I'm trying to write this post, but I keep being interrupted by a very annoying noise. My cat, Ju Ju, keeps shouting at me. This isn't unusual. Ju Ju shouts a lot, for no apparent reason. There's nothing seriously wrong with her when she does this (she makes another noise when she's actually distressed, which sounds like nothing on earth). She just kind of likes shouting.
As her vet once said, "she's, um... she's very vocal, isn't she?" Which is an understatement. But the fact that she's still shouting at all is kind of impressive, as Ju Ju is not only an old lady cat, she's already gone through quite a few of her nine lives.
Ju Ju entered my life at a time when I didn't think I wanted another cat. It was the summer of 2001, and my beloved feline Spanky had recently been killed by a car, to the great distress of all my housemates. We didn't think we were ready for another cat - and then my colleague Maureen told me a friend who was a vet in a remote rural town had taken in a cat who had been abandoned after its owner died. The vet had been keeping the feline waif in the surgery, but there wasn't really room and she needed a new home. And somehow, I ended up taking her in.
When Maureen arrived with Ju Ju, a large, snow white bundle, she said, "Um, it turns out she has eczema. And she's quite overweight." Both of these things were true. What was also true that the cat's recent experiences had left her surly and unfriendly, and for the first few weeks the fat, slightly scabby beast sat in the same spot in our hall, only moving to go into the kitchen and eat and use her litter tray.
But gradually she started responding when we petted her. And then she started coming into the sitting room. And then she started sitting in our laps. She was at home.
When my housemates and I amicably went our separate ways a few years later, Ju Ju moved in with me and my boyfriend. She was her usual slightly surly self, spending most of her time lazing about, interacting with us only when it suited her. And yet despite her surly ways (so unlike Spanky, who was an incredibly friendly cat), and the fact that she shed white hair everywhere, we couldn't help loving her. I even carefully applied the sunscreen that white cats need to protect their fair skinned ears in the summer months.
But sadly, that was too late to stop Ju Ju developing skin cancer on her ears. She had to have the tips of her ears removed, which was fairly traumatic for all of us. But when she recovered from the operation, large and in charge as ever, we realised that her new "bear ears" suited her. She made a full recovery and didn't seem at all bothered by her lack of ear tips. In fact, some said it made her look even more fearsome. It certainly didn't stop her trying to attack every cat (and indeed dog) who came anywhere near her. The little savage. She had a dangerously close encounter with a large dog, which got into our back garden, picked her up in his jaws and started shaking her - but Ju Ju being Ju Ju, she of course survived the attack and soon made a full recovery.
That was about 6 years ago, and sadly Ju Ju's health has declined since then. This was always going to happen, as the vet reckons she's about 17 years old. But about 18 months ago, she was diagnosed with kidney failure, which is untreatable. She was only given a few months to live. And yet, after a few days on a drip, she started to revive. And once she was put on a new kidney-friendly diet, she just...kept going. And she's still here.
Recently her skin cancer returned to her ears, but the vet said that this was inevitable and that at her age, the cancer won't move quickly and so there's no point in treating it. She spends most of her time sleeping these days, and she's fairly blind (apparently not a huge deal for cats - it doesn't stop her making her way around the house and back garden).
She's not great at grooming her fur, so we have to brush her carefully and tease apart clumps of fur. But she's not in pain (if she were, we wouldn't let her suffer), and she's just about as shouty and cranky as she's always been. And even when she's doing my head in (she seems to choose moments when I've got a deadline or am rushing out the door to start shouting loudest), I still love her very much.
So do you have a cranky old animal you can't help loving? Do any of your pets - cats, dogs, hamsters, horses - seem to have nine lives? Share your weird old animal tales here!