The festive season has been subdued and very sad for us. Last year we had three gorgeous, rescued feral kittens. I bought them toys and a real tree so that they could climb, because they had had a hard start in life, and I wanted their future to be happy. They rewarded us with unconditional love, joy and affection, as all our pets do. There was Jack, a rascal who was always getting himself into trouble, who followed me everywhere and liked to chew, very gently, on the ends of my fingers while he lay upside down on my lap. Then there was Dylan, the shyest who took the longest to trust us, who liked to sleep curled in the crook of my arm, and Milo, who got so excited every time he was stroked that he couldn’t sit still.
All three went missing over a weekend in November when they were just a year old. For the first week I could convince myself that they had all gone on an adventure together. For the next few weeks I did everything I could to find them, searching for miles armed with cat biscuits, advertising, putting up posters, getting articles in local newspapers, thousands of shares on social media, signing up on lost pets websites, informing all the local vets, shelters and putting up a reward of first £1000, then £2000. I must have been called to see every black cat in the area, though of course, very few of them turned up when I was there, no matter how many times I went, and some of them proved to have owners in the very street where they were reported.
Eventually, I have had to admit that the fear I buried deep is almost certainly true – they, and four other cats in my locality, were taken and killed back in November.
This is hard to deal with. I have had cats that died of illness or old age, having shared their lives with me. Over the years I have even had other cats go missing, never to be found, and accepted they must have met with accidents. But the cruelty and the loss of all three is something very different. The feelings that I have cannot be simple grief, and they are hard to deal with, because I am not even sure what they are. I had promised my boys a safe and loving life, and I feel I let them down. At first the loss was tinged with worry, then a kind of despair at a world where this could happen. For a brief few minutes I even harboured fantasies of what I would like to do to the person who had killed them, but I am not that weak. People who carry out mindless acts of cruelty to animals are pathetic misfits, driven by anger, fear and an innate lack of self-worth, whose only sense of control comes from hurting the small and weak. They are to be pitied because they are indeed pitiful. I hope they are caught and given the psychiatric help they clearly need before they hurt anything (or anyone) else, and before their innate darkness devours them whole.
However, there was a wonderful light during this time of darkness – the many, many people who came together to help me. Those who searched, distributed posters, shared my posts and offered to contribute to the reward. Local friends who went out with me each day, and others who travelled for many miles to help look, complete strangers who combed the area and distributed posters, the many dog walkers who said they would keep a sharp eye out, the builders working nearby who went out searching at lunch times, and the people who called me with suspected sightings. The majority of people in this world are kind and good, they believe we are here to help each other, and that makes the world beautiful. It far outweighs one damaged crank who would make it ugly.
I will remember that I gave my beautiful boys a very happy year. It should have been a lifetime though, and that pain will be with me forever, though I hope it won’t always hurt so much.