Updated: Mar 23
Lewis, or Achilles as his pedigree states, is known by many as the fierce cuddle bug that he is now. The cats in the neighbourhood have a healthy amount of fear and respect for him. And judging from his grand mane and almond shaped eyes that give of a look saying: "I've seen it all mate", he doesn't deserve less than respect and awe. But he wasn't always such a tough guy or beacon of health...
Never get a pet from Gumtree is what they say. They, the pet professionals, say that because they know that you have a bigger chance of purchasing or adopting an animal that has health or behavioural issues from people who just don’t care.
I’m a pet professional and yet I still adopted Lewis via the Dutch version of Gumtree. He had me at: “let me sit on your lap and make myself comfortable”. And there I was, on a train back home, accompanied by this giant ball of white fluff with a crusty, snotty nose and a lifetime of love and purrs.
I adopted Lewis from a Good Person; I was lucky. She had purchased all the cats from one breeder in the hope this breeder would shut her shop of poorly kept kitties. Obviously, the breeder just started afresh with a new breed. And there she was, the Good Person, with a house full of Queens and Toms and a handful of kittens.
Lewis was terrorising them all, being the only child that he is, so she had to put the little man up for adoption soon. In the meantime, she had tried to get all the cats as close to health as possible. But, with Calici virus being passed on between cats that live in such a closed environment, it’s just impossible to eradicate it completely. Putting Lewis up for adoption was the kindest thing she could do for him; all the other cats passed away within a few years from secondary infections, Lewis is still going strong at 15 years old.
Soon after arriving back home with him and him settling into my little studio, he figured out the joys of being an only child. This means people come running when you ask for something, be it day…or the middle of the night.
Due to his upper respiratory disease, Lewis would often sneeze very tough mucus and sometimes blood. We would be sitting in a steaming bathroom in the middle of the night when he would be wheezing me awake. Hard to remove snot would be deposited on the curtains, the walls, my electronics…
Fortunately for him, I was working as an ER veterinary nurse in an Animal Hospital and had access to free advice from an Internal Medicine Vet. They advised certain last-resort medication doses. For a month long, Lewis was on heavy-duty medication, the healthiest prescription diet I could find at that time and regular exercise. He used to be an indoor cat, but I trained him to take the stairs down to the communal gardens and go outside for short periods of time.
Within half a year of adopting Lewis, the two-year-old snot nose, grew into a strong and healthy hunter who brought home decapitated ducklings and rabbits (he was already telling me the bland, dry food didn’t cut it) and refused to use a litter box indoors.
Looking back at it now, I often forget the state he was in when I adopted him over thirteen years ago!
Lewis and I moved house seven times, moved country one time, said goodbye to two elderly, adopted cats, one partner/cat parent and welcomed a new partner/cat parent into our hearts. We’ve settled into a beautiful daily routine where we brush our manes together and sometimes even use the toilet together. We also enjoy travelling together by car and train. He loves to sit on a train table and watch the world go by, or hop into the car, and hop out again on the farm in Cornwall or his grandparents’ garden in Friesland. I’m not sure a cat has ever received so many credits during wedding speeches as Lewis had last year!
I can’t imagine waking up without him being there, ready for another half hour of snoozing and spooning. He is the ultimate work-saboteur and my weak spot. I would drop anything by the tip of the hat if he would need me.
But I know I will have to say goodbye to him one day. A friend told me of their parents’ cat who turned 27 (!!). In the last two years, she was a zombie-cat, but those other 25 years, she was amazingly fit and sprightly. I can only wish for ten more years with Lewis, and I would give my all if we can have that time, provided he has good quality of life.
We have been seeing him get older as of late. We’re visiting the vet more frequently for minor issues that get out of control more quickly, his arthritis flares up more violently and he can’t eat just anything he likes anymore without either growing fat or developing an allergic reaction. He needs a bit more maintenance, supplements, pain medication and supplementary therapies, just like an older human being would need. But on the other hand, he is kinder to young male cats in the courtyard, and they are more respectful towards the sophisticated gentleman. Together with my spouse, we create our own little love bubble with its own language and we know each other through and through.
I am looking forward to spending the autumn of his life with him. I have promised him to not go on any far away journeys until we have said goodbye, as I have already missed so many months of his life pursuing a career. He is my inspiration, my pillar, my mentor and Zen coach, my clown, and my personal purveyor of magical fairy dust (read: cat hair) and I’m savouring every minute of being blessed with his presence.