I’ve been trying to write this post for a while now. It’s about our cat, Merly, who we don’t have anymore. I can’t find a way to start writing about her. She’s gone now, but I want to be able to remember how she fit into our lives, made them whole and happy. Our experience of having Merly in our lives changed everything. Without her there are so many gaps – all the ginger jigsaw pieces have been taken away. I’m not sure we can see what the picture is any more.
Losses and New Beginnings
We acquired the little beastie not long after losing our previous cat, Spats. Spats had apparently died just after killing a bird and scattering it around the kitchen; I suppose she died doing what she loved. That was painfully traumatic. We’d acquired Spats, our Little Miss Moomin, when we moved into our house, taking the little black and white stray renegade with us. I fondly remember her stealing chips as we celebrated a successful move. We only had her for a few years and her loss was devastating.
At around the same time unbeknownst to us, my step-mum’s sister was working away from her home, leaving her cat and dog mostly alone and fed by neighbours. We became an obvious potential home for Merlin, a rather large ginger cat aged about 7. When we went to meet her, neither of us was really ready for a new housemate, but the absence in the house was unbearable. We met a very well fed, placid and gentle pussy cat. We cried over her and made friends. She moved in with us the same day. A lot of the stuff around her settling in and us eventually buying our home for the three of us are mixed up in my head – she so quickly became an intrinsic and intimate part of our lives that it makes no sense in my mind to separate them. Her name changed quite naturally from Merlin (for the distinctive ‘M’ on the top of ginger cats’ heads) to Merly as she took up her rightful place. When Lady M was away for a term at Birmingham Merly was with me constantly, I fondly remember her climbing into bed so I could completely wrap my arms around her as we slept.
Adjusting to A New Housemate
As with any pet, there’s an endless list of adorable things and memories. Merly was a cat for whom enough sleep had no meaning. I’m sure she hit about twenty hours of sleep a day. She quickly established the regular sleeping spots – on the bed, preferably on Lady M’s soft pink dressing gown; or next to the pillows facing the headboard. On rare occasions she would disappear and we’d find her asleep under the bed in some hard to reach nook between boxes of books, or under the folds of the blanket at the foot of the bed. The last resort for finding her would be snuggled down on a large cuddly Bagpuss in the corner by the window. She’d only really be content in the spare room if she could get into the cupboard and shred wrapping paper and bubblewrap into a nest. Merly was able to detect that cupboard being opened from anywhere in the house. Messy beast.
Downstairs, boxes and cardboard featured heavily in her kitchen sleeping. All boxes, and all things paper and cardboard were subject, and had to be subjected to her nuzzling approval. Every book was also faithfully attended to: our little Librarian. Merly had a small shoebox by her food, so she could flatten it out and sit on it. Recently we got an absurd amount of brown paper in a package from Amazon – it was quickly converted into Merly’s Paper Nest, one of her favourite places in the world. The living room was just one big sleeping space. A small sheepskin rug we got for Merly seemed to put her in a state of treading ecstasy, sinking in halfway up her legs in something almost as fluffy as her. On the other end of the sofa a Nici giraffe cushion (the giraffeangle), ideal for mid-afternoon. Naturally the door mat, any cushion approaching horizontal and any paper item were also adopted.
We’d find her in any of those places when we got home from wherever we’d been. Seeking her out, and trilling for her and saying hello were part of the returning home ritual. Often she’d be sitting by the window, ready to hop down with some demanding quacking for attention. Attention we never failed to provide. I’ve never had a cat so cuddly. Merly generated astonishing quantities of fur. You could get knuckle deep in her crazily thick fur, with its ginger whorls, white tummy and bib and fluffy hind legs. Her short ringed tail always seemed completely independent, and surprised her constantly with its thrashing. We have so much fluff from combing her… it’s in all of our clothes and in all the carpets. When we first got her we had to wash her a few times because she apparently never learned to groom from her mum because she was taken away too early. I’ll never forget her heartbreakingly aggrieved meows while sitting in the bath with her. For all the grumbling though she didn’t try to escape (although I did get clawed quite severely), which made it all the sadder. She did look adorably spiky while drying. She got better at grooming herself, but needed help during the summer. I think it was because she had far too much fur and it got hot and itchy so she ended up with some bald spots that needed looking after. Poor little sweetheart.
I’m not sure if it’s because we sort of renamed her when we got her, but we kept adding names and variations, diminutives and nicknames. They emerged and fit perfectly every day. Lots of them are variations on Merly Boo. I don’t know where ‘Picklemoose’ came from. Maybe it was something to do with how damn fluffy she was, dainty little paws surrounded by all this thick fur. She was also quite fat when she first moved in with us. Her placid bumbling around was adorable, her very causal investigation and somewhat dopey sniffing of curious items and places. So sweet. I think the names she got reflect how deeply we loved her and how she fit so completely into our lives.
