This is the story of a very special cat.
Sir Tedward McGinger–Ted to his friends–was born circa 1999.
Little is known about his kittenhood and early years, but it’s believed he had older brothers, because although he tolerated other cats with a weary air, he only ever passively-aggressively tried to get rid of them for some peace and quiet, never overtly picking a fight.
He may also have had younger sisters, because his family suspect his weary air around girl-cats was really just for show, and secretly he enjoyed cuddling with them. It was because of this that his human mum was so surprised when she rescued a stray girl cat, Willow, and Ted tried with all his might to get her out of the house. It turned out that Mum, with her degree in animal care, had missed Willow’s prominent testicles. Upon further investigation it was discovered that Willow was actually called Dave and had gone missing from a house a few miles away. Oops. Dave was reunited with his family shortly after.
Biographers suspect young Ted studied Yowling before taking a master’s degree in Linguistics. Unlike most cats, he even learned some human speech–able to say “nooo” (usually to his nemesis: fences) and “whoa” (when a human had the audacity to pick him up).
The first documented evidence of his life begins in 2003, when he was sleeping rough in the grey streets of south-east London. Although quick-witted and ferocious in a fight, Ted was not suited to a life on the streets. His ginger fur stuck out against concrete and grass alike, and there was a reason he majored in Yowling instead of Mousing.
He was rescued by workers at Celia Hammond’s cat sanctuary. They put him through many undignified treatments from de-fleaing to de-worming, and many examinations that seemed purely sadistic. Did they REALLY need to take his temperature? And why there? And what the fuckity fuck are anal glands, and why, for the love of tuna, do they need to be squeezed?
After this bizarre and rude treatment, he was shown to a metal cage in a room filled with other cat-filled metal cages. Sir Tedward has always been kind to the commoners, and he didn’t object to sharing his living space with these ruffians. All he objected to was not being able to sunbathe when he felt like it.
Understandably fed up with this situation, he was rather grumpy with the Celia Hammond staff. He gained a reputation for ferocity and wildness and was branded semi-feral.
Nobody in Lewisham wanted a semi-feral ball of gingerness. The common cats were adopted in their droves, but Sir Tedward McGinger remained.
After several months they moved him to a larger cage on the floor–the floor–and began to fear he would never find a home.
Eleven months after his arrival, a new volunteer started. Her name was Fiona and she was a 14-year-old student from a local school. Her best friend at the time was a 15-year-old student named Anna Kaling.
Fiona told Anna many sad stories about the cats she was helping care for. Anna enjoyed the most extreme horror stories and movies, from cannibalism to torture, but couldn’t bear to see an animal even looked at in a menacing way. Many years later when she would allow a Very Nasty Character to harm a fictional cat, she cried and watched her favourite comedy Bottom back-to-back until she could face the keyboard again.
Anna decided her home needed a third cat.
Sir Tedward McGinger had been at Celia Hammond for a year when Anna came to look at the cats. The nice Celia Hammond people enthused about two cats called AJ and Carl, brothers who were young, sleek, and playful.
“Who’s that?” Anna asked, pointing at Ted.
“Oh,” said Nice Celia Hammond Person. “That’s Ted. He’s feral and really unfriendly. AJ and Carl just love to be petted. Here, come and see…”
But Anna had wandered over to Ted’s cage.
“Can I stroke him?” she asked. His fur looked so long and soft and ginger and his eyes were so big and green and… knowing. Like he knew stuff. She thought this even before she discovered he had qualifications in both Yowling and Linguistics.
“I wouldn’t,” said NCHP. “He can be vicious.”
But Anna was 15, genetically unable to take advice, and in love with Ted. “Just quickly?”
NCHP acquiesced. The cage was opened. Anna reached her hand in.
Ted bit her.
“I’ll take him,” Anna said.
Don’t worry–AJ and Carl found a great home two days later.
Ted’s new home was several miles from the sanctuary, in a street of Victorian terraced houses with long gardens at the rear. To Ted’s disgust, Anna took his loathsome cage with her and kept him in it for two weeks. This was because she had two other cats: Sunday, a very sweet black-and-white girl; and Dixie, a “curvy” ginger-and-white boy who liked to sleep in the washing machine and eat prawns–not at the same time. While the three cats got used to each other’s smell, Anna was advised to keep Ted caged so they couldn’t fight.
As you can see, Ted and Sunday become firm friends.
Ted, the vicious and feral spitfire, turned out to be a lap cat. The first night he was let out of the house he returned in the early hours, jumped onto Anna’s bed and stretched out along her chest. The Lion King was spooning with a human.
Ted was chilled, easy-going and content. All he needed to be happy was cuddles, food, and a patch of sunshine.
Over the next 11 years, Ted moved four times with Anna and had many adventures.
