The first time I saw you, it was brief and you were hiding under a table. You were a rescue cat, re-homed with my ex-boyfriend’s mum and very scared of people, so you ran and hid. I’d been super-excited to meet you because I didn’t have a cat of my own and I missed that. This was about 23 years ago in Derby.

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Happy days at Balfour St

The ex’s mum unexpectedly died soon afterward and you were looking for a home again. I didn’t have a job at the time and couldn’t really afford a pet, but I had to have you. My ex’s dad brought you around in a nice pet carrier, with a fancy bed and scratching post, you’d been bought a lot of cool stuff by the late Mrs Tooth, I think you had been her first ever cat. I was told that you liked Whiskas, with Toppas, and sardines in tomato sauce. At that time I thought you would have to get used to a poorer lifestyle living with me, but you had other ideas and I soon got a job.

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Young Bandy sleeps on my underwear drying on the radiator

The first week that you lived in my crappy one-bedroomed flat in Tunstall, I did not see you. Each morning the food I’d left out was eaten and there were paw prints around the bath and by the litter tray. After a week, my ex ripped up the kick boards from under the kitchen and I pulled you out. You sat on my knee and we didn’t move for hours, I was hoping you’d come to feel safe with me. You were so beautiful, a tortoiseshell with long fur and pretty green eyes. You had the fluffiest of tail on a tiny cat that often was dipped in my dinner.

With time you came to trust me and we bonded, it was so nice to come home to you from work and although I didn’t earn much as a trainee figurine painter, you had Whiskas often, although the salmon was not as regular as I’m sure you would have liked.

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Perfect day by the fire

We moved into a slightly bigger flat and you got braver about going into the yard. There was a gang of cats that hung out on the sheds behind our yard and you were scared of them. I caught them looking down at you as you hid behind a wall, but soon you befriended them and became one of the shed gang, sunning yourself on the shed roofs.

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Resting on the daffodil bulbs

There was one horrible week, after a particularly bad thunderstorm, I guess you must have hidden somewhere and gotten locked in. I walked the streets calling you, thinking I could hear you but not quite. You turned up a week later, dirty, dishevelled and ate entire tin of Whiskas in one go. I was so relieved but felt guilty for having not tried harder to find you, but you forgave me.

You didn’t like my ex very much. You hissed at him when he moved towards you. You were trying to warn me that this man was an arsehole and I didn’t listen at first. You had been perfectly house-trained from day one and there had never been any mess in the flat. That is until my ex was washing his face one day and his eyes were full of soap, he went to grab his towel which had fallen in the bath and to his horror it was full of poo. Candy, you and I laughed so hard – and your message soon got through to me, he wasn’t a nice man and I worry that he’d not been nice to you when I was out.

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Sleeping in the sun

We moved to Newcastle in a shared house with a rather strange lady. By this point, you and I were the bestest friends ever. You were getting better around other people too and weren’t scared to sit on their knees once you’d known them a while. Everyone who met you commented how lovely you were. Eventually you let me know that the lady we were sharing with had gotten too strange, so you had diarrhoea over her £70 platform shoes and basically told me what I already knew – it was time to get out.

Take us home!

Take us home!

We relocated to a flat near the centre of Newcastle, next to the church. The church yard was run by a gang of pretty hardcore feral cats, I was worried that they might hurt you. One night I heard cat wailing in the yard and I went running out to protect you from the gangsta cats…. you were having a face-off, all your fur stood on end, growling in that spooky feline way. Upon my arrival, the feral ran away, with you chasing hot on its heels! Seems I was wrong, it was the ferals that needed protecting from you! Oh you were so cute and cuddly with me, but woe betide any cat who encroached upon your territory.

I’m not sure when it was you got the nickname of Bandy. You were named Candy before I met you and in all honesty, it wouldn’t have been the name I would have chosen, but I wasn’t going to change it, you’d had enough stress as it was. My friend Fluff said that because your back legs had short fur up to the joint, then they were all bushy above it, that you looked like a Russian dancer in ballooning pantaloons; he said you had Bandy legs. This caught on and often you were named Bandy as this was way cooler than Candy.

Helping with the decorating

Helping with the decorating

The flat in Newcastle wasn’t ideal and I was always scared about the traffic. You didn’t seem to care, just so long as you were with me. We would cuddle together at night and you would play like a loon, chasing after invisible intruders and jumping around the flat. But soon we were no longer able to live there and I became tired of us living in crappy flats. There was a housing association that helped low paid people buy cheap terraces and for a £150 deposit (that I borrowed off my Mum and still haven’t paid her back!) I bought us a terrace house in Hanley. We had to stay with a friend in Tunstall for a while first and you just settled in. Just so long as you knew I lived there, I never had to keep you in or be scared of you going back to the previous abode.

We arrived in Balfour Street with just a sleeping bag, an exercise mat for a bed, a kettle and ghetto blaster. You had your pet carrier that you soon deserted and your food bowls. We camped upstairs, just you and me and our new home seemed so big! You had your own yard that I soon filled with pot plants for you to sleep in during the summer.

