Mach the allotment cat has died. He was, we think, about 13 or 14, which is an astonishing knock for a stray with FIV. He came into our lives in about 2004 or 5, as a stray who would sneak in the cat flap and steal the food of Cassidy and Delilah. While Cassidy might have been up for a fight, he was scrawny and three-legged and simply no match. Delilah was delightful, but astonishingly dim. So Mach (short for Machiavelli) got what he wanted, and desperately needed – food. Fortunately for him, life became much easier, but not until further trials and tribulations.
We ended up, after several failed attempts, at catching him (Accidentally locked in overnight, he hid in a bookcase, a true ninja move, which may well have been how he got the name; a tough, smart survivor. We took him to the vet, had him chipped and relieved of his testicles. He stayed with us for a little bit, (there’s a photo of him on my chest) but Cassidy and Delilah were underwhelmed, and he wanted his freedom. He escaped, and for two weeks we didn’t see him, thinking he had left town or been run over or the normal stuff that happens to strays.
Then one Sunday evening I came downstairs and did a double-take; there he was on the chair. He got up, took three steps and fell over. I looked at him and saw that he was basically skeletal. We speculated that maybe he had got into a garden shed and had been unable to get out until he was much skinnier, and had come back to where he knew there was food. We put him on a cushion, put him in the bathroom with a tiny amount of food and water nearby. I fully expected him to be dead when I came down the next morning – I remember bracing myself as I opened the door. Instead, there he was, looking up at me, the worse for wear.
We took him to the vet, who said he would probably die, but they would run liver tests and if it was an infection they might be able to slap enough anti-biotics in him to pull him through, but if there was liver damage, they would have to put him down. Was he insured they asked. No, we said. They phoned back that afternoon. No liver damage… what did we want. I took a deep breath and said ‘try to save him’. It cost £400 in the end, but after about 5 days on an IV drip and a lot of antibiotics and diarrhea, he was back with us. The staff at the vet had loved him – he had become very affectionate with them.
He stayed with us again, and escaped again. At some point after that (weeks?) there he was on the local allotment, where we had a plot. We started feeding him and for a while he became pretty fat- he had decided perhaps to never feel hungry again.
Another allotment holder started feeding him, for years. Mach became a bit of a sook around that man, and slowly lost his distance from others. When events were held at the allotment he would happily take ownership of complete strangers’ laps.
He did lose the weight, over time, and became a normal healthy cat. I took over feeding him a few years ago. Every morning and night I would go down and feed him, a mix of wet and dry. If I was away, Phil would kindly feed him. One time we had to retrieve him from a cat sanctuary (some busy-body, even though they knew he was fed regularly, had had him captured – his chip saved him. Get your cats chipped, people!!).
He became quite affectionate with me too, running to say hello sometimes, walking at others. Basically, I was wrapped around his little claw, right where he wanted me.
Over the last year he had lost weight, especially around the hips. My wife, who knows about these things, thought his kidneys were probably going. She ordered special cat food for him. He loved it.
I saw him last night, and he was not eating – but that wasn’t entirely unusual – other people fed him too. I saw him this morning and his appetite was fine- he had a mix of wet and dry.
I went this evening, called for him, no reply. Then I found him. He was not warm, but not cold, lying dead on a pathway. Not hit by a car and staggered in I think, thank goodness. No, it was just something – his heart? – that had given out. At last, the great survivor had breathed his last.
[Update – Phil tells me that he saw Mach this evening, about 6pm, running about. So, a quick end, no sickness- lucky to the end, our Mach.]
I lay him down next to the food bowl where we had spent years – me stroking and scratching him while he ate, him purring and head-butting before settling down to the serious business of stuffing his face.
I will bury him tomorrow morning, and always remember him.
With thanks to the vets who save his life, and all the other people (Especially Peter, Phil and Sarah) who have fed him, taken him to the vet and fetched him from strange places.
Vale Machiavelli, 2004(?) – 31 March 2017.