One time, his mum Anna got a bit above her station and stroked him for 0.3 seconds longer than he required. It’d been four years since he left Celia Hammond, but he chose to remind her that was FERAL GOD DAMMIT and to be feared!
Mum Anna spent a year wearing wristbands so people didn’t think she’d tried to kill herself really, really shoddily.
At least this was during Anna’s heavy metal phase, so she had plenty of wristbands to use. At times, she wondered if The Iron Maiden merchandise store had sponsored Ted’s attack.
This was the last time Ted would show his King of the Jungle instincts. He returned immediately to his chilled self and got mellower and mellower as he aged.
When Anna was 21 and Ted was 11, she went through a bad patch. Through a combination of awful events she was unemployed, 200 miles from any friends or family, living by herself for the first time in a basement flat with mould and loads of slugs that converged on her bed every night.
Well, she wasn’t quite by herself. She had Ted. At the darkest moments when she sometimes wondered if it wouldn’t be better to just munch her way through the medicine cabinet, she remembered Ted. Who’d feed him if she was gone?
Things got better for Anna. Ted was always the best.
Sunday crossed the rainbrow bridge with kidney failure. Dixie crossed the rainbrow bridge with lung cancer.
As he aged, Ted’s robust health began to wane. He had gingivitis, requiring two dental surgeries that a) left him with just two teeth and b) nearly bankrupted his mum. Anna will be forever grateful for the PDSA, the charity that paid for his first surgery when she was unemployed and desperate.
Ted adapted remarkably well to being toothless. He still chomped his way through kibble as well as the highest-quality food his mum could find (£1 a portion thankyouverymuch) and, because he’s a cat and even cats as awesome as Ted must be arseholes occasionally, he would sometimes eschew this food and steal the 29p cans of God Knows What Meat that Mum buys for the hedgehogs.
Ted was toothless and happy.
Then he was diagnosed with arthritis. He could no longer show the shed who was boss, and went into the garden each evening to yowl his outrage at the stupid fence for keeping him inside. He still loved sunbathing though.
To his horror, his uncle–Anna’s brother–bought a KITTEN. A kitten! Ted was 16-years-old thankyouverymuch and did not need a fluffy ball of energy disturbing his retirement. But it was too late, and Pepper joined the family.
Pepper is scared of everything, from the vacuum cleaner to her own tail to Scary Pieces of Air. Ted treated her with the disdain she deserved, and Anna swears he actually rolled his eyes one time when she darted behind the sofa at the sound of someone yawning.
When Anna began writing, Ted was always by her side. Or sometimes on her side. Or her lap. Or the keyboard. Wherever was most inconvenient at the time–he’d be there.
Near the end of 2015 he started yowling in the litter tray, which was nowhere near the fence. It was also nowhere near Pepper, another of his favourite things to yowl at–especially when she was trying to get him to play and wouldn’t listen to his “Bugger off, I’m 17 years old!” protests.
Anna took him to the vets. He yowled extremely well when the vet took his temperature, and again when she prescribed him a new diet of low protein food. He had stage two kidney failure, his body struggling to process the protein in all that high-quality food Mum was giving him.
Ted was Not Impressed with his new diet. Perhaps even less impressed with it than with Pepper, who, as a rather “curvy” lady with a penchant for Dreamies and a grandma who can’t resist indulging it, was on diet food. Slim Fast for cats.
Meal times were fun.
In April 2016, he began yowling in the tray again. He was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and started on a six-week course of antibiotics.
Yesterday, at the end of his fourth week, he began yowling harder, stopped eating, and was generally sending out lots of I’m Not Well signals.
Anna took him back to the vet this morning. His bladder was full, a blockage preventing him urinating, and he was in a lot of pain. The only choice was to insert a catheter to clear the blockage. The word ‘anaesthetic’ made Anna uneasy, considering Ted was a 17-year-old with a heart murmur and kidney failure. But there was no choice.
The vets took blood first to determine the levels of potassium in his blood. The results were bad. She called Anna and gently explained that Ted’s kidneys were giving up, he was anaemic, and was unlikely to survive an anaesthetic.
But there was some hope–if he pulled through, they might be able to manage the anaemia and the kidneys and give him a few more months.
Ted survived the anaesthetic, but the vet saw the tumour in his bladder. Bladder tumours are rare, extremely aggressive, and usually inoperable. Ted’s was one of them.
When he had recovered from the anaesthetic, he was carried into a room where Anna was waiting for him. He rested his head on her chest and purred in her ear until he was sleepy, and the vet slipped some bright blue liquid into his IV line. It complemented his orange fur beautifully.
He crossed the rainbrow bridge to cat heaven, where he can eat whatever he likes, climb as many fences as he can find, and sunbathe all day long.
Sweet dreams, Ted. I’ll never find another friend like you.