RALPH (2001-2021)

Last Thursday was a scorchingly hot day and I decided it would be the day I would chop down the wisteria on the front of my house. I like wisteria but this particular wisteria was failing to fulfil what could be argued to be its two central duties as wisteria: flowering, and staying on the exterior of a building. According to my landlady, the wisteria had never turned the purple it was supposed to in the many years it had been there, and more recently it had decided to try to make its way into the house, which she had been understandably concerned about and asked me to attend to. When I got to the top of the ladder with my loppers, I noticed that, as well as entering the loft and gutters, several strands of wisteria had wrapped themselves around the internet, slowly attempting to strangle the internet and kill it. I could hardly blame the wisteria for this – the internet often feels like it’s doing more harm than good and a strong argument exists that it would be better for everyone if it was murdered – but I felt slightly ambivalent about the subject, so I gently began to release the internet from the wisteria’s grip and bring the wisteria to the ground. As I did, I found a nest containing three baby blackbirds. Not all the wisteria had been detached from the wall by this point, so I reclimbed the ladder and placed the nest in the most secure position I could, as close as possible to where it had originally been. I also covered it with various loose foliage, so the blackbird chicks were out of the fierce early afternoon sun. I fussed over the nest’s position for a long time. Half an hour. Probably more. I’m not sure. My grasp of time isn’t brilliant at the moment.

I don’t think I could have done anything more for the blackbirds, to try to keep them alive, and I am sure I would have done precisely the same thing in any other circumstances, yet somehow it seemed doubly important that I did keep them alive, extra crucial on this particular week that I was not to be personally responsible for their death. Four days earlier, my elderly cat Ralph had died. To be more accurate, four days earlier I had been responsible for the death of my elderly cat Ralph. Four days earlier, I had driven my cat Ralph to a one storey building a few miles from my house and paid a man to inject poision into his leg and end his life.

When you get two periods of extreme weather, one immediately after the other, it’s amazing how comprehensively the second period can vanquish the memory of the first period. Because of this fierce heat that I was trying to shield the blackbirds from, it was already easy to forget that only a few days before it had been unseasonably chilly and overwhelmingly damp here on Dartmoor. During the harrowing final four days of Ralph’s life, which I did my best to pretend weren’t harrowing, it rained almost non-stop. I’ve become accustomed to very old cats dying on me in the depths of winter, so, in cloud-darkened rooms, as it became increasingly apparent that Ralph was nearing the end of his life, I had briefly forgotten it wasn’t February and was actually the height of summer, very slightly over 20 years since Ralph’s birth. Just a couple of weeks before that, Ralph had been voluntarily sunning himself on the balcony outside my kitchen, and that had been wonderful to see, since he’d been such an indoor cat for the many months prior to that: an impossibly thin and frail cat who really did nothing more than sleep and lose control of his bowels and move creakingly between his food bowl and his litter tray. He had not been Ralph – not the full Ralph, not even quarter of Ralph – for a long time, but that brief bit of bathing in the power of those rays, that brief glimpse of his old sun god self, had made me think, “Yes, I am doing the right thing by keeping him alive, in this wretched state” although there had been many times in the preceding weeks when I’d questioned it.

Who was Ralph, back when he’d been totally Ralph? He was a rock star of a cat. A mellow alpha cat who never growled. A big strong cat with fantastic 1971 hair and sideburns who, when I anthropomorphised him as a Jim Morrison or Warren Beatty character with a string of illegitimate children scattered across the globe, I also liked to believe was secretly, deeply in touch with his feminine side. He was a cat who had the rare talent of being able to meow his own name – “Raaaaaaaaalllllph” – and, just like his brother Shipley, who died in February 2017, loved a good chat, and, also just like Shipley, seemed to need my company more than any other cat I’d ever known. He was, in his prime, a mouser, but not a birder: a cat who would have left those blackbirds alone. He was a cat who didn’t go out of his way to start rows with neighbours and foes but, if pushed, could settle one very easily with a large, solid paw. Until late 2016, people mistook him for a cat less than half his age. He was a miracle of vitality and still looked exceptionally youthful at 17, even though his bones had begun to creak a lot by then. I don’t know the exact date of his birth but, doing the maths from the moment I first met him in September 2001, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Midsummer’s Day, and that would seem entirely fitting. Sun was very much Ralph’s thing. No cat has ever been better at locating a puddle of it to laze in, no cat has ever looked more blissed out and in his element with it shining down on him. It’s easy to start telling myself that this period of sun which we are having now could have given Ralph yet another extra lease of life, had he been able to experience it, but deep down I know it wouldn’t.

I began to write this piece about Ralph on the afternoon of his death but then I stopped myself. I’ve done it a few times now: written in celebration of the life of cats, in a flood of grief, and published that writing online only hours after their demise. I have done it because I feel a huge obligation to people who have never met them but grown fond of them via words on a page and photographs. It was something I never stopped to consider, fourteen years ago, when I decided to write some books that were kind of about my cats and kind of about lots of other things as well: that I had set myself up with a duty of public mourning, for years to come. What am I supposed to do? Just casually pop a photo of Ralph on social media in September, with a caption saying “Oh, by the way, my cat Ralph died a couple of months ago. Hope everyone is having a nice day!”? Or maybe just not mention him at all, kind of pretend he is still here? Not possible. I chose to write a series of books featuring Ralph and because of that I owe it to the people who came to love him through those books to tell them as soon as possible about his death. But I did decide to hold off, this time, just for a week or so, maybe not a fortnight, but enough time to live with it privately for a while. I decided I would selfishly limit my bereavement to myself, my family, and a few friends who knew Ralph in real life. I needed it, needed to go easy on myself: something I am not always very skilled at.

Even now, ten days on, I dread what the internet will do to this, how it will make it not about the real me or the real Ralph but the quasi me and quasi Ralph that best serve the internet’s goals. I dread the distracted deathlust of social media. I dread the people who are angry that I stopped writing books ostensibly about cats but who still obsess over Ralph and my one remaining living cat, Roscoe: people who are disappointed that I’m just a person who loves all animals and writes about many subjects and not the one-dimensional cat nut they want me to be, people who believe their disappointment negates the opinion of all the people who tell me all the time how much – and often how much more – they’ve loved the books I’ve written since the last one which was sort of about cats, many of which do still actually feature my cats, but aren’t cat books, which my cat books kind of weren’t anyway. I dread other people who will misinterpret that last sentence, not understand the full context of it, who have no concept of what has come at me online over the last few years, and think I’m being overly defensive. I have dreaded, as Ralph has wasted away in front of my eyes in the real world, the way that I can’t post on social media about one of the five books I’ve written in five years that I’ve worked my fucking arse off on without the very grounded-in-reality-and-experience fear of someone writing “Yes but how is Ralph?” or “More cats please” underneath it. I dread the way the algorithm will lap up this latest pet death of mine, however I handle it. And not any of that contradicts the fact that I massively appreciate the messages from people who do get it, that I also love several aspects of having cats who have been loved by strangers, or that I know the significance of Ralph’s role in my writing life. I just want to deal with this in the real world, not an online world that is skewed by addiction and the capitalist desires of robots. I want to deal with it in the world that realises that all deaths of beloved pets are crushing, not the world that concluded the death of my cat The Bear in December 2016 was innately more crushing than the death of my cat Shipley two months later purely because The Bear was “a more well-known internet figure”.

