Just a year ago our male cat Perkins crawled down into one of his favourite hiding places in the cellar and purred his last. He was eighteen, a good age, and just a little younger than our son Tom who grew up with him. We knew Perkins was in trouble when he stopped eating. He was taken to the vet who ordered a few hundred pounds worth of blood tests which confirmed what we already knew. We wondered if it would be best to have him put down or just to allow him to die at home. Tom argued that Perkins did not seem to be in pain so why put him through the trauma of another trip to the vet.
We watched him over several days. One night he stayed by the television and did not move. I said: " If he is there in the morning I am taking him to the vet to be put down." But Perkins had disappeared. It took a while to find him. He was still alive and we were all out that morning. Tom's mother had gone to France to stay with friends, I had a meeting and Tom was at college. When I got in I could see there were still signs of life so I checked on Perkins every half hour or so.
By mid-afternoon I was sure Perkins was dead and put his limp body into a long rectangular wine box to lie in State for when Tom got home. We both shed a few tears and then set about the burial which we had planned. Our little back garden is mostly paved over. We would lift one of these slabs, dig down as far as we could go, put Perkins in, cover him with earth and put the slab back. That way none of the foxes that visit the gardens would be able to dig him up.
We had the paving stone up and were digging away when the thought occurred to me that neighbours might be wondering what we were up to and that they had not seen Tom's Mum for a few days. We had a bit of laugh about that. It was hard going with the grave and we gave up when we were barely two feet down. Tom wrapped Perkins in a top the cat used to like to sleep on and lowered him carefully into the hole. Then the slab went down to form a gravestone on which we put a geranium in a pot.
Two evenings after the burial we had visitors. One looking out into the garden exclaimed: " Look at all the mice!" We looked and mice were running everywhere as if they were celebrating the news that Perkins was no longer. The mice were there for weeks and they began to invade the house. I had to block holes, put down poison and traps. It took a long time to get rid of them.
Was Perkins a great "mouser" then? I doubt it as we did not see any mice until two years before he died. They began to appear when the house next door was gutted and renovated. Perkins, and his sister Mitzy who died not long before, caught any mice that came in to the house. Generally they left the little mangled bundles of fur lying around but on one occasion Perkins swallowed his catch whole. But there were never many mice. Why then the infestation after the burial? I mentioned the strange happening to Sean who runs our local wine merchants highburyvintners who mentioned it to his father who knows a thing or two about these things as he has a farm in Ireland. He had no doubt that we had not buried Perkins deep enough and that the mice had smelled him, as the foxes would have done too. Fortunately the paving stone prevented any exhumation and Perkins now lies in peace with no rodents left to dance on his grave.