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In memory of Vel

Our adorable “bab”, Vel (short for Velvety) was a gift from a friend who felt our home and loving, attentive ways would offer her a better life than the one she had hitherto been destined to have. She was around 2 years old already and had been living with another female cat - but was known to have been the runt of her litter. On the day she arrived at her new home address, this tortoiseshell tabby sprung out of the arms of her previous owner and darted upstairs, in a gingery blur, where she stayed for several days, clearly scared and unsettled by her new surroundings. We were a little scared of her too; unsure whether or not we could trust her and, however incredible to think now, even began to worry that we’d made a terrible mistake bringing her into our lives. Those first days were not easy as we tried hard to “read” each other through wary fear and to that end, we locked ourselves in to sleep at night; Vel doing the same, settling into a dark hiding spot in the upstairs bedroom. Slowly as the weeks began to pass, the three of us took the steps needed to initiate our all-important trust and each new morning that the sun rose, we would trek tentatively upstairs and find her greeting us on the landing, chatting loudly and rolling over for tummy rubs. Soon, the doors finally opened (both literally and metaphorically) and the light in our lives began flooding in. We saw that this vulnerable little cat only wanted our love and affection and once our initial fears had abated, we began to appreciate the lovely natured soul that had been so divinely gifted to us.  An indoor girl, her home became her palace and she truly reigned supreme for the fourteen sweet years in which she graced us with her spirited, loving, caring, funny presence. Her character grew in strength as the years went by and her love and affection for us knew no bounds. Our emotions she always acknowledged; spirited when we were happy, consoling when we were sad. She reflected our love like a mirror; showing her adoration for us in equal measure through her endless giving of head boops, cuddles, comfort and sandpaper kisses. Never a “lap cat” but always by our side; with the occasional treat of resting her paws on our legs when we were seated and always ready to sit on our knee if she could see our tears. She would come under the covers to sleep, and paw at our faces to wake us up. She was full of inquisition - always trying to go places she shouldn’t in the middle of the night - but one locking of eyes could melt even our most roused temperaments. A million memories of the happy life we shared here in our home span an admittedly long number of years for a feline soul. Even so, 100 years would never have been enough. She was an Angel sent from above, no doubt. A very chatty girl, Vel had so many intonations and often made many a sound one would barely associate possible within the standard feline vocal range. She was a little person, of sorts, and over the years we developed a life story on her behalf, and a little voice too; accounting for the two years in which she was not yet united with her “true family”. A New Yorker, of the most premiere pedigree: born in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, in possession of a very wealthy inheritance. She had travelled the world, met nearly all it’s famous people, and there was no experience she hadn’t had. But she was ever humble; albeit a little dazed at times about what was reality and what was not. In truth, she had never travelled further than a few hundred metres in her whole life. Yet her stories showed us the power of imagination and the importance of belief. If you believe, then your mind will always be free. In May 2020, after almost seventeen years of enjoying a very healthy, privileged quality of life, our Vel was diagnosed with renal failure. Like all pet owners, we had to make the hardest of decisions in respect of her welfare and we chose to let her enjoy the last “phase” of her life with as much pleasure and dignity possible given her condition (opting out of putting her on restrictive diets and putting her through a battery of distressing staging tests). She ate a buffet of gourmet meals and lapped up her new climbing perch, sun spots and the odd toy of interest. But she was fading and we could see her losing energy, vivacity and heart. Her eyes became sad and we knew she was counting on us to ease her suffering; just as we had always done before.  On 9th July, the hardest day of our lives by far, we let her paws land on the bedroom carpet for the last time and spent one last blessed morning with her; basking in the rising sunshine. Her passing a few hours later was thankfully peaceful and painless and we stayed with our baby to the very end, pouring our love over her like a soothing oil until she finally rested easy. We had no doubts in our mind that it was ‘her time’ but the grief has still hit like a tidal wave as we try to adjust to a new life without her physical presence. Her body, soul and voice is missing from nearly every corner of our living experience and it feels as though our hearts will never heal. To our adorable Vel, thank you for all the love and pleasure you gave us every day of these fourteen years. We hope you’re running free in those feline fields of heaven, basking in the eternal sunshine and regaling many wonderful tales to your new feline friends about the beautiful time spent with your human family - who cared for and loved you so, so much. 

by Gemma Brown

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