This is another thing I find hard about writing this: I am aware that the final section of my book Ring The Hill, which revolves in part around The Bear and Shipley, is one of the most cathartic and powerful experiences I’ve had as an author, and if this is less cathartic and powerful, to write and to read, it might seem that Ralph is somehow… less important. So I will say this: Ralph was not the cat of mine who lived longest – he didn’t quite make it to The Bear’s ancient 21 – but because I adopted him when he was a kitten, he is the cat I knew for the longest time. I have never felt closer to a cat, more part of a cat’s social life, than I did with him or Shipley. I won’t go into the details about his last few days, but it was very painful and very messy, and why wouldn’t it be? That’s what death is all about. I wanted him to die at home, peacefully, but we are lucky if that happens with an old, ill cat. The decision I made the Sunday before last – even though I am sure it was the right one – was harder than the one I had to make with Shipley, four and a half years earlier, appeared less clear cut, even though it was very clear cut. I am dealing with all the feelings I have felt before that don’t get any easier: the empty space in the house, the sense that I have heartlessly tidied a lifelong friend away. It’s fucking tough. I keep thinking about what else I could have done, and I’m sure there was something, even though there wasn’t.

I noticed, with great relief, a few hours after I’d put the blackbird nest back in the wisteria, that the blackbirds’ mum was returning to it, bringing worms and other treats. The relief was possibly even bigger, because I was aware that a couple of people on social media – probably only a tiny percentage of people, people who run on a technofucked tank of counterproductive rage – would undoubtedly be angry that I’d dislodged the blackbirds’ nest, even though they’d never met the blackbirds: people who probably assumed that I didn’t give a crud about the final bit of nesting season, and had been carelessly, wantonly chopping back foliage, shouting “BOLLOCKS TO ALL BIRDS, ESPECIALLY THE TINY BABY ONES!” The following afternoon, I looked again, and was amazed to see that the chicks were noticeably blacker and bigger: they were growing even more quickly than Ralph had shrunk during his final week on earth. Did a load of sun in the wake of a load of rain make blackbirds grow more quickly? Were they actually just like the dahlias in my garden? Two days later, I checked again and, miraculously, they had made it: flown the nest. I returned through the front door, half-expecting Ralph to jolt awake from his big cushion by the AGA, as I had every time I’d opened the door since Sunday. Roscoe was in the garden, rolling about with that look she’d had for the last few days: the look of someone who has finally got everything she’s ever wanted and isn’t quite sure what to do with it. The weather was glorious. I’d spent a lot of the last couple of days swimming in large natural expanses of water. My first novel was finished and almost edited. The friend who was visiting asked if I fancied a glass of wine. Life felt momentarily great, and I felt terrible about it. For more than a decade, there had been no point in my life when I was not caring for an ill or elderly cat. That’s a long, long time. Without that, life suddenly felt easier, simplified to a surprisingly large extent, tidier. And with the knowledge of this came a great rush of guilt for noticing it. But with it also came an epiphany of how hard it had been for so long, how painful it had been to watch my ancient companion suffer and just how much that had gradually placed a heavier weight on my heart, how amazing and unexpected it had been that he had even got through last winter, how lucky I’d been to have him so long, to live with this magnificent psychedelic rock messiah, this living god, this mellow work of art. Later that evening, I went out to water the plants and it felt like blackbirds were everywhere, diving ecstatically in and out of the hedgerows and singing some of their biggest hits. The evening light through the thick canopy was creating a selection of delicious sun puddles. I thought of Ralph, the joy he would have taken in selecting one of those to recline in, back only two or three years ago, when he had still been totally Ralph.

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148 thoughts on “RALPH (2001-2021)

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve had cats my whole life and it never gets easier saying goodbye, especially when we are often the ones taking them to the vet for the last time. I had to do that in Feb 2020 with my 16 year old. God I Cried for weeks. I cried even more when lockdown happened and I knew how much my baby would have lived having me at home 24/7. I was always her favourite toy,
    I wish you well. Always remember a decision taken with love will never be the wrong one, it just hurts more.

      1. Oh gosh, the last line. Thank you for this.
        I have a similar situation with one of my beloved cats due in the very near future and am dreading it so much and that last line helps me in some way.
        I can so relate to the part in the blog that talks about the timing – worrying if the time we pick for our pets to leave is us the right or wrong time – so painful.

  2. Dear Tom,

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of the wonderful Ralph – you gave him such a great and long life alongside The Bear and Shipley – thank you so much for sharing their lives with us.

    Please give Roscoe an extra big hug (and George the next time you see him).

    Much love to you all.


    1. Dear Tom
      Beautifully written about your gorgeous furboy 😻💖

      Hugs from me & my rescue boys Bailey & Basil 😻😻💖💖


  3. I’m so sorry for your loss Tom. What a lovely cat he was. I have enjoyed reading about beautiful Ralph as well as your other cats, and all your other wonderful writings too. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  4. Bloody hell, so sorry about Ralph. I’m on my 9th cat…she’s 16 and i totally get the creaky bones thing. I can hear her clunking up the stairs every night…despite offering her 5 places to sleep downstairs. I know you’re not just a cat nut, you’re an animal nut….i chat to sheep and random dogs too. In a way, I am sorry that you have to tell the internet about Ralph’s passing….because you’ll probably read everyone’s comments-and maybe that will make you sadder about him. But then, if you hadn’t told the internet, I wouldn’t have known and so wouldn’t have been able to say sorry. Bugger. Any road,I AM sorry, having cats, dogs, whatever is a bugger because we love them and then they break our hearts. A kiss to Roscoe (and a hug for you if you want one) x

  5. This was a most beautiful piece of writing about a glorious cat. He always looked from your photos as if he was having a blast. I think they leave their good vibes when they go.

  6. So sorry for the heartbreak Tom. Thank you for sharing a piece of Ralph with us over the years through your wonderful stories. He seemed like one in a million.

  7. I’m so very sorry Tom. As someone who has also had elderly cats and had to make that hard decision when they have lost their quality of life, I identify with what you’ve written. Be kind to yourself.

  8. This is absolutely beautiful writing and expresses everything perfectly. Please be assured that, contrary to appearances, there are some of your readers who do ‘get it.’ Also, that you did the right thing for Ralph. Hugs to you and Roscoe.

  9. I’m crying now, not simply because I’m sad about Ralph’s end (and very much empathise with the awfulness of having to make a decision to bring suffering to an end, balancing the flickers of his delight in life with the failure of his old body). One of my cats (little more than half Ralph’s age) disappeared in early April along with his ginger pal – a total mystery, despite huge searching by many people. The point is that Skolan, the big tabby, always seemed to me rather like Ralph – huge character, devoted to me, etc, so somehow Ralph’s demise is a resonance of Skolan and Fingal’s disappearance. I envy you the 20 years of Ralph (I had just under 11 with Skolan) and knowing his end, while also knowing that the pain of this will have brought back all that pain of your alter ego Shipley’s end. I’m rambling, I really just want to say I love all your writing and so much appreciate this piece and am glad the blackbirds have flown free.