Living With A Cat
Every day began and ended with Merly. I’d often be woken up by her some time before my alarm as she leaped onto the bed, claws extended, landing on my arm or chest. I’d like to keep all those scratches. If I didn’t wake until my alarm I’d wake to find her asleep on my shoulder blade, purring gently to herself, vibrating through my chest. Frequently that would put me back to sleep, usually with my fingers trapped underneath her. Once it was clear I was actually getting up she would bumble about on the bed until finally getting around to hopping down and watching until I was definitely going downstairs. We’d go downstairs together, or she’d hop a few steps ahead. If I was slow I’d just be able to see her shadow from the kitchen on the carpet at the foot of the stairs. I look for that little shadow every day. The meowing and trilling and quacking would commence, along with the winding around ankles until she got fed. For the last few months she needed a tablet an hour before eating, so that was her ‘Marmite time’ – a smear of yeast extract around the blue pill was quite sufficient to persuade her to eat anything, she’d crunch the pill like a Smartie quite happily once it had been licked clean. There was much grumping about not being fed immediately afterwards; that became a part of the Lady M’s daily routine instead of mine. I’d usually pick her up for a cuddle and ruffling before placing her halfway up the stairs: she’d scramble up the rest by herself and return to bed.
Before leaving home I wake up Lady M, and without fail would find Merly settled on top of her, tail to Lady M’s face (tickling with random lashings), purring with her paws tuddled neatly under her bib (her chicken pose). I’d kiss them both good-bye and go to work. My wallpaper on my work computer, my phone and tablet are all pictures of my Bookin; I see her all day, I’d ask after her at lunchtime. Finding ginger Merly fur in my clothes never fails to make me smile. It’s amazing how few t-shirts I have that are fur free; I’ve got trousers I have to wrap in gaffer tape to clean them.
Coming home to Lady M and Merly was the reason to come home. Unless Merly was in a deep snootle (she did not cat nap, but dozed incredibly heavily so you could sit next to her and stroke her for a while before she’d wake up startled by our sudden proximity, and sometimes not even then) she’d soon be seeking me out. A scooped up Merly in my arms, her loud purr and hopelessly soft fur to stroke and nuzzle is one of the best and happiest things in the world to me. Gathering her hind paws in one hand and stroking the soft fur inside her ears, tufting the cheek fur and under her chin so she sticks her head out and then stroking up her nose between her eyes and stroking down on the very tip of her nose; all good and lovely things for us both.
Once home, she’s everywhere. Underfoot while cooking (of course), hopping up onto Lady M’s lap during breakfast after patting the edge of the chair seat with a tentative paw. A pretty much guaranteed companion while sitting on the sofa. Merly had a particular fondness for lying over our wrists, especially when trying to type. She’d nestle down in crossed legs or between us on a cushion. While messing about with Lego she’d stomp through boxes of bricks and sit in my lap regardless of how much Lego was already there. She did object to further movement with a grumbling quack. The range of weird noises she’d make to herself was extraordinary. I’ve never known such a vocal cat. Her purr went from a Geiger Counter ticking right up to a deep and loud revving purr which collapsed when it reached its rumbly peak. We ended up imitating her inquisitive trills, both to find her and signal to the others where we were ourselves.
Even if she wasn’t actively asleep on one of us, we’d go and find her in between doing something or other. Frequently she’d just forgotten we were home (asleep again) and was curled up somewhere else, sleeping on her head (making it rain) or nose buried in the tip of her tail. We habitually check for her in a room that we pass, and stroked her. That constant looking is really difficult to stop. There’s a ginger shadow in my eyes, at the edge of my vision everywhere I go. Merly would fiercely police any food being consumed, frequently trying to climb onto Lady M’s plate while we watched TV. She had no regard for our meals and would climb over hands with knives in and displace plates from laps. In the morning she’d be treated to ‘morning butter’ – a lick of the post-toast butter knife. She’d happily pester for and thieve crisps, chips and at least sniff-check anything that looked like it might be consumed.
