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Luna – a cat who stole a dog lover’s heart

“Julie, I don’t know how to tell you this. It’s Luna.” Those were the words that issued from my mobile phone as I stood in the goat enclosure of a theme park in Cornwall. My Mom was at my house caring for the dogs, cats and the rest of the menagerie while we took a week’s break. Now she was ringing me with the news that every pet sitter – or indeed pet owner - dreads most; one of those in her care, despite her best attentions, had died.

Luna was one of our much loved, and looked after cats. She was an affectionate, agile, dainty, beautiful tortoiseshell cat. She was always the more active of the two kittens we brought home only nine months ago. She never caught up in size with her larger, laidback brother Leo, but she out paced, out jumped and out hunted him. Luna was a month short of her first birthday. And now she was dead at the roadside in front of our house.

Despite the fact that we live in a very rural area, she had found her way out of our garden, on to the well used B-road nearby, and somehow she had been injured. Thankfully, I learned later that she was not disfigured or mangled in anyway, so she must have just been bowled over by a car and received internal injuries.

It was so hard to be so far away. We wanted to go home; we wanted to be with the other animals. We wanted to bury her, and honour her memory properly. What we really wanted was to have our cat back. We made several phone calls as we sat at a picnic table in the theme park – were they sure it was Luna? Was she definitely dead? And so on. It was bizarre to be surrounded by tourists pursuing happiness, while our fun had come to such an abrupt end. We sat at the table, crying, blowing our noses on serviettes hurriedly snatched from the cafe, and we tried to discern what we should do.

People will tell you that dogs bond to people and cats bond to a place, but I no longer believe that, because Luna taught me different, and definitely bonded to my daughter, Jenny. She would climb onto Jenny’s lap, squashing herself alongside a laptop if necessary. When she wanted to be made a particular fuss of, she would plant her small feet on Jenny’s chest, and repeatedly push her face against Jenny’s chin, meowing, licking and it has to be admitted, very occasionally biting. Biting was something she did from time to time, although she never drew blood. Jenny would always say, “No!” firmly and wag her finger in Luna’s face, at which point Luna would screw her eyes up, but offer no remorse or back off at all. Jenny was amused when it became Luna’s habit to bite and then automatically screw her eyes up even before any reproof was administered.  Mostly she was content to lie in Jenny’s arms, and be cuddled and admired.

On one occasion Luna got stuck on the wrong side of the cat flap, which she never quite got the hand of, and sadly we never got the time we anticipated to fully train her in its use, and got drenched in a downpour. When she came in meowing sadly, and dripping wet, Jenny grabbed a towel and prepared to dry her. I warned her that Luna might not take well to that – “She’s not a dog!” I admonished. To my surprise, Luna was perfectly happy for Jenny to scoop her up, wrap her in the towel and hold her in her arms while she dried off. I have photos to prove it too.
Despite her affection for Jenny, Luna had all the hunting instincts of her ancestors. The first “kill” Luna and Leo made was a fridge magnet. Ironically it was in the shape of a mouse and they managed to separate the body from the head – perhaps a sign of things to come we thought. Luna did indeed catch a couple of birds, although we managed to rescue and release them, and also several small rodents, but she never progressed to decapitation of the real-live thing.

Her hunting was not confined to the garden; in the house she had certain items that she was always passionate in tracking down. No straw in a glass was safe as Luna could scale any surface in the house, being light and confident, and she would spend many delighted hours rolling around with a prize. The other thing she developed a decided predilection for was small plastic medicine spoons. Any of these not washed and put away quickly enough were pounced on and carried off to her bed, or some other private area to be played with at her leisure.

Never one to worry about whether the rights or wrongs of any situation, one of Luna’s favourite sleeping places was deep in the dark recesses of our computer cupboard. Somehow she would pick her way through the complicated, impossibly tangled wires to lie in the warm. Not content with getting herself into such a precarious position, she would ambush us, darting her paw through the small gap between the desk top and the keyboard tray, patting at our hands and pulling on the mouse wire, which could come as quite a shock when we were engrossed in work – or to be honest play! – on the computer.

I hope I’ve provided an insight into the capricious, anarchic but ultimately loving spirit we shared our life and home with for far too short a time, and why we were so upset at the loss of that companion. After much soul-searching and dithering, we carried on with the holiday – it was not a case of kicking our heels up and having any fun, it was more a case of digging our heels in and a sticking it out. I still don’t know if we made the right choice, or even if there was a right choice, or just one to get us through it.

Perhaps the story that best sums up Luna is this one. In the week before we went on holiday we had some lovely warm sunny days. On one such day Buddy was lying just outside the back door basking in the sunshine. Although there was room for Luna to step sedately out of the door and past him, she leapt through the doorway, swiped Buddy with a forepaw and streaked away from him down the path. Buddy swiveled his head round, saw it was her and did a canine equivalent of an eye roll, a shrug and a resigned, “Kids!” expression.

And that was Luna – she leapt whenever she could, she took an enthusiastic swipe at life, she stole our hearts, and all too soon she was gone. She left behind her a small but significant Luna-shaped hole in all our hearts. In time that hole will become less raw, but it will never disappear.

Some may think this a lot of fuss and over reaction for “just” a cat. To you I say that basically you and I are “just” people. If the value of a life is reflected by those we touch, effect and connect with, then Luna’s short, energetic, joyously full-pelt life had meaning. There are many of us – human, canine and   feline – who lived with and loved her, and who now miss and mourn her.
She was a cat amongst dogs and dog lovers, and she opened all out hearts to the joy of life with a feline companion. She was our little cat and we loved her.

One friend sent condolences saying that wherever Luna was she was sure there were lots of cat treats there, and I hope so. I hope all the things a cat could want await Luna through those pearly gates, or should that be pearly cat-flap? – if it is I do hope it is wedged open for Luna because as I mentioned she did not live long enough to absolutely master the contraption.

 Wherever she is, I wish for Luna a warm place to sleep, a bowl that never runs out of delicious cat food, and all the cat toys she can launch herself after.   I also hope that if any small mammals or birds make it there they can either live peacefully together or get out of the way fast. And of course, I hope there are no roads or cars to worry her.

Luna – we loved you we will never forget you, that’s a promise. Rest in peace – or take the afterlife at reckless top speed – you always knew your own mind.

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