  10. Oh Tom, firstly and most importantly, I am so very sorry about Ralph. Losing a beloved cat is the worst feeling in the world, absolutely heartbreaking. Secondly, I just had to comment to say thank you for not shying away from describing the full range of emotions that comes with losing an old and ailing cat. Like you, I’ve spent a long time (eight years) looking after very elderly cats. Soon after losing our 24 year-old in 2018 after five years of precarious health, our then-14-year-old ginger boy started an unexplained loss of weight that ultimately killed him in October 2020. With the gut wrenching grief, and the horror and guilt of my first experience of making a decision to put an animal to sleep, came an overwhelming sense of relief. He wasn’t suffering anymore, I didn’t need to weigh him every day and feel a sense of panic at the results anymore, I wasn’t living from one vet appointment to the next. But it’s so, so hard to admit to that because I loved him, I miss him, I did everything I did willingly, but I just could not have gone through those emotions on a daily basis for much longer. Ironically, I had only six months of respite before our remaining cat, now 16, decided it was her turn for a bit of drama by developing liver cancer. So the last three months I have been back in the same cycle of medication, vet visits, worries about weight and mess to clean up. But we do it because we love them. And I suspect there never was a cat better loved in his final days than Ralph. Take care, be kind to yourself and know that you’ve given all your cats the most wonderful lives.

  11. The grief you describe is how I have felt in the five weeks and six days since my beautiful Drusilla had to go to the vet. She died on the table before she could be examined at just under eleven years old.
    We punish ourselves with guilt, even when we do what we think is best for them. Her brother Gideon remains, a little more clingy but otherwise his normal routine continues. Sparkle, another ten year old, sleeps as usual but snuggles more during his waking hour.
    I miss every cat I have been privileged to love over the last decades.

  12. I’m so sorry you can’t mourn your lovely cat without having to worry about what some random nutter on the internet will find offensive about it. He was such a beautiful cat and I’m very sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is always devastating.

  13. Saying “goodbye” to a friend is extremely difficult. We lost our beloved Holly in May, and I still walk past the bedroom and wonder where she is, even only for a split second. They are more than a pet, they are more than just a cat, they are family. (Some would say more so, as you love them more than *some* members of your family).
    I do believe cats love us in their own way. They sense when we’re happy and when we’re sad and when we’re feeling under the weather. Ralph would have closed his eyes for the last time, knowing he was loved and felt love himself.
    Taking the decision to say goodbye is hard, but it sounds like it was the right time for Ralph. We can’t explain to them *why* they’re in pain, *why* they’re struggling and they don’t understand the concept of life & death like human beings do.
    It is our duty as cat guardians to know when it’s time to let them go. Of course, it’s hard, we want them for another day, another week, another month, it’s hard to let go. But, ultimately, it’s about the cat, not us. We are their advocate. Making the decision to say goodbye for the final time is the last act of ultimate love we can give them. We put our feelings aside and think of them first.
    This does not make it less painful, in fact, we go through it in our head afterwards, over and over, “what if….”
    The memories of Ralph and all the other cats that have been a part of your life over the years will never disappear. He will always be in your heart. Treasure those memories, share pictures on twitter (I can never get enough of cat pictures), talk about him. Remember the joy he brought you, the laughter and the friendship and the love.
    I am so sorry for your loss, don’t be hard on yourself, allow yourself to grieve.

    1. Your writing shows the tremendous bond between you and Ralph as well as Bear and Shipley. So sorry for your loss. It’s always a hard decision to make but the kindness we show in return for them sharing their lives with us. Each cat is their own personality and soul that finds their way into our hearts and never leaves. May you find peace in your kindness to Ralph.

  14. Oh Tom, I am so sorry for your loss. Do what you must and what is best for you. You owe the internet nothing so please do not feel that you need share more. I hope your heart eases and Roscoe gives you a to do list now that she truly is the boss of everything. Now is the time to spend with people and places that bring you peace and comfort.

  15. Beautiful tribute to an amazing cat.
    Thank you Tom. Thank you for sharing Ralph with us in your writing. Thank you, for never being afraid to write about your love for him, and for all animals.

    I cried reading this. It brought back the two weeks of hell i had after i had to get my 17 year old cat Denver put to sleep. Somehow i had convinced myself he would be with me forever. His loss hit me like a steam train.
    But, your writing of Ralph reminded me of one thing. The love. The unconditional love and trust of a cat is precious.
    Deepest condolences to you.

    P.s. i hope nothing i wrote here offends you. I am not very good at writing. Especially if involves feelings.

  16. My cat-mama heart aches for you and your loss of RALPH. I still mourn my Siamese, SAM, who arrived at 19 years and could not make another month. Grief still chokes my throat and heart… Love🐾

  17. You’re a Wonderful writer and I appreciate you sharing your reflections of Ralph. I simply Love your Love …of Cats and how you notice each one of them and their unique personalities 😽 I myself have been a lifelong cat lover and also appreciate the uniqueness of each one who chose me for a companion. I’ve had many that came and went with no notice and I did have my favorites. Thanks again for a great read and for sharing “Ralph” ❤😘

  18. I’m so sorry, Tom. I’ve been in that position—having to make that decision. I think about it all the time since my Delilah is 17 now. Take care of yourself, and know that Ralph brought joy not just to you, but to so many of us through your brilliant work.

  19. Thanks for writing this Tom. I can identify with so much of what you write; the weight of responsibility, the shredded hearts our cats leave behind, it is utterly crushing. It’s a beautiful tribute from a worthy cat guardian. I’ve said this before and it’s unfortunate it rhymes but small souls leave such big holes. Much love x

  20. So sorry to hear this news. I, too, recently lost a 21 year old (his decline sounds very similar to Ralph’s) and I am well aware of what you are going through. Condolences.

  21. Oh, Tom, I am so sorry. What a full and wonderful life you and Ralph had together. I get where you’re coming from. Thank you for telling us and you have to do what is right for you, not for everyone else. Look after yourself x

  22. This was one of the most truly moving eulogies I’ve ever read. And “this magnificent psychedelic rock messiah, this living god, this mellow work of art” is a searingly wonderful, truly perfect description.

    Vale, Ralph. Thank you for sharing him, and all your incredible writing, with us, Tom. Take care.

  23. As someone who came to love Ralph very much, through your wonderful writing, I can’t thank you enough for choosing to share the terrible news that he has now gone to rejoin Shipley. I am simply devastated for you. You gave Ralph a wonderful life, and you found the strength to show him that final kindness.

  24. Beautifully written. And such a beautiful cat. It’s coming up to one year since my lovely black cat was put to sleep. I’ve been told by some that I should really be ‘over it’ by now. But I think animal lovers know there is such a bond with some animals that never leaves you.

  25. Tom, my heart goes out to you. Ralph could not have been blessed with a better man to see him through his twilight years and final end. I’ve lived with cats all my life and know exactly how you feel. Be at peace with yourself – you did the best you could.

  26. So sorry for your loss, it really rips the shit out of you. Making that decision is so hard and you questioning whether it was the right one is absolutely natural, I did that myself with mine. The world is full of dickheads and the sadly the internet allows them to reach you from behind their keyboards. Hopefully some of these comments will negate those.