Comfort is A Warm Kitten
Most of my evenings ended with a book and glass of whiskey, stretched out on the sofa or kitchen floor with a Merly on top. A few snacks for her before bed, and she’d pursue us upstairs, and with a little trilling coaxing would gain confidence and hop onto the bed (or adopt the digging in of claws and pulling herself up that has made such lovely work of the leather sofas downstairs…). If we weren’t actually horizontal and appropriately laid out for her she’d either make do, and have to be moved, or grump off to the end of the bed until we were. During the night she’d stomp across us (sleeping tablets keep me out cold), kick Lady M’s glasses off the bedside table and clumsily negotiate the curtains to stare at the outside. Very occasionally she’d sleep between us, or between the pillows on her back, all four paws curled in the air.
When the front door was opened, she would go out to inspect her holdings. She’d never go far – I only saw her as far as six houses away a couple of times. Recently she’d been nuzzling the doorstep and rolling madly in the weeds growing under next door’s doorstep. Crazy little Boo. She stood her ground fairly well against neighbouring cats and I’d watch her in those strange silent Mexican stand offs they have. She seemed to like hopping back inside. Out the back are her flowers. At the right times of year we have tulips, roses, lily of the valley and her beloved bluebells. She’d roll in those and come inside smelling beautiful; I never figured out why the Picklemoose smelled of Chewits some days. She was never a roaming cat- the few gardens either side of ours had enough to entertain her, as well as our lavender tree whose trunk was her main scratching post.
Fearsome Worra Beast
I once, wholly uncharacteristically saw her in the middle of a mad half-hour outside in which she ran straight up the tree and into the branches; I think she had surprised herself, I helped her get down. She really liked to be accompanied and reassured as she wandered outside, but was also perfectly happy to nestle down in one of her grass forts and watch the insects do their stuff. Often she’d come bounding back in crazily, skittering across the tiles and lino floor of the kitchen, skidding further with claws clacking onto the laminated wood of the living room. A couple of circuits might precede going back out again or racing up the stairs (claws still extended) to dive into a deep sleep. Unpredictable, and very funny.
I don’t think I ever saw her attack anything successfully – she ran away from big spiders inside, and didn’t really know how to hunt. Lady M once saw her watching a squirrel avidly, doing that quivering that cats do pre-pounce… and then just sitting back down again. She was a very sweet natured beast, who only went in for hissing and biting (or rather licking and gumming since she had only a few teeth, but she did do a brutal and vigorous grooming of your fingers) if she’s had too much attention or was in the middle of a shoelace frenzy. Merly was never one for toys, though we did get her a few before recognising her total lack of interest. She might nuzzle it if it had corners… and so the cardboard and paper became her play areas. She’d go briefly wild at heaps of wrapping paper at Christmas and birthdays (and always chose to sit on the paper when wrapping gifts to begin with) and enjoyed chasing balls of paper for a bit. It was only a shoelace that really got her going (actually a couple of laces from the ends of combat trouser legs). I could tease her with those for ages in the kitchen and she’d skid over and round chairs and her paper nest to get at the taunting strings. Eventually she’d become overwhelmed and would either race back up the stairs or have to go out for a bit to calm down. Typically she’d stand and wait by the (electronic tag-operated) cat flap until one of us opened the door for her. We were good servant humans.
The Queen of The Ball
Merly-Boo was surprisingly popular with everyone else too, even people who don’t like cats. I suppose it helped that she was so sociable. She’s always come and inspect newcomers and visitors. The door knocking used to startle her, but eventually she’d just stay on the sofa, half-watching the door to see what came through. We’ve got lots of friends who Merly loved to sit on, and cause powerful allergic reactions in. At parties she would hide/sleep upstairs until people stopped moving around too much and then come down to great acclaim to take a turn around the kitchen and living room. I’m glad that a lot of people who Merly considered friends (or notable humans, or whatever it is that cats label us in their heads) got to see her in the last few weeks before her untimely death. She looked intensely pleased with herself, curled up on her paper nest under the table at our last party.
I’ve spent days watching her, gazing at her little face as she slept – at the chocolate chip freckles on her ears and tiny heart shaped pink nose, or as she groomed herself (mostly just the face and head before getting distracted, maybe the paws – oh the beautiful pink petals paws), or went berserk at nothing in particular and ran off.
I miss seeing her, I miss stroking her. I miss the warmth of her fur, her quick heart beat and drilling purr when she’s cradled in my arms, or settling down on me to go to sleep. Her purr sent me to sleep in bed and drove a deep satisfaction into my heart. I miss being startled by her mysterious teleporting around the house. I miss being able to wonder what she’s been doing while we’ve been out, or where we’ll find her when we get home; there was always an excellent chance that she’s have slept for the entire time we’d been out and hadn’t realised we weren’t there. I miss being able to tell Lady M, or our friends about the adorable things Merly has done recently. I miss the feel of her teeth rubbing against my hand when she nuzzled at my fingers. I miss the sound of her everywhere, her crazy trilling and purrkling. I miss the smell of her fur, the feel of her tail flicking out from between my fingers as I stroke her. I miss her pretty little green eyes lazily blinking or winking at me as she dozes off or tries to wake up. I miss tracing the patterns in her fur. I miss finding and making up new names for her. I miss seeing her and smiling. I miss seeing Lady M with Merly and that making me smile. I miss having our little companion – a third of our home is gone. I miss our little babe, our little love.
