Stuart the cat leaves…

STUART the kitten cat is no more. Cobweb Castle is in mourning for the mini-moggy which turned up seven months ago and captured our hearts. Readers may recall that Mrs Nurden rescued him from a watery fate when he was no bigger than a molecule and christened him Stuart. We watched with glee as he learned to climb stairs, discovered the hidden delights of our bed on cold winter nights and took his first tentative steps through the cat-flap into the brave new world of outside.

Two weeks ago he made his first kill – a mouse. Obviously we don’t condone murder at home but technically the rodent had been a trespasser and under Nurden Law, which is a kind of Sharia Law but tougher, it had lost all its legal rights and so deserved to die.

Stuart had also mastered the art of scampering to the top of the apple tree and on good days could even get down again without the assistance of the fire brigade. We were looking forward to him enjoying his first Spring and sunning himself in the sun. But all that came to an unexpected end at the weekend.

He was stretched out on the drive, apparently basking in the early morning sunlight, when I spotted him. But this time he didn’t stir at the mention of his name. It came as a shock to us all. There was no warning and no mark on his body. We know our other cats are not long for this world. They are both 16, have trouble walking and are about as fast as an arthritic tortoise. But Stuart was different. He was in the prime of his youth and had all his nine lives before him.

Then there were none.

One theory is that he was gassed. New gas mains have been laid along our road and at the bottom of our drive was a very deep hole where gas had been bubbling from a valve. A gas man even warned us about letting our cats stray too near. “Cats are very susceptible to gas,” he said. “They die.” He told us this after we had found Stuart’s stiff little body. It didn’t help.

Naturally he has been interred, along with Polly Chicken, in the family pet cemetery next to the greenhouse. I became a grave-digger and dug so deep I struck the water table.

Mrs Nurden, between sobs, placed a little mound of stones on his grave topped off with his favourite Christmas present, a mouse made out of tinsel and A Quality Street toffee wrapper. Our other cats look totally bewildered and have been mooching around the house as if they are lost.

The only good news is that Mrs Nurden’s sheepskin rug is no longer in danger of having the rest of its wool pulled out by a ferocious feline during  mischievous midnight raid to the spare bedroom. Strangely, that doesn’t seem to matter any more. The cat is out of the bag and the world is a quieter, sadder place.

(First written November 2, 2009)

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