  27. I’m so sorry for the loss of your beloved Ralph. It is such a hard, hard thing. Living with geriatric or very ill pets is a heavy lift, but one you do because you love them so much and want them to have the best days that they can, no matter what. I so understand your thoughts about feeling suddenly “lighter” and then a little guilty for feeling that way. My cat Finn passed away a couple of months ago. He’d been on a slew of daily medications for years, special food, practically monthly vet visits. My daily life is a lot less complicated now, but I miss my sweet, sweet orange boy, when Finn was Finn. Be gentle with yourself, go lounge in a spot of sunlight like Ralph. Give Roscoe a chin scratch, lovely girl that she is. And I can’t wait for my copy of your new book to get here.

  28. What a beautiful piece of writing Tom, it’s had me in tears for Ralph, for the pets we’ve lost in the past, for the hideousness of the online world and for all the emotion you’ve been able to convey. Thank you

  29. So sorry for the loss. I have a 19 year old rickety cat as well. He loves the sun too when I take him on the deck. Otherwise he looks miserable and sleeps mostly but man can he eat food. Always been like it. I hate making the decision for the poison in the leg. I have never had a pet die naturally. It seems unfair all round. The guilt stays with me longer than it should no matter how often I tell myself it was done in kindness. I have an hour to drive to a vets so all the more bloody difficult watching them stress.
    This beautiful writing made me tear up and smile and nod in agreement at times. I had one of my remaining three put down in February, She was 19 too. When this old fella goes I will have one remaining and after that there will be no more. For many reasons. You have a lovely soul.
    Blessed be

  30. Absolutely beautiful, Tom. You loved Ralph and he clearly had a wonderful life. You don’t need me to tell you you did the right thing, but I will and you did. And I have felt the guilt and second-guessing that comes with it. In the end – no matter how their lives end – those who we love leave a part of themselves in us and take a part of us with them when they go.

  31. Dear Tom
    I have been sitting here in floods of tears as I read about Ralph. Having been in a similar position with my son’s 21 year old Sparky I know how devastated you must be. His death must have brought back your feelings about Shipley and The Bear whom I followed with delight. I expect Roscoe will need some extra loving as she will no doubt be missing Ralph too. Sending you love and healing light xxx

  32. Bless you Tom. A wonderful piece. You didn’t ‘kill your cat’ – you gave him the best life, and the kindest end. And yes, it is ok to not announce his passing the minute it happened. You are allowed to have some private time and f*** anyone who thinks differently. With very best wishes, here’s to you & Ralph x

  33. So sorry. I related to so much of what you’ve written. Tears are streaming down as I write this, for Ralph and for all my cats who I’ve loved and lost. Lots of love. Xx

  34. So very sorry to hear of Ralph’s passing. One of the truly great cats, and possessor of a particularly fine set of sideburns. Other cats can only aspire. I often think about Ralph on very sunny days. Today is a scorcher so I shall celebrate the life of Ralph the Sun Cat by tentatively standing outside for a few minutes. Because I am a mere human and not the mighty Ra(lph).

  35. A beautiful piece, Tom. Everything you wrote makes complete sense. I lost a beloved cat to illness not long ago, and I’m intimately familiar with that feeling of both grief and relief you describe.
    Ralph will be missed, of course, as are the wonderful Shipley and The Bear. The way you shared and presented them brought so much delight to so many, and we should count ourselves lucky that you chose to do so at all.
    I may have initially followed you and read your writing because of the cats, but it *is* so much more, and has grown into something truly authentic and unique over the years, and it has been wonderful to watch.
    I hope that the internet treats you kindly over this post. Best wishes to you, Roscoe, and everyone.

  36. So sorry to read of the big man’s passing. They truly break your heart when they go. I miss all of mine, in different ways and for different reasons. But miss them, I do.
    Give yourself some time to miss him, too.

  37. I’m so sorry to read this, Tom. Losing my 16 year old cat, Fred, early this spring, was quite honestly the most painful thing I have ever experienced, and I’ve experienced quite a bit! It is such a deep, unspoken bond we form with our animal companions. Fred’s last days were quite harrowing and I tortured myself for a long time over my decisions. There is no right or wrong, we do what we can with the greatest love. That is all.
    They stay with us, I think, in our hearts.
    Thank you for your writing, as always. Those chapters in Ring The Hill were very helpful to me to revisit during my grief.
    Take care, Lisa

  38. Oh Tom, I am so sorry. It’s agonizing to lose such a beloved companion, especially after so many years together. Ralph was loved and will be missed by so many of us who never met him – it’s got to be exponentially worse for those who had, and for you most of all. You were wise, I think, to give yourself time at first, and then to tell us like this. I hope it spares you the pain of dealing with those who simply don’t get it. Rest in peace, dear magnificent Ralph. Much love to you, Tom.

  39. The comments here are cathartic to any of us that have had to make this horrible decision – it’s been 4 years since I had to put my champion Butch to sleep after kidney disease took him at only 7 years old. All he wanted was me to hold him for that last week, but watching him starve and choke and for his IV fluids to just flow right through him was obviously a situation that couldn’t last forever. All the vet visits and medications and you try everything but still feel so guilty. But it’s part of the cruel reality of us living so much longer than our pets – I would write more, but on of mg teenage kittens is SCREAMING at me to let him out to play with his brother, so the cycle of life continues I guess…. Hugs to all that have loved and lost their pets, and to Tom, who doesn’t have the luxury of mourning in peace and still handles the pressure with grace.

  40. I’m so sorry to hear about the death of Ralph but thank you for being so frank about the mix of emotions and the pain of making that decision. It’s never easy no matter how many times you have to make that decision. I carry the memory of each and every cat I have ever owned and loved in my heart and sometimes I feel as though it could break at any moment.
    Much love to you x

  41. Dear Tom, as always you’ve magnificently and very heartbreakingly put into words what was in your heart and mind. I remember having those thoughts when my elderly cat died, in our country house, how I felt relieved that my mom and dad were there but I wasn’t and hadn’t had to watch him stop breathing. I could just imagine he’d gone away and live a wild life in the fields behind our house. I’d seen him and cuddled him just a week before that and all his bones were creaking too when he walked very slowly in the garden to come and ask for a little piece of the Madeleine I was eating. His teeth were creaking too but he seemed content and I swear he had a quiet smile on his little cat face.

  42. So sorry for your loss Tom. Losing a pet is always absolutely devastating and you are right to take the time to grieve however you need to. Thinking of you and Roscoe.

  43. Thankyou, Tom, for your beautiful words. I’m having a little cry, but it’s a good cry, if that makes sense. I get it, I think. x

  44. Tom, I’m so sorry about your breaking heart. Ralph was such a wonderful little man. He knew he was loved and protected. In the end you did the best thing for him. Letting go is hard.

    And thank you so much for letting us know. I’ve never had to share grief with a huge number people I don’t know. Can’t imagine how hard it is. But a lot of us have loved Ralph and we appreciate your sharing his last days with us.