So Many Names…
Adorabeast ~ Adventure Kitten ~ Bearbaby ~ Beastie-Boo ~ Beastling ~ Boo ~ Boo-baby ~ Boo-Bear ~ Boo-berry Muffin ~ Boo-berry ~ Booclid ~ Boo-Fluff ~ Bookin ~ Bookin McNoodle ~ Booxunamoon ~ Bumbelino ~ Bumble Bear ~ Bumble Muffin ~ Bumblebeast ~ Bumble-Berry ~ Bumblelion ~ Bumblenoodle ~ Bumblepuff ~ Bumbletufts ~ Bun Bun ~ Bunbury Muffin ~ Bunny Bear ~ Bunny Kitten ~ Bunny-Boo ~ Chicken Cat ~ Claw Footed Boob Stamper ~ Cloddipaws ~ Crazy Faced Beast ~ Cream Filled Ginger Truffle With Chocolate Chips ~ Cuddle Duckling ~ Cuddle Puffling ~ Cuddlekin ~ Darling Beast ~ Duck Filled Fattypuss ~ Dumpling ~ Dumpling Beast ~ Fluffkin ~ Fuffenoodle ~ Fuffino ~ Fuffkinoodle ~ Fufflemoose ~ Fufflepuff ~ Furbeast ~ Fuzzkinoodle ~ Fuzzlekini ~ Ginger Angel ~ Ginger Fluff ~ Ginger-Puff ~ Grumbelino ~ Grumbletuft ~ Grumpet ~ Grumpkin ~ Grumpkinoodle ~ Honey Bumble ~ Honeybear ~ Honkit ~ Incapacicat ~ Kitkin ~ Kitkinoodle ~ Kitly-Boo ~ Kitten Fluff ~ Little Beastie ~ Little Face ~ Little Fuffkin ~ Little Gubbinsy Beast ~ Little Puff Princess ~ Little Seussical Feet ~ Little Tigglet ~ Marmalade Badger ~ Merly ~ Merly Boo ~ Merly McBookin ~ Merly Whirly Bookin ~ Merly-Bookin ~ Merly-Burly ~ Merlypuss Maxipuss ~ Mi Kitling ~ My Little Cloddipawed Beastie ~ My Little Quackling ~ Noodle ~ Noodle Pipkin ~ Noodle-Boo ~ Noodleboodle ~ Noodlekin ~ Noodle O’Kitticus ~ Noodlepippin ~ Noodlepuffkin ~ Patty-Paws ~ Petal Paws ~ Picklebeast ~ Pickle-Boo ~ Picklebumble ~ Picklekini ~ Picklemoose ~ Picklepuff ~ Pickling ~ Picklopufficus ~ Pipkinoodle ~ Pissy-Paws ~ Pixelmoose ~ Pixie ~ Pixie Mittens ~ Pixie Puff ~ Pixie Puffle ~ Pixie Sweet ~ Pixie-Mittened Beastie ~ Pixiepuff ~ Pixling ~ Pooklefluff ~ Puddle Duckling ~ Puff Puff ~ Puffenoodle ~ Puffinbumble ~ Puffkin ~ Puffle Munchkin ~ Puffle Pixie ~ Puffle-Bear ~ Puffleberry ~ Pufflebumble ~ Pufflefluff ~ Pufflemoose ~ Puff-Pixie ~ Pumble Bear ~ Purr Baby ~ Purrklekin ~ Puurkleotron ~ Purrklemoose ~ Quacklino ~ Quackula ~ Scamperkin ~ She of the Fur Pantaloons ~ Skitterkin ~ Snooklepuff ~ Snootle-Pixie ~ Snootlepuff ~ Snootlepuffkin ~ Snootlepuffling ~ Snufflepuff ~ Snufflopufficus ~ Snuggle Bundle ~ Snugglebeast ~ Snuggledumpling ~ Snugglepuff ~ Snugglepuffling ~ Snugglino ~ Squeaklekin ~ Sweet Beast ~ Sweet Beastie ~ Sweet Pickle ~ The Sepia Bagpuss ~ Tuddleosaur ~ Tuffin ~ and so many more