When my family moved to Hamilton at the end of 1989, we had a housewarming party. At this party, two kittens from down the street wandered into the yard and we fed them some little bits of sausage from the barbeque. From that moment on, we could not get rid of those two little kitties. We would frequently pick them up, walk them back to their property, and by the time we got back to our house, they had somehow beaten us home and were there waiting for us, mewling for more food. We tried everything we could to dissuade them from pestering us (our own cat, Tiger, attacked them relentlessly, territorially), but they just would not give up. I think their original owners moved away and they were still just coming over to our place. I remember the exact moment when they went from being 'the annoying cats from up the road' to 'our cats'- we'd just gotten back from seeing The Hunt for Red October in the cinema (this must also have been the week I discovered I needed glasses because I remember not being able to read the subtitles and being confused), my brother walked through the door, picked up one of the cats (the black-and-white number you see above, who we later discovered was originally named 'Mittens'), looked it in the eye and said: "Your name is Ramius." and we never tried to kick him out again. The other kitty we named Asrael, and she died of a hole in the heart in 1994.
Ramius and Tiger continued to fight over food and territory every day of their lives, which we think contributed to Tiger's remarkable longevity- she was the oldest cat I've ever heard of, she must have been at least 22 when she passed on to kitty heaven a few years ago. Ramius went through some tough years once all the kids had left the house, mum continued to look after him, but didn't let him in the house or give him the sort of pampered attention that kids can, and that he was used to. But in the last few years of his life he was adopted by my mum's boarder (and member of the family, really), Michael, who pampered him and loved him more than he'd ever loved before, brushing him for hours every night, letting him sleep in the same bed, and generally treating him like cat royalty, which I suppose in some ways he was. Which just goes to show: You can go through some dark years and think nothing is ahead for you, but then something you couldn't foresee happens and you spend the rest of your life in happiness. The last few times I saw Ramius, he was a little dribbly, a little doddering, but every morning you'd hear him try to form the word 'Michael' out of meows (I am serious! He really did). Michael said he was losing his memory, but he seemed to remember me when I gave him a hug.
Yesterday the vet said that the kindest thing to do would be to put him down, and Michael held him and stroked him while they did so. Then he took Ramius' body home and laid it on his bed while he dug a grave outside, under a tree where Ramius liked to lie.
He was the last of my cats, and I'll miss him.