  45. I’m sorry to hear about Ralph’s passing. He was gorgeous both inside and outside (from what I get from your stories). I can relate to the part where you decided you needed to take him to the vet to stop the suffering. I’ve had to do this a couple of times too. My first cat suffered from acute kidney failure. When the vet had given him fluids through an IV he seemed back to his healthy and lovely self, but that was only temporary. At the time I suffered from cancer and was too sick to go to the vet myself. My husband did it and took him back home to say our last goodbyes. As we cuddled on the bed it seemed like normal and he was so loving, it was so hard to let him go back to the vet’s, but we knew we had to. Spinner was only 8 years old. Six months later we had to let go of his brother Pepe, who suffered an artery blockage which suddenly left him paralyzed. The vet convinced me giving him up would be best since he’d probably remain paralyzed for the rest of his life. I really hated that thought, so I agreed with the vet and sat by Pepe’s side until he was gone. Since then three other cats have chosen us to live with. Letting go is difficult and inevitable, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of making new (feline) friends in time. Take care Tom.

  46. I’m torn … it makes me kinda sad that you had to write a lot of what this post contains. The raw emotions under the surface of the words are so tangible. I’m sorry for your loss … and that you don’t feel entirely able to just mourn and grieve for your friend, the way the rest of us do when we lose a beloved cat.

    But then, it’s such a beautiful piece of writing. Just the best and most loving tribute. I don’t think Ralph could (or would) have asked for more. x

  47. So sorry to read this , Tom. I had to make that same hard decision with my two ‘old girls’ (16 & 18) on 2 consecutive days earlier in the year. Doing ‘the right thing’ doesn’t make it hurt any less. Sending love xx

  48. Oh Tom, I am a fellow writer and cat servant, who finds herself without words. The comments above say it all, such beautiful sentiments both for you and the ineffable Ralph. It was a good idea to hold off from letting the internet know sooner, you needed time to assimilate your emotions, and will do for a while. Love brings pain, it always will, but love is always worth it. I now know which book from my ever growing pile to read next though. xXx

  49. Thank you for sharing your life with Ralph, Shipley, The Bear, George and all your other cat companions and meet ups with dogs, sheep, cows, horses, ponies, birds, toads and other life forms. Your writings of them bring such a delightful insight on your love for all animals.
    My deepest sympathy on your loss of Ralph.

  50. I had to do exactly the same with Tigger in January.She was about 16 maybe 17 but had been fading noticeably until it was obvious there would only be one outcome.But that did’nt make it any better when the time came.I cried for a week & Im crying now reading about Ralph,because they may be small,but they leave such a huge hole on the fabric of one’s life!Ive a new cat Suki,a rescue cat who’s had a bit of a grim life up to now ,she’s lovely,I love her but she’s not Tigger.Will you get another cat to keep Roscoe company!?

  51. Dear Tom,
    Sincere condolences on Ralph’s passing. Stunning tribute to him; beautifully written. Thank you.

  52. Dear Tom,
    So very sorry!
    Losing a friend and soulmate which some cats become to us over the course of their lives … and having to make THAT decision is the hardest thing we have to do – the doubts, the guilt, the void, and the loss it creates is hard to live with.
    For my girl I had to take this step in May 2020. I could no longer watch her become even more frail than the day before, keep no food but still trying to be near me, constant trips to the vet, … I miss her, her face, the look she gave me when she found me, her purrs, her soft coat, just having her around. Her favourite places are empty now and sometimes I (think I) see her walk by.

    Thank you for your touching words about beautiful Ralph, not forgetting The Bear, Shipley, and Roscoe.
    You tore some of my heartstrings which hurt most but I also cherish most – my cats.
    True catlovers will understand how hard this is. Please ignore the others, especially social media and internet nutters, and cope with the loss your way.

    R.I.P Ralphie

  53. I am so sorry for your loss and that you must needs share your grieving. 20 years is a long time to share with a beloved companion and it leaves a huge hole when they are gone. It is so hard to know when they are ready to go, I fear and regret I left it too late for a couple of mine. Your world has lost a ray of sunshine and I am weeping for a cat I’ve never met. Thank you for sharing glimpses of him with us. I arrived for the Bear, but have stayed for the hedgerows and blackbirds. After losing a home to wildfire 6 years ago, your writing helped me reconnect to nature and the land as I healed. May you find comfort there now.

  54. Thank you for giving voice to feline grief. A very loved vintage cat here met the same end at the same guessed age this summer, and I’ve been wrestling with things you wrote here but didn’t have the words to give those thoughts flight. Am so sorry for your very personal loss and grateful you did choose to share a bit of it here.

  55. I’m so sorry, Tom. It’s so hard but such an important part of pet ownership (but you know that).
    Much love to you and Roscoe and rest in peace, Ralph (and Janet, The Bear and Shipley).
    Look after yourselves.

  56. What a beautiful tribute to dear Ralph…I always loved that he was a cat who could say his own name.
    It is never easy to let them go from this lifetime. As a cat parent I can empathize with the decision to end their pain, but it is never ever easy.
    Many hugs to you, may you take joy for the many wonderful years of friendship with Ralph. ❤

  57. Dear Tom,

    My sincerest condolences on this huge loss. Making decisions like that sucks like hell.

    I lost my girl of fifteen-ish years in march, it just happened very suddenly and I had no decision to make. What will always stay with me is how I ran around flapping trying to organise a car to get her to the vet, instead of holding her as she passed away. I still miss her enormously, but also feel guilty about slowly moving on, and guilty for enjoying a cleaner house. So, yeah, tonnes of guilt 🙂

    I think these feelings show how much we love these little souls, and how much we want to do right by them. I still feel like she visits me now and then, and I hope I will keep that feeling a long time. I also like to think she visits other people that need a small, deaf white cat with two different coloured eyes for whatever reason they might have. She’s really good at cheering people up, so there’s that.

    It was very wise of you to sit with your grief for a while before sharing with The Internet. I hope you hang on for dear life to the good memories of Ralph, and that in the future the raw edges of your grief will sand down to something more comfortable.

    Big hugs from Belgium.

  58. So sad Ralph has left you Tom. What a wonderful cat he was and The Bear and Shipley too. Roscoe is a beautiful lady who will give you plenty of love too. Rosie is my ninth and last cat, only 9 but dreading the time when I will have to say goodbye. Every cat is special and your memories and photos of Ralph will be a comfort in your sadness.

  59. I’m so very sorry. I cried reading your beautiful words about Ralph, and I am crying as I write this. I miss my cat Nelson every second of every day, and I know how soul-crushing it can be to watch the decline of a beloved pet, and to make dreadful but necessary choices on their behalf. Be kind to yourself. You loved him well.

  60. There are no words from me to yoù that could explain how much I relate to your beautifully written piece and how I feel your pain, relief and guilt.
    I wish you patience and light and love and when I look at the stars tonight I will shout “rockstar”.
    Much love, Maria

  61. You don’t need me to tell you what you did was right. I like the idea that his good vibes – and the good vibes of all your cats – are still there with you. In all my years of kitties, I’ve only had one last almost as long as Ralph. I loved them all, I still do. Just as you will always love all of yours. I am so sorry for your loss.

  62. I cannot imagine a kinder and more complete piece of writing about a dear and much loved cat, beautiful Ralph. Thank you for sharing such a personal reflection, it doesn’t help I’m sure but having been in a similar situation with an old and much loved cat, reading about your celebration of his full Ralphness while embracing the sadness is resonating with so many people. I’m so sorry Tom. My local cat rescue place Stray Cat Rescue will benefit from a donation from their wish list in memory of Ralph (as they did for The Bear and Shipley). Go well Ralph.

