… on New Years Day!
She was called Eb and had a beautiful black coat and yellow eyes. We have had her since 1993 when we got her as a 6-week old kitten from a rescue home along with her sister who died a few years ago. Eb was the runt of a litter that had been abandoned in a bag and stuffed under an old shed from where she and her siblings had been rescued and then placed with new owners, including ourselves. Eb has been with us through much family change; as young marrieds, as new parents (x three), a house move, the thick and thin of autism, numerous social events and more besides. And yet, she has been a constant; always there waiting for a lap and seeking human attention. Though our relationship with her was very much on her terms, we have also derived much comfort from her, particularly during our dark years when we weresometimes confused by our sons behaviour.
Anyway in recent months she had become increasingly fragile and it was obvious that she was coming to the end of her life. Consequently we felt it was important to prepare our children for this event, particularly our son who does not respond well to change and had not responded well to the deaths of pets in the past. Therefore we started to tell them every now and then that Eb was very old and would probably die soon.
“But when is she going to die, mum? I need to know……….now!”
However, as you can expect with an autistic child, my son was not happy with the uncertainty of it all. He kept asking me when she would die but I told him I didn’t know. It would have been tempting to give him a date to stop the constant questionning and to ease his anxiety but this doesn’t work for if I had got the date wrong he would have accused me of lying, a concept he has even greater trouble understanding. In any case the world is an uncertain place and though I do my utmost to help him prepare for change, I cannot avoid being vague sometimes.
Another pet? Not yet son!
Anyhow just before she passed away, I suggested to my son that he say goodbye to her and give her a stroke. He did this (as did my other children) and then he said “mum, can we have guinea pigs now please?” I was a bit taken aback at this sudden switch but I guess the actions of saying goodbye and stroking her had acted as closure and he could move on, but so quickly? Maybe our preparation had worked; maybe our son was not as attached to our cat as the rest of us.
Nevertheless, I told my son that I would think about having guinea pigs in the summer. I knew I was treading on dodgy ground by using the word “think” but it really was not the right time to discuss getting a new pet whilst Eb was taking her last breaths. My son does not grasp ambiguous language and often sees things in a very polarised fashion so I’m sure he has it fixed in his head that we will be getting guinea pigs this summer. I must try harder in simplifying my language when talking to him though on this occasion it is not such a massive problem as I think guinea pigs will be good for both my younger children as they responded brilliantly to them before.