I first met Humphrey at the Cats Protection League shelter. Our previous cat Eustace had died at a ripe old age, and we had decided we could not live in a catless house. My daughter and I went to visit, leaving my wife, who had broken her ankle a few weeks before, in the car. We were shown to an enclosure containing a litter of five kittens. One, a tabby, was already spoken for. There remained two black and white kittens, and two black. Our attention was immediately seized by one of the black and white ones, who was charging up and down a ramp, knocking his siblings flying. One of the black kittens followed him. It was clear that these were the kittens destined to come to live with us, and, a few weeks later, so they did, exchanging their original names of Magpie and Robin for those we gave them, Humphrey and Percy.
Humphrey established himself as number one cat within a few days. He was fearless, curious, and friendly to humans to a fault. He loved boxes, high places from which to leap on his prey, my armchair, hunting, our neighbours, crossing the road to the flats opposite in order to scare us, ‘helping’ any workmen who came to the house. He held his own in territorial disputes with other cats, notably Moonface, a coarse-haired stray who would stare balefully at Humphrey and Percy through the cat flap, and Esmerelda, a fluffy and buxom female from a house nearby. He could have held his own with Nimrod, the mighty hunter. He more than once caught rats, some of them of monstrous size.
In February of this year we took both cats to the veterinary practice we attend. We anticipated that Percy, who is fond of his food, would be the focus of the discussion. But the veterinary surgeons examining them felt Humphrey and said she felt a lump. After an exploratory laparotomy, the diagnosis was made: lymphoma. We tried chemotherapy, though it would only have bought him a little more time. The practice were splendid, and everyone took an interest in his case. He was a young, fit cat, and lasted well, but he was losing weight. In the end, we had to take him for his last ride to the surgery.
We have his ashes; we will scatter them in the garden in one of his favourite places. His brother Percy is bereft, as are we.