  63. It’s always so sad when you have to let an old friend go- i’ve had to make that awful decision so many times, and it really doesn’t ever get easier.
    So sorry to hear about Raaaaalp’s passing- but you know you did the right thing for him.
    By everything you’ve written about Ralph over the years, he was a fabulous cat, who clearly greatly enjoyed his life with you and your other cats, and he’s now reunited with them.
    Big hugs to you and Roscoe .

  64. Very poignantly written, Tom, the intertwining of the saving of the blackbirds with the final days of the wonderful life of beautiful Ralph. xx

    1. Oh Tom, I am so sorry to hear about Ralph. That was the most beautiful tribute to a furry friend that I have read and did him proud. We lost our beautiful 19 year old Poppy about 10 weeks ago and our other 19 year old is slowly winding down with kidney disease and hyperthyroidism, and I completely understand the awfulness of watching your family member become less and less, and the despair that you are going to have to let them go soon. Sending much love to you and Roscoe. Sleep well Ralph.

  65. Tom, am really sorry to hear the news about Ralph, it is always such a distressing time. You gave him a great life, the fact that he reached a long age illustrates this. But he was also your very good friend, companion and family member.
    We are all very blessed with their presence. Ralph will always be in you heart and soul, and will never leave you, like the others.
    Please take care and sending you all my love

  66. So very sorry.
    I know exactly what your feeling as my olive, who I got free to a good home 20 years ago, who has been with me half my life, passed away last Thursday.
    I miss the cantankerous old bat fiercely.

  67. Oh Tom, I am saddened to hear of your loss. He really was a handsome boy, and the most important thing is that he knew he was loved.

  68. Thanks for sharing and so sorry. I completely understand caring for our companions, sometime their whole 20 years with an illness. Then the pain when losing them. Take care. RIP

  69. So very sorry, but thank you for writing so beautifully about your loss and the hardships of a frail elderly animal, and the responsibility that entails. You should not feel guilty, Ralph had a wonderful life with you, his pain is over, relief as well as grief is natural. A weight on your shoulders is lifted. You are allowed to celebrate his life as well as grieve.
    So raise a glass to Ralph and yourself!

  70. Tom.
    In spite of keeping a low profile to avoid any likelihood of being assumed to be your long lost uncle Edward, I just had to say how sorry both Sandra and I are having read of Ralph’s recent departure.
    We can identify with some of what you must feel. Our two, Caspar and Fi-fi, both left in the Autum days of last year. They were brother and sister and made 19 years plus.
    We are still bereft even now and cannot bring ourselves to contemplate opening our hearts to more lap filling trouble makers. Of course we will, but not yet.
    Norfolk misses your humour and wit and your writing has become even more beguiling.
    Ted (No relation) Cox

  71. I am so sorry. I have made that decision with a couple of old, ill cats and I know the guilt and sorrow and relief. May he rest well.

  72. Tom, sending you hugs. Thank you for letting us know. Ralph was an amazing and incredibly handsome cat and I was honoured to have got a glimpse of the life of Ralph through your wonderful writing. Take Care 🙏🏽

  73. Oh Tom, I am so so sorry for your loss. Beautiful Ralphy will leave a massive hole. You don’t need me to tell you that you did the right thing, even though it doesn’t feel that way. Big hugs to you and Roscoe.

    Well done for saving the birds.

  74. Hi Tom, I am so very sad to hear of your loss of dear Ralph and I send much love & condolences. I hope you’re ok and taking care. Much love to you, Tracy xx

  75. Ralph enjoying life always made me smile, as have all of your beloved friends. Sending you lot of love Tom x

  76. So sorry to hear about Ralph’s death. Thank you for posting such a lovely article, it’s heartbreaking to lose a cat and to watch a beloved cat fade away is awful. But ultimately you did tge right thing for Ralph. Mourn him and celebrate his life and give Roscoe lots of fuss. Sending you lots of best wishes.

  77. Dear Tom,
    I’m so sorry to hear about Ralph’s passing, thank you for writing so beautifully about him. Always made me smile.

  78. You are an exemplary cat steward and seem to be, not surprisingly, an exemplary person. Your grief is elegant and gritty in equal measure and I thank you for sharing. I look forward to your next book release.

  79. Thank you for sharing. My nineteen year old cat died around 6 months ago. His last week was hard, and not wanting to have to hand him over at the vet’s door i waited. The day I made up my mind, he died at home, still missed.
    Thanks for expressing what I felt so well.

  80. I am so so sorry to hear about Ralph Tom. My beloved cat Ciccio also passed away last week, it is so hard. Though in his final hours, whilst waiting until the taxi came to take us to the vet, I found great comfort in your words. Ciccio was in many respects like Shipley and Ralph’s foxlike ginger cousin. He was yowly, loud, feisty and very, very friendly. Re-reading your sad, beautiful and heartfelt blog about Shipley’s passing helped to prepare myself in those difficult hours. I am sad that the internet disorts you and your words because they have such power to help those of us who love walking, music, animals and not being a dick feel less alone in this world. I have deeply enjoyed getting to know Ralph through your work and his sundrenched rockstar life has brought much joy. Take good care of yourself over the coming weeks and know that many people cherish your words quietly in thier own lives and are truly thankful for your work. I will remember Ralph as I prepare a little memorial space for Ciccio in our greenhouse and think of the two of them worshipping the sun Xxx

  81. I’m so, so sorry to hear about Ralph. I’ve loved your writings about him – your love for him (and his for you) came across very clearly. It’s a terrible feeling to take a beloved member of the family for that last visit to the vet, no matter how much you know it’s the most loving thing you can do. Please treat yourself kindly as you mourn.

  82. So sorry to hear about Ralph 😢, he lived his best life with you & the hardest things to do sometimes are absolutely the right things.
    Sending hugs from me & my 3 cats💜😿😿😿🌈

  83. So very sorry for your loss Tom. It always feels to me that your love for your cats shines through your writing, as does your love for places and people and trying to write as authentically as possible. Grief is the most personal of emotions, your words have reminded me of Blake Morrison’s memoir “And when did you last see your father” , a book I have always found a comfort. Hopefully time will do it’s trick of blurring the last few weeks and months to leave the best memories intact

  84. It is hard to lose a friend. My heart goes out for you. I know how hard to take that last step of taking care of them. Thank you for sharing.

  85. Dear Tom, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your writing and podcast/radio work is magnificent – you bring joy to people all around the world. I hope the Chairman of the Board is offering you some sympathy and snuggles.

  86. My deepest condolences, Tom. Thank you for sharing lovely Ralph with us, and for penning such a beautiful tribute to him, in letting those of us who adored him from afar know he had passed. To honor his memory and in an effort to do some small positive thing to thank you and him (and Shipley and The Bear and your Mum and Loud Dad and all the others I’ve come to know through your writing) for the smiles and laughter your books and website and social media posts have brought me over the years, I’ll be making a donation to a local animal shelter. May your memories of him bring you comfort in time. Be kind to yourself and take good care.

  87. Dear Tom – Thank you for sharing the journey of your feline family, beginning to end, with we the denizens of the Internet. Try to shut out the ungrateful who would think any glorious creature such as Ralph or Shipley be lesser beings than The Bear for having more humble Internet profiles, because those of us who love cats or animals as a whole know they shared equal measure of your heart. I hope you won’t doubt you did the very best for Ralph that you could. Age will overtake us all in the end, but your intentions and love were pure. Thank you also for your words and sharing your own journey with these cats, and nature. Wishing you healing and happiness.

