I’m not sure I’ll ever have the energy to do a eulogy for Pumpkin any kind of justice, so this will have to do for now.
Pumpkin The Birman appeared one day in the local pet shop (local being a very short walk from my house at the time), aged about 14 weeks. No longer tiny but still super fuzzy. It was unusual for the shop to carry a specific cat breed, as most kittens there tended to moggy status. Having recently made enquiries re Birman availability (they’re not) I can only conclude that his appearance there was a miracle.
Being pre-digital we don’t have many photos of Pumpkin at this age, but we’re hunting down prints now and scanning them.
I’d always wanted a Birman, but we already had two cats, Cally and Princess. In my mind I’d always assumed that we wouldn’t be getting a new cat until one of them passed away. If I’d kept to that rule over 13 years ago I’d still be waiting. However, something was missing in our lives. Cally was never a cuddly cat, and Princess who’d come after we lost Squishy was most definitely not in the love business. The late Squishy had been a soft, friendly, and super-smoochy cat and we missed that.
Enter the temptation of the Birman, and I’ve never regretted for a moment bringing him into our home, even though as third cat he tipped me into Mad Cat Lady territory.
Pumpkin’s contribution to my mental health over the years cannot be overstated. Being fully aware of the benefits of saying “Aaaaaawwwwww” several times every single day for over a decade did not lessen the impact. He made me smile; he made me slow down; he made me talk baby talk. And did I mention he made me smile? And made Husband smile? So we smiled at each other even more? Perhaps most importantly he protected me from hubris, for to the end he was a strange alien creature with unknowable thoughts and motivations. He was a mystery, a fluffy adorable mystery who loved to excess and hadn’t read the manual on Proper Cat Behaviour.
On his first day with us he played with the same toy for 45 minutes straight, which struck us as… unusual. It set the tone for the rest of his life. One of his favourite activities seemed to be running against the surface of mirrors, but he would keep it up for up to half an hour at a time. He was an energizer bunny of a cat who loved to play Toss The Mouse, and Mouse On A Stick. Pumpkin + ping pong ball in empty bathtub was a sight to behold.
He LOVED people, which could on occasion be inconvenient, but I miss my little man following me everywhere around the house. He also insisted on coming into the bathroom with me – it took a bit of training to ignore his brightly enquiring face and questing paw while I did my business. I never though I’d miss that, but I do.
He never spoke one word – although I find most cat language pretty easy to translate (Feed me NOW. Let me in/out NOW. Stroke me NOW. F&*k the f$%k off NOW. etc) I never knew what he was trying to tell us in his soft moo-ing tones. (Dr Laura once suggested he was trying to contact the mothership, and this seems as good an explanation as any.) He would frequently moo from the kitchen, and our best guess was that he got confused by the cul-de-sac floor plan and couldn’t figure out how to turn around and get out.
Blistering intelligence was not one of his core characteristics.
He inspired a cartoon character which allowed us to conjecture what he might be getting up to inside that head of his. In one strip he made all that noise alone in the kitchen because he was battling the Vikings that had come out of the fridge. He was that kind of cat.
I know that he was once small enough to fit in one hand (albeit with head, legs and tail hanging out between my fingers) because that was the only way I could work on my jigsaw. If left on the other side of a door he would make a huge fuss to get to me, but if allowed inside he would “help” to great destructive ends. Holding him in one hand was a great compromise (for him), and he flopped passively but watched all movements with great interest.
One of his nicknames was Destructo-Fluff, often by way of eating soft furnishings. I think he had a difficult time of teething, for at one point he sported not two but four canine teeth at once. One of the photo essays I’m thinking of writing is to document some of his best destructive work around the house. Look on my works ye mighty and despair.
But now he’s gone. Impossible but true.
He’s left such a gaping hole in our lives that we plan to get a kitten as soon as we get back from our trip in February. Birman kittens are extraordinarily hard to get hold of (I still can’t believe that Fate led us to Pumpkin in the first place), and although we’ve managed to get on a waiting list for an as-yet-unconceived kitten, we’ll probably get a Ragdoll instead which should be sufficiently similar in temperament and cuteness to make me smile again. I’ve been watching a lot of kitten videos on YouTube, suddenly grateful for them all.
Of course we couldn’t expose Cally and Princess to the horrors of a new kitten, so we’ve decided to also adopt a moggy kitten from the Cat Haven at the same time, and hopefully the two kids will entertain each other enough to not bother the oldies quite so much. It will inevitably be disturbing for them, but we’ll do our best to let them have their own spaces. For a while at least we will be a four cat household, and I will gladly reclaim my Mad Cat Lady card.
Pumpkin can never be replaced, but I’m hoping that we’ll be able to fill some of the many many gaps he’s left in our lives. Thank you everyone who’s expressed condolences for our loss. He may not have been human (or possibly even feline – the jury’s still out) but he was a big part of our lives and his absence is keenly felt.
- Current Mood: sad