Jim was our oldest cat of 20 years.  He has been our constant companion all this time, a gentle little soul, who never bit or scratched us or anyone else and who had the loudest purr I’ve known!  Sadly, after several years managing with renal failure and a heart condition, he passed away on Monday 5 September, late in the afternoon.

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The early days

Back in the days when we were both working on plant nurseries, Edward was offered the chance to take in Bob, a tiny little black and white kitten that had been abandoned by his mother.  A colleague had weaned him but was unable to keep him, so we had our first addition to our family.  As we both worked, we felt Bob would be happier with some company during the day, and as Edward’s nursery had been inundated with feral kittens that year (encouraged to keep down mice!) we were able to acquire another….. Jim!

Edward brought him home in a carry case – he was completely black and all you could see were his large golden eyes staring out at us!  Obviously frightened, he was reluctant to come out of the case and when he did, he dashed out and went straight under the armchair…..  That’s where he stayed pretty much for the first couple of weeks!  We kept them in the living room when we weren’t there and fed them in there too so we knew where they were, or so we thought.  One morning we came downstairs to check on them, to find Jim had somehow escaped – no sign of him anywhere.  It was a mystery – all the doors and windows were closed but he just wasn’t in the room.  We searched the house.  No sign.  We searched the living room again and there we discovered he had hidden in the fireplace – his black coat was the perfect camouflage against the black of our frequently used open fire!

At other times, as it was the winter, Bob liked to sleep on the armchair by the fireplace. It was the warmest comfortable place. In the morning we would come down and find that Jim had joined him during the night. While we were absent he felt more confident I guess. He was a little bit bigger than Bob and it was so endearing to find he was curled up around Bob with his front legs over the top of him, as though he was cuddling him.

It took gentle coaxing with a piece of string to lure him out from under the armchair.  Eventually it was too much to resist and he’d dash out after it before realising he was exposed and ran back under again!  Gradually he became braver and as he ran after the string, we’d touch him as he ran past.  This went on for days.  Then one day, we came down and he was lying in the basket we’d provided for them.  He just looked up but didn’t move, allowing me to get close to stroke him.  That was it.  Welcome to the family!  He purred his head off and never really looked back after that and took every opportunity to sit on you and have cuddles.

The Longest Cat in the World!

Jim loved being hot.  He’d find any patch of sun to lie in or a spot in front of the fire.  When he was relaxed, he’d stretch out to full length and just looked unnaturally long, he could have been a draught excluder!!  Often, he would lie along your legs if you had your feet up but his favourite place was in bed with Edward!  In the mornings on the weekend, we’d let him and Bob upstairs into the bedroom – as soon as the kitchen door was opened they’d both race up the stairs to the bedroom and on top of the cosy duvet!  Bob would paddle around for a while and then move to the end of the bed, just out of reach.  Jim, on the other hand would find a way to get under the duvet next to Edward, where he’d stretch out along his legs, the happiest and longest cat in the world 🙂

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Mission Impossible

We never had cat flaps – all our external doors were glass, so it wasn’t so easy to install them.  We just let them in and out ourselves and if we weren’t there, they stayed in or out until we were.  Usually we kept them in at night but when they were younger it was difficult to do so – they loved hunting in the field at the back of the house.  In the mornings it was like the killing fields on the back lawn….

Then they found a way of getting into the house through the upstairs bedroom window…. We lived in a semi-detached house.  We had a lean-to sun lounge on the back, which was only one story and a few feet away from this was the brick outhouse, at the end of which was our wooden shed.  Eventually, they discovered a route onto the roof of the shed, up onto the roof of the outhouse, from where they leapt the gap of about 4 feet onto the roof of the sun lounge, and up into the bedroom window.  We first knew they could do this when something heavy landed on the bed or there was pitiful meowing at the window…. no chance of a lie in then!

A well travelled cat

Over the years Jim has often come along with us on our travels.  In 2001 we bought a house in Northumberland for a holiday home and he and Bob came too whenever we felt like getting away from it all!  They were less keen to go out in the garden there – a strange place with lots of other cats and dogs no doubt put them off.  We ‘lost’ Jim once up there – we trawled the village calling for him and looking everywhere.  There was no sign all day but then under cover of darkness he suddenly appeared!  It was such a relief to see him again and we took extra care of them after that not to let them stray.  During the winter months, he seemed happiest lying in his bed, or on someone else, or in front of the fire…..

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Across the Channel

At eighteen, he took the journey with us and our other two cats from Yorkshire to France for our permanent move.  He was, beyond doubt, the best behaved – while Colin cried and tried to get out of his cage for the first 2 hours and Mouse was drugged up to keep her calm, Jim just took it all in his stride.

When we arrived in France, we stayed in a gite for the first week, before moving into a rented cottage for the next 3 months…..

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We kept them all on leads while at the gite because it wasn’t very secure for cats….

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But once in the cottage, where there were acres of land away from cars and most other risks to small animals, we let them off the leash – Jim soon found somewhere comfy to while away the summer days….

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Final destination

And then we found La Biochère.  Our lovely farmhouse with outbuildings and around an acre of land, surrounded by cow fields.  We moved into the house in October and we experienced an Indian summer, so plenty of time for Jim to find out the best spots in which to rest….

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Over the winter, he still came out to enjoy some winter sunshine…

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While inside, we set up a small chair for him with hot water bottles at night to keep him warm and cosy.  Often, Colin would think it was a good spot to be, so we’d see him sharing it with Jim or Jim would move onto the settee with Mouse!

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Sadly, over the summer months Jim became more frail but he often surprised us by suddenly appearing when we were walking around the meadow or even accompanying us on walks down the lane…

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Usually, though, he was happy finding a spot in the yard or on the lawn to flake out in the sun…

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While we had the builders in doing the roof, he had us all fooled many times – he was so still we thought he’d passed away in his sleep, until we looked closely and saw he was still breathing!  The builders nicknamed him ‘Ninja Jim’!!  It was incredible how he just kept going and he even made one more trip with us to England in May this year….

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He was our mascot for our web page for the French sejours….

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And he was a favourite with the French students we had over the summer…

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 Everyone loved him, even the cows!

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We miss him terribly but know that as time went on, he was suffering with his illnesses and it was his time to go.  We hope we gave him a good life and we’re happy that he made it to France with us, to the peace and tranquillity of La Biochère.  He now rests by the well, where he can keep watch over the yard and the house and we can keep an eye on him too.  RIP Jim, you lovely little fellow. ♥

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