I am the bearer of unfortunate news. Our cat Percy is no longer.
While at work earlier this week I received a call from a sobbing Mrs Canavan. For a moment I thought she’d discovered I was having a passionate affair, but it turned out to be something much worse – our beloved son had been discovered lying motionless 20 yards or so from our garden gate. It seems he was hit by a car, bringing his life to an end at the grand old age of seven-and-a-half.
A neighbour very kindly stayed with our children while Mrs C – after drying her eyes and putting her marigolds on – went outside to scoop Percy’s motionless body into a black bin liner (not the most dignified of ways for a corpse to be treated, but I guess it’s one of the downsides of being an animal).
I was at work and could do little other than make sympathetic noises over the phone and say things like, “well, at least he didn’t suffer”, which is probably not true because if he was hit by a Volvo estate at speed it probably smarted a bit.
I was obviously sad. A cat becomes part of the family and Percy was a good little fella… despite the fact he never once contributed to the mortgage repayments and had an annoying habit of occasionally vomiting in the middle of the kitchen floor (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to change my socks of a morning after wandering bleary-eyed through a pool of sick).
But what did surprise me slightly was the reaction of others. My wife – because she’s younger than me and into things I’ve never heard of, like the internet – put the news on social media and folk began sending messages like, ‘I’m SO sorry for your loss. Are you Ok? Do you want me to call round?’ Someone even left a casserole by the front door.
When I went to Sainsbury’s later in the day – and this is true – a family friend stopped me in the dairy aisle and hugged me.
It is, of course, lovely that people are so caring, but it is also a tad embarrassing. While I don’t want to downplay the loss of an animal – I’ve had pets all my life and know how utterly attached you get to them – having lost my dad a few years back, you have to keep these things in perspective.
It was the trip to the vets I found trickiest.
You can take the body there for a communal or private cremation. The latter is more expensive but you get the ashes back.
The other alternative is to bury your deceased animal in the garden. My Aunty Jessie’s 22 cats, for instance, were all buried in her back yard with a little marker denoting where each was. (When she died at the age of 98 and her house was sold to someone else, the new proprietor must have wondered why there were 22 lollipop sticks protruding from the grass. They’re in for a shock if they ever decide to turn the soil over).
However, I’ve never been good at digging – I have weak arms – so I opted for the vets. I put poor Percy, still in a bin liner, in his cat carrier. “It’s a lot easier getting him in here than it used to be,” I observed to Mrs Canavan, in a bid to lighten the mood. It was ill-judged, she started sobbing again.
The most difficult part of the whole thing was working out what to tell Mary, our two-year-old.
Percy has been an ever-present in the first 30 months of her life and every morning she feeds him his biscuits and (in her mind) gently pats him/ (in reality) whacks him on the back of the head.
When he wasn’t there the next morning she asked where he was. My mum advised saying Percy had gone to cat heaven. But I wasn’t keen on this, because Mary is at that lovely age where she is untainted by the misery of life. The worst thing she’s experienced in her time on the planet thus far was when her wooden giraffe toy went missing (she cried uncontrollably until we found it lodged down the side of the lounge settee). So I told my mum I didn’t want to have to explain that things actually die just yet.
“Ok,” said my mother, “tell her Percy has gone on a long walk instead”, which is not a bad idea – although in six months time Mary would be forgiven for turning round and saying, “daddy, this walk Percy has gone on – it’s a bloody long one”.
In the end I took the wimpy option and said nothing, and she’s started to ask less and less about him.
We’ll get another soon because I’m of a mind that a home isn’t a home until you’ve got in it a pet dog or cat or boa constrictor (granted the latter isn’t as cute as a kitten, but it’s much better at doubling up as a draft excluder on a badly-hung door).
So RIP Percy. Your knowledge of the green cross code may have been suspect and your vomit ruined many a pair of socks – but you were a little belter and we’ll miss you.