  88. What a beautiful tribute to your wonderful Ralph ❤🌈

    I think anyone who’s ever shared their life with a beloved animal will recognise what you wrote here, including the agony of having to make that oh so hard, but ultimately most loving and kind decision.
    Love and strength to you in your loss ❤❤❤

  89. What a long and glorious Life! I think I know a little of how your heart is feeling, and I’m sorry for your pain. It just never gets any easier, losing them. Hugs.

  90. Dear Tom,

    I was so sad to hear of Ralph’s crossing of the rainbow bridge. I lost my 20 year old girl (I also had to make that decision for her) in April 2020 and cried everytime I told someone. I still miss her, but it has gotten easier to miss her ever day.

    Although I never met any of your cats in real life, your descriptions of them make it easy to love them all from afar. I agree with the last line in the first comment about the decision made in love. It is very true as we do these things for them, not for us.

    Give Roscoe a hug and kiss for me. How will she cope being the centre of attention?? Very well I suspect. Hugs to you.

  91. So sorry about your loss. Your words are beautiful and true…..and the blackbird song is a fitting tribute to Ralph and the loving care you have given him. I had a similar experience with my beautiful fluffy tabby Henry who was 20 and died in 2007. That last week was agony…trying to determine whether I was fulfilling my needs or his. Eventually one morning he looked at me and I knew it was time. It took me 6 years before I could share my heart with another cat…..but now I have the privilege of a loving cat companion…Ella.
    Cats have to be loved to the best of our ability every day that we have them…..their lives will always be shorter than ours…..but the friendships we develop with them shape us.
    Keep writing about whatever pleases you.

  92. It’s difficult enough to deal with this stuff, Tom; we’ve had it five times and had one go missing as well. I don’t think I would be able to deal with writing about it in the way you have. It’s never an easy choice to let a cat go that you’ve loved for its whole life, but it’s a decision that we all have to take. It doesn’t get any easier. I hope Roscoe is loving the summer weather.

  93. Thank you for a beautiful piece of writing that will resonate with all of us who have loved and lost. I hope, when the time comes, that it will the be legal for someone to take that ultimate decision for me and let me go freely away from the pain and distress. I know how it hurts, I know how the guilt creeps in mixed with longing, and the imaginings that maybe you could have just done one thing more. But sometimes you can’t, all you can do is take that last step for someone you truly love.

  94. Tom,
    There are never the right words for when we loss someone we love. Ralph was magnificent and a true force of nature. Sun God Ralph, may he always have the perfect sun puddle in which to nap. You gave him the best life possible, and when it was time, you gave him your final gift of love by letting him go while surrounded with your love. No more pain, no fear, just relief for him and unimaginable grief for you. My 1st cat, tiny Punkin’, made it to 20 1/2 years. Cossack, magnificent part Maine Coon, was 21 1/2 years, in his prime, 20 lbs of pure love and affection. Then he was followed by my Ralph, a wonderful Ginger fellow, after him my beloved Ed Norton. Each time the grief is like no other, and we dont think we can go on, but somehow we do. Now I live with Edwina and Simon, because the best way to honor the memory of a beloved friend and companion who is no longer with us, is to share the good home and love they enjoyed with another cat in need.

  95. You gave us many hints on his slow weakening condition, Tom, but I’m still sitting here bereft. Ralph was the uber-cat. (I still treasure my Ralph calendar) His floofyness and commitment to sun worship has come to represent to me the acme of catitude. I long for a floofy cat after all my years of attenuated Orientals and Siamese. All down to Ralphy. Wish him many furry prey and cuddles up above. xxx

  96. This was heart-achingly beautiful. I’m glad you took some time for yourself first. Big loves to you, Tom.

  97. Thank you for sharing Ralph with us. I’m sorry for your loss, pets leave such a gap in a home when they go.

  98. So sorry to read this, but, we know they go, and we deal with it (badly). I would like to say though, that your books- beyond the ‘cat’ ones, are the things I save for when life has been hard or trying, they are a treat that lift me, and so I ration them and if possible (not easy in Uk) find my spot in the sun and read. And find calm. So thank you x

  99. The end of the three amigos. So very sorry for your loss. Ralph was a Sun God, so gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your beloved cats with the world. I have enjoyed reading about them and your life. In The Bear’s honor, I named my sweet boy The Bear. Please get another/more cats. They would be lucky to have you as their guardian. Love to you from Margarita, Lula (4 yrs. black f), The Beat (3 yrs black male) & Merlin (2 yrs black long haired male) in Santa Barbara, CA USA

  100. I am so sorry to hear that the magnificent Ralph passed away. As someone else already said, the right decision is also the hardest. You must know that Ralph knew how much you loved and cared for him throughout your life together. I have enjoyed your writing in cats and other things for the past several years and love how much you have honored your beloved family members. My 16 year old boy, Sebastian went to sleep in April 2021 after a swift decline and it broke my heart, just like all of my other long time buddies before. Thank you for sharing your truth here. Love to Roscoe too.

  101. I made the same decision in April and also hated myself for making it. He’d briefly rallied and for a week or so was the same cat who’d demanded attention with menaces. But then he began to fail again, more quickly this time, and I knew from his actions and loss of interest in life, love and food that it was Time. What I did for love I hate myself for. Sending healing thoughts to you and Roscoe. Time heals but the heart forever mourns.

  102. Tears, Tom. This made me think of how I still worry about my dogs’ happiness, even now that they’ve passed. God it hurts watching them become sick. But I’ve also never been so sure I was loved, as when I saw how they put their trust in me.
    Carry on, you kind man.
    Love from Ellen in Seattle

  103. Thank you for sharing his life with us, a very loved cat. And I know the pain as I had a pure white girl just move in a number of years ago. The Australian sun had not been kind to her and she had ear and nose cancers. And a few years ago it was obvious between the cancer and arthritis she wasn’t enjoying life anymore at a guess about 15 years old. I think she knew when I took her to the vet it was time to say goodbye. Bawled my eyes out on the 3 minute drive back home. Luckily I had another kit at home that had turned up as an 8 week old wet kitten in the bushes after torrential rain and finally let me grab her. She got lots of cuddles that day.

  104. “the sense that I have heartlessly tidied a lifelong friend away. It’s fucking tough. I keep thinking about what else I could have done, and I’m sure there was something, even though there wasn’t.”

    That….that sums up the utterly overwhelming grief, from the conflict of needing to stop suffering but also feeling you’ve let your best friend down. That’s the hardest bit to let go of. I never met Ralph, but cats are a fundamental part of my life so I do ‘get’ it.

    May he still frequent the sun patches that he finds, if only from the corner of your eye.

  105. You have my deepest condolences on the passing of Ralph. I am reading this on the seven month anniversary of my cat Topaz’s passing, so I can identify with the sense of loss you feel. From what I can tell, you gave Ralph a wonderful life, and that’s something you can take heart in.

  106. I’m in bits. We had to make this painful decision a couple of years ago with our cat, Miss Stinks (and she really did, but we loved her).

    Thinking of you and your lovely Ralph. Please, please try to ignore the keyboard warriors.


