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Opinion

Sam Delaney: ‘My cat Nelson has gone and I’m absolutely gutted’

Sam Delaney had his moggy for 15 years, and after his death things will never be the same again

My cat died last month. His name was Nelson.

He was pretty old and had lived a full life, as far as cats’ lives go. I bought him from a woman outside Hammersmith tube station for an extortionate £170. She turned up cupping the tiny creature in her hands, sodden with rain. I pushed the cash into her hand, snatched the furry asset and drove off home in my car where I presented it to my wife as a birthday gift.

Nelson was frail and scared; the woman had assured me he was eight weeks old, but the vet said he looked no more than a fortnight. Too young to be taken from his mother. It seemed unlikely he would survive. But my wife and I nursed him diligently for those first few weeks and he fought through. I think that’s why I formed such an extra-special bond with him. He kinda thought I was his mum.

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At the time, we had a couple of tough Russian blues living next door to us. They would jump over the fence to bully Nelson. Sometimes they would even enter our house through his catflap and make themselves very much at home. He was terrified. To be honest, so was I. Their names were Oscar and Archie and they reminded me of the Kray Twins. In the end, we had to move. 

While the new house was being renovated, Nelson moved in with my mother-in-law for a while. But she had a malicious Bengal called Hector living next door who was even more trouble than Oscar and Archie. Hector terrorised Nelson throughout his stay. It was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Finally, at the home we live in now, he settled. The local cats were generally respectful. They seemed to have a nice little feline community going, where bullying wasn’t an issue. Nelson was happy and calm. But one day during lockdown the back door slammed shut in a sudden gust of wind and caught Nelson’s tail in it. It was broken in two places. He had to be operated on twice. At one point it looked like he might have faced an amputation. They fixed him eventually but I’m not sure he ever 100 per cent recovered from the psychological scars.

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Although this all sounds as if he had a life of unrelenting anxiety, there was always a lot of love around Nelson. He was an affectionate cat who was always right at the heart of everything the family did. He wasn’t housebound – he liked going out to do cat stuff in the streets once in a while. But he would put his time in at home too, sitting on my lap while I watched Netflix, interfering with my laptop while I was trying to work, always trying to steal the poppadoms from our Friday night curry order. 

My favourite moments were when I would come in late from a night at the football and he would be waiting to greet me on the arm of the sofa. I’d stroke him for a while and chat to him quietly, telling him about my day. He’d stare into my eyes like he was really listening and purr enthusiastically. I found it very soothing. There was a reassuring permanence to him; a reliable calmness; a consistent warmth. He genuinely made me feel better when times were rough. He was my mate.

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And then we came home from lunch at my mum’s one Sunday and he was lying in one of his usual spots, quite peacefully. I knelt down to stroke him and realised he wasn’t breathing. Strangely, when I realised he was dead, I felt a bit annoyed. “Why did you have to die, Nelson?” I thought. We’d adopted him just after our first kid was born, 15 years ago. He’d been an integral part of the family unit ever since. Now he’s gone and I am absolutely gutted.

Still, I drove over to Sutton yesterday and bought a kitten called Bobby. He’s distracting me with his adorableness right now as I try to write these words. Life moves on. Bobby might not be Nelson, but he’ll do, I guess.

Read more from Sam Delaney here. Follow him on Twitter here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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