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Having a pint

It was 15 years ago and I was worried that you were getting old and needed a friend whilst I was at work. I was told of a little black kitten who had been born in a suitcase (on top of the clean holiday clothes) that lived in a pub. I was assured that it was a male as it’s best to have a new kitten of the opposite gender so that you get on. Only I had been misled, but by the time I found out that Bod was a girl, I loved her too much.

Unfortunately you were not too impressed. I’d hoped that you would mother the tiny kitten but at your first meeting, you whacked her over the head. Bod soon learned to sleep under the duvet with me as you slept above it. You were very jealous, I’m sorry I made you feel like that but I do think that even though you and Bod never became buddies, there was an air of camaraderie when things were stressed… like the time I took you both to a photoshoot at work. At that time, I earned a living at a Photography Studio and all staff could have a free shoot. You both wailed all the way there in the taxi, you thought you were going to the vet. The studio was bright and white, just like the vets too. Pete the photographer took some lovely photos, but you both look rather angry and wishing to go home.

Sleepy Bandy

Sleepy Bandy

You were such an amazing cat, there everyday when I woke up and when I came home from work, always pleased to see me. You supported me through two redundancies, many house-moves and flat shares; comforted my tears and pain through various failed and unhappy relationships through the years. Your furry shoulders bore a lot of emotional weight and I am forever grateful for your unconditional love.

I’d hoped that Balfour Street was the last move you would have to endure but the council decided to condemn my street and forced us out with a compulsory purchase order. Those were dark days and added to the mix was a boyfriend who was the opposite of supportive. But through my tears and sleepless nights, you were always there on my bed, purring at me and putting your paws on my face. I was never alone.

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With Aunty Ally

I found us a new place to live around the corner and with the help of my Mum, Dad and Ally, we moved in. Bod had never moved house before and was very distressed. I remember that even though you pair weren’t pals, you stayed by her on the first day. Once I started letting you both out, I’d had to return to the old house to retrieve a terrified Bod. A neighbour had spotted her in the window, the house had been trashed by thieves looking for lead and copper so she gotten in to find it all smashed. But as always, you had never returned to the old place, you always recognised your home to be where I was.

It wasn’t long afterwards that I finally found you a decent Daddy. Glyn and his daughter Lia weren’t particularly cat people, but you and Bod soon fixed that. You came to love them as they did you, and so you had two new laps to cuddle with, the extra bonus being that Glyn works nights, so you had him all day whilst I was at work. You soon trained him to give you tuna juice and bits of any meat he was eating (I was no good being a bloody vegetarian!)

In bed with Mammy and Daddy

In bed with Mammy and Daddy

By this time in your life you were a very trusting cuddle cat that always sat on visitors (but always came back to me), it was so awesome to see knowing that once your were so timid. Even people who claimed not to like cats (nutters) liked you. What was not to like? You had such a cute and charming little furry face, sweet little paws, the fluffiest tail and cuddly body with a beautiful coat.

Over the years you had developed kidney problems, but it was OK because you could have pills for that. In the last few years there were blood pressure issues and you would cry in the night with headaches, but again there were pills for that. Eventually you struggled to toilet outside and had your own indoor loo that Bod occasionally used. It was only in the last few weeks that you struggled to get there. Your legs seemed to give out beneath you and I realised that you were also totally deaf. I knew things were bad when you were unable to wash and you didn’t complain when I washed you in the sink.

In bed with Mammy and Bod

In bed with Mammy and Bod

The last week or two I slept on a campbed with you as you couldn’t make it to my bed anymore. We had some awesome cuddles, you nuzzled you little head under my chin and it tickled. We snuggled all night and I carried you to breakfast in the morning, only you stopped eating.

That last night I knew you were poorly, but I didn’t realise how bad it was. I slept on the sofa to stay with you. You headed towards the cat-flap but thought better of it and came back to me – thank you for staying with me. I tried to give you pills but with your last bit of energy you refused them and I could not force you and then you collapsed in my arms. I took you back to the sofa, and we cuddled more. I must have fallen asleep and woken to find you collapsed on the floor. I picked you up and you tried to claw your way back to the sofa. I held you in my arms and we stayed like that until the morning. You stayed snuggled by me, barely responding as I stroked you but breathing steadily, you must have been worn out. Bod came to see you but I don’t think you noticed her. I moved the duvet gently with you on it to one side of the sofa and got up to tidy up and shower.

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Beautiful furry paws

When I came back you weren’t breathing. I wouldn’t believe it and tried to wake you up, but your beautiful eyes had gone dull. Your tiny body was going cold so I wrapped you up in my hoodie, but nothing would warm you up again. It was terrible to have your furry body, but you weren’t in there anymore.

It was hard giving you up today, but I couldn’t keep you forever, that wouldn’t be fair on you. But leaving you at the vet to be cremated was the most gut-wrenching and heart-breaking thing I have ever done. I miss you so much.

Sleepy cat

Sleepy cat

Candy, thank you for being a wonderful and loving part of my life, it’s been amazing. Thank you for choosing to be with me, right until the end. You are with me forever and I love you.

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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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