  107. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said here. I merely wished to add one more jot to the cosmic scale on the side of compassion, love, and empathy. Best wishes.

  108. I’m so very sorry on the loss of your dear friend Ralph. Thank you for sharing such an honest description on your range of feelings over the loss mixed with the relief after having cared for elderly cats over the past many years. I’ve carried my own guilt about feeling some relief after saying goodbye to my fourth elderly cat in four years. Knowing we’ve done everything we can to give them the best life possible is what hopefully helps get us through the quiet, painful weeks that immediately follow these goodbyes.

  109. Ah, sorry to hear this. Having cared for and lost old and sick cats, I think I can relate to much of what you wrote here. It’s such a wretched business.

    Ralph always came across as such a fantastic cat. Well of course, all animals are fantastic in their own ways. Your beautiful writing has allowed his life to touch many others.

  110. Beautiful writing about a beautiful & dearly loved companion.
    I am so very sorry, Tom – but also happy that you & Ralph found each other all those years ago. X.

  111. “carelessly, wantonly chopping back foliage, shouting “BOLLOCKS TO ALL BIRDS, ESPECIALLY THE TINY BABY ONES!””

    This has made me chuckle all day. Perfect combination of words. Thank you.

    My very first cat Misty died in my arms last year at 13 , after losing weight inexplicably despite an increased appetite and the expected path after that, and I think I would choose a visit to the vets to go to sleep if I had my time over. She was a very fastidious cat and knew how very elegant and beautiful she was. Had I known she only had months left I would have said bollocks to the vets pure diet stuff too as she absolutely detested it. I think you did the kinder thing with Ralph. How lovely that beautiful things like “ sun puddles” bring him to mind.

  112. A bit like you Tom, I put off reading this piece as I knew the loss your rock god RAaaaalphypuss would bring tears of empathy, but it was that so true a word “crushed” that started them.

    So it’s with tears splattered down the inside of my glasses that I tell you I loved this writing and your love for all the critters, I also loved that last chapter in Ring the Hill, I love reading all the weird stuff that makes you human and not a fuckwit robotic nuff buff with nothing interesting to say.

  113. It’s clear that you loved your friend Ralph dearly and that he was a prince among cats. We’ll raise a glass in his honor. What a brilliant, handsome fellow. You were so lucky to have found each other.
    Something I’ve discovered about the deaths of sweet creatures over the years is that the people who understand, truly understand. And the people who don’t, truly don’t. Seeing the weird condescending pitying smirk on the faces of People Who Don’t Get It as they say “Aw, I’m sorry” was much worse than simply not telling them. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have people get as invasive and callous as they are wont to do online with questions, criticisms, and judgement about a situation they didn’t have to live through.
    Sending you strength and peace.

  114. I’m so very sorry for your loss Tom. What a beautiful tribute to Ralph. Thank you for sharing this. I can’t help but think Ralph sent the black birds!

  115. So very sorry for your loss – what a beautiful boy he was and how lucky you were to know and love each other in this lifetime x

  116. Thank you for your great words about your great real-life cat Ralph. He’s a treasure. I’m in tears, both sad and happy tears. All the best to you and Roscoe, and the others you’ll meet (again).

  117. Just read “The Good, The Bad, and The Furry”. Great set of stories about your family of cats. The Bear is my favorite. (I’m partial to elderly gentlemen, as long as they have a dignified disposition) It’s interesting that humans assign personalities to their pets for reasons that only make sense to said humans. My black cat, Elliot, is a youthful 10 years young. The vet told us to be careful not to overfeed him when he turned 3. “Cats get lazy around then.” Not all cats apparently. Wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Elliot will not morph into an elderly statesman. He will likely continue to terrorize my daughter well into her teenage years. Good times. Sorry to hear about Ralph. What a character. Rest in peace, pal.

  118. I’m so sorry about Ralph. I don’t think of it as you killing him but helping him. It’s a hard hard decision to make. So much of what you wrote about him getting thinner and not himself reminded me so much of my Jesse. I made the decision to help him pass last December. He was 18.5. His last day was spent on my chest at night and sunning outside. I felt so much guilt after thinking what I could’ve done and surely there was something I missed. I took CatCamp’s Grief Class at the end of that week (talk about timing) and one of the things I really took away and when I wonder what I could’ve done, “I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the moment.

    It’s become a mantra some days. You provided Ralph a loving home, warmth & food, a place to sun, and I’m sure so much happiness. You also helped him on his next journey.

  119. Hi Tom, I’m just re-reading this tribute to Ralph. We have a little old rescue cat, she’s about 18 and has only been with us just under three years, but we wanted to give her a home in later life after she had been overlooked by so many people for so long. And the reason I’m re-reading your beautiful piece of writing is for courage really. We know that the time is probably upon us to make the terrible but necessary decision that you had to make with Ralph. I wanted to thank you for sharing this experience and the agony of it all basically. Like you, we have had to make this decision before and it never gets easier, I am dreading the time afterwards when the doubt sets in, the way the question ‘did we do the right thing’ ambushes you constantly in the days and weeks afterwards, and the feeling of responsibility for the death of another living creature. You can tell yourself it’s the right thing to do, but gosh the right thing hurts so much as well. Here’s to Ralph and all the sunny puddles, and doing the right thing.

  120. What a beautiful piece of writing and a fitting final chapter in Ralph’s life as we knew him. I always get to things in my own time, but I procrastinated even longer than usual before reading this one after getting to know him through your lens as his writer companion. Like everyone else here, I mourn a world without Ralph, and it reminds me how hard it is to consider that a time will come when our companions won’t come back. Meanwhile, I feel incredibly privileged and happy that you chose to write about and share him with us, so thanks to you, his light will continue to shine for years to come.

  121. I get really sad when I hear the cats I follow on twitter have “crossed the rainbow” bridge. You’re right in choosing to mourn in private and not to write just about cats, since you have so much to share. Thank you.

  122. When I first came across your books, I remember being so impressed that your cats would all eat their meals lined up neatly. I had the same number of cats then, 7 was it? Mine all behaved like hooligans. Of course I read all your books. They were about cats and they were funny. But there were all those other things in your books as well. Just because cats feature so prominently in our lives doesn’t mean that we have no other passions or interests.
    I was always very touched by the grief you so often had to confront. All the emotional struggles over the right thing and then the guilt, the feeling of having betrayed a beloved companion. I get it. I live with it all the time. You are brilliant Tom. It’s easy to say “don’t let social media freaks get to you” but I know how upset I have occasionally been by the odd unkind remark someone made on a post. To deal with it in floods would bend my mind. I still read all your books. They are different but they are always good and you say so many things that need saying. I am so grateful there are people like you on the planet to offset some of the other nasty bastards. Bless you. Be well.

  123. Wow this post was so powerful and mesmerizing. It’s so heartbreaking that our beloved furry family members have such shorter lives. I have a 5 and 4 year-old cats and sometimes I get terrified thinking about how short a time we have with them.
    I just try to enjoy each day; however the children in my family have never lost a pet yet and man I just dread having to go through grief with children. In the end, everything will be okay eventually.
    Some people say it’s the circle of life, and I just have to accept that

  124. Very late, many apologies. Just wanted to pay my respects to Ralph who gave me many moments of remote happiness via you. Hope you manage to find a better balance between your needs and the necessary evil of social media.

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