It has been an incredibly sad time for us recently. Our beloved cat, Barbara has been missing for nearly two weeks now. I know cats go missing frequently but Barbara was diabetic and without insulin she could not survive this long. I have laid awake at night worrying about her suffering and dying alone. My husband, who is also diabetic, has tried to console me with the idea that her death would not have been prolonged. Merely, as gentle as falling asleep.
Barbara was such a valued member of our family. Although as a cat she had a real blood-thirsty streak and would regularly bring us a variety of dead animals including wild rabbits, birds and assorted rats and mice, Barbara was a real softy when it came to her interactions with humans. When she first came to live with us, she was terrified of people. If I had to take her to the vet, then we would have to throw a blanket over her before placing her in a carry-basket. Yet bit by bit, she started to like us and would regularly come for a cuddle, a groom or a handful of Dreamies. Barbara’s coat was so long and thick that when you viewed her from behind, she walked as if perched on high heels wearing giant billowing balloon trousers, much like 1980s rapper, MC Hammer. She used to love licking people’s fingers and her long coat meant that her tongue was like corrugated sand paper. Barbara and our other cat, Mittens were sisters and came from the Cats Protection League as a duo. We were told that they could not be parted, which for the past ten years has been rather baffling because they could never abide to be together. Although on the night Barbara went missing, they lay side by side in a rare expression of tenderness. Perhaps they knew this would be their last time in each other’s company?
Both cats were originally taken to the Cats’ Protection League as part of a large litter found on the streets of Nottingham. They were born, as my husband said, in the wild and, Barbara appears to have returned to the wild. Our house backs on to a large area of waste land frequented by dog walkers. She must be somewhere under all the undergrowth, but we might never know. We have searched everywhere without any success.
We all tried to do our best to find Barbara. I posted a ‘Missing Cat’ notice on the Next Door app, which is seen within the local neighbourhood. There were many concerned replies from my neighbours with people suggesting areas where she might be hiding such as the building site nearby. I posted on Lost Animal Facebook groups and again I was surprised at the amount of concerned comments left and the number of shares. My husband would go out several times in a day to look under cars, check in bushes and in concealed areas. My daughter made posters and leaflets and delivered them to the residents on our estate. Not one of these attempts has been successful. We have to accept the fact that Barbara is not coming home. Even Mittens, who derived so much joy from tormenting Barbara, has seemed despondent and lonely over the past few days.
However, as grief-stricken as we all are, there has been one consolation. What has touched me more than anything, is the kindness shown to us by people we hardly know. Neighbours who we usually only acknowledge with a curt greeting. From the beginning of our search, everyone seemed to understand how cherished Barbara was; how much she was an integral part of our family. We may not have found Barbara, but we have learned how kind most people are and how much they want to help. There is the story of the little old man who lives opposite our estate. He is unable to get out of his house. Yet, he spends a considerable time each day looking out of his windows just in case Barbara walks by. I have received numerous phone calls from people thinking that they may have seen Barbara. Many of our neighbours have displayed the posters, checked for updates, and even gone out to search nearby. Their concern has lessened our pain to a degree.
As each day goes by, the chances of Barbara returning home lessen. It would be nothing short of a miracle for her to return now. But I am still hanging onto a belief that the miracle may occur and should it happen, then there will be a giant vat of Dreamies waiting for Barbara to dig her face into.
Elisabeth Basford’s first book the first modern biography of HM The Queen’s aunt,
Princess Mary The Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood
is available now here