When does a pet, stop being a pet, and becomes a family member?
This is an extract from something I posted on Facebook a week ago today:
A pet isn’t a pet if they treat you more like a relative, than just ‘human.’ Atilla was the epitome of that. She was the sixth member of our family. Not just the grey ball of fluff that expects you to feed her every three seconds.
I had a pet cat. But as the above paragraph suggests, she wasn’t exactly a ‘pet.’ She was a family member, the ‘sixth Hutson.’ I’m not saying this solely because I loved her immensely, and because regardless of the fact she’s 20 years old she so goddamn cute, but because of reasons I am about to explain. Cue, The Grey Guardian.
My Mum and Dad adopted Atilla from being merely a kitten, which was back in 1993, before I was even born. She was the ‘baby’ of the household for two years, and then in ’95, I came along. Usually, the stereotypical reaction of a pampered cat when the first baby comes along is either ‘I don’t really care,’ or ‘Child, I hate you.’ Til was neither of these. She loved the new human in her life. Sound like stab in the dark? Nope. When I was eventually out of hospital (story for either another time, or probably never), I, of course being a baby, had a cot. Like I said, Til’s first reaction of me was love, so she didn’t hate it when I was out of the cot. She was content around me, acted completely normal, and I guess I would’ve tried to grab her tail multiple times when I had the chance, but all babies do. She put up with it.
However, the real love was shown when I was in my cot. She would sit, directly underneath my cot, wide awake, watching every pair of feet that walked into the room, and listened for every footstep. This was every single time I was in that cot. She defended me. Wide awake, waiting to pounce on anyone who dared to lay a finger on little old me. Coincidence? No. I have two siblings, a brother and a sister. When they were young, and in their cots, Tilbo would do the exact same thing. Lie low, watch, and defend. When we eventually grew up enough to sleep in beds, Til would still be with us. She’d sleep on our beds, especially mine. Usually, I’d wake up to her on my bed, and I’d fuss her, until she bit me. Made that mistake too many times. From when she had no more defending to do, she was free to roam the house(s), and do as she liked. For years on end, she was our cat, and I mean, years.
Roughly three or four years ago, we noticed Til was beginning to ‘get old.’ In other words, she didn’t seem herself. We’d call her, and she’d stare into space. This went on for a while, and eventually we’d deduced that she’d gone deaf. My Father amusingly tested this assumption with an air horn. We were correct. She didn’t bat an ear. We took her to the vets, and discovered that she had a tumour on her neck. She wasn’t in pain, and nor did she know it was there, but we were told to take her home, and enjoy our last few weeks with her. Three/Four years later, she was still there, and still being perpetually pampered. Not exactly a bad thing. Then from pretty much the last day of term one here at Uni, to when it ended, her condition deteriorated. I’m not going into detail, as it’s not relevant.
On the 12th of January 2014, Atilla ‘Maggot’ Hutson curled up, and fell asleep for the last time. We decided to have her put to sleep, as she couldn’t live with how she was. After a long life, twenty years of relaxation, love, and family, Til now rests in the sunny spot in the garden, where she liked to sit and watch the world go by.
She purred until her last breath.
As if she was saying, ‘thank you.’
So when does a pet stop being a pet and becomes a family member?
When you realise you’ve loved them since you first met.
Now her scarf hangs next to the Permanent Visitor’s hat.
She’ll be here forever.