Souvenirs de Safran.
Safran was put to sleep on Thursday. I’m still very sad, though I’m not end-of-the-world devastated like when Bagha died. Tounsi seems OK, but of course it’s hard to say. I’m upset, our routines have changed because Safran isn’t there. He doesn’t seem to be pining or going around looking for Safran, in any case.
Safran was with me for just a little over two months, and I feel the need to put in writing the memories I have of him — the good ones, mainly — I think part of me is afraid I’m going to move on and settle down in my life with my remaining cat and forget little Safran. I won’t, of course, but memories do fade away. Prepare for some rambling and a pile of kitty photographs.
I went to SOS Chats in Meyrin because following my e-mail, they told me they had two cats who seemed to fit the “job description” I’d sent them by email. Safran was the first of the pair that I saw.
Already on the photos I’d looked up, it was obvious he was a very pretty cat. A classic feline beauty, not very big but not very small either, longish tail, impressive whiskers and eyebrows, little tufts of fur at the tip of his ears, and a really cute face.
He seemed really friendly too: I leaned down to pet him, and he quickly put his front paws on my knees and then shoulders to come and snif-lick my ear — something he would do again with the other people he met… I guess it was his way of saying hello to bipeds. He let me carry him, though he nipped my hand to get down — something else he would do again and again, but I couldn’t guess that then.
When we got home, he quickly settled down, though he spent 2-3 days completely attached to me. I couldn’t sit down without having him on my lap. I actually initially bonded with him more than with Tounsi, who was a bit more aloof and painfully reminded me of Bagha.
Here he is discovering his new home with Tounsi:
Settling on my lap:
…and with Tounsi:
(That didn’t last long, though!)
He was a little less adventurous than Tounsi, but did more climbing:
Tounsi was the dominant cat of the two. Safran would challenge him and they would play-fight quite a lot — Safran almost always initiated. He also would lie down near Tounsi (though sometimes Tounsi would be the one to join him) and lick him. Tounsi had limited tolerance for that and it usually ended in a fight.
Here they are, on their second day home:
During the first days I had Tounsi and Safran, I couldn’t turn on the tap without Tounsi running in, Safran on his heels. Luckily this fascination for water died down a bit (probably once they’d figured out where the taps were) but at the beginning it was really funny.
I also had to put up with two peeping Toms (well, ex-Toms) each time I took a shower.
One of the less endearing sides of Safran was that he bit and hissed and growled. I was actually a bit concerned about this. When you carried him, Safran would hiss and bite before jumping down, even if he was carried in a way that he just had to jump down. If you petted him too long, he would also attack. With hindsight, I wonder now if he was already poorly and reacting to discomfort — I don’t know how long before the illness really “blows up” a cat will be feeling unwell with FIP. In any case, it probably wouldn’t have changed anything. But I just wonder. Because I had just adopted Safran, I didn’t have a baseline to judge his character against. I was wary of him, and learned to leave him more in peace and not succumb to his teddycat looks. Things started getting better as I figured out his boundaries more.
Finding a name for Safran was difficult. I think he went through at least 3 or 4 names. The last one before Safran was Apache. I was trying to find a name that fit his character, but I couldn’t figure out his character. I finally settled for Safran (French for saffron) because of his colour, and it was a very good choice. A nice-sounding name that suited him well.
Tounsi and Safran were first introduced to eclau before going outside. I remember that after the first day, Safran didn’t want to leave the flat anymore. He’d obviously been stretched a little too far out of his comfort zone. So, he stayed in the flat a few more days while Tounsi settled down in eclau.
Here’s a picture of Safran on his first day at eclau, getting comfort (maybe?) from the presence of his pal Tounsi.
Safran eventually settled down there too, and quickly charmed the regular coworkers with his kitty-kisses and gentle presence. He also showed some restraint in going for their lunch food (as opposed to Tounsi) — I guess it was also appreciated.
He also made friends with my cat-compatible clients, as you can see in the photo below:
One fun thing about Safran and Tounsi was that they got along really well and hung out together a lot. Safran was the “follower” most of the time, and often you could find them in almost exactly the same pose.
I even created a tag for these photos (“chats mimétiques“) and was planning to make an album of them. (They aren’t all tagged yet.)
Safran was shyer than Tounsi about going out, but he got there and seemed to enjoy it.
First day out:
Enjoying life up high:
He was more “cat” than Tounsi in his explorations. Tounsi just charges on into the unknown. Safran explored his surroundings gradually, leaving nothing unexplored.
His enjoyment of the outdoors also included tripping on catnip or some related plant, a pleasure that Tounsi didn’t seem to share with him.
The photo above is the only time I managed to catch him doing “la marmotte”. When he wanted to see something but was too afraid to go straight to it, he would sit up on his hind legs, front paws dangling by his side. It was often unexpected so hard to catch on camera.
I suspect he made friends with people in the buildings behind mine. When I called him, he’d often be hiding in the bushes by the door of my building, or come up on the “ramp”:
Tounsi did end up grooming Safran too, so it wasn’t a completely one-sided relationship
When I got home from holiday on Tuesday (not even a week ago!) Tounsi and Safran were waiting outside the building to greet me. Safran didn’t look too good. I thought he’d put on weight during my absence, he had a tummy that he didn’t have before. In the evening, I didn’t see him eat, he seemed to be swallowing a bit (like cats do when they have a sore throat or nausea), and he generally seemed under the weather. He lay down next do my shoe rack near the front door, a spot he didn’t generally occupy. I called the vet the next morning to make an appointment. I thought he had a cold.
The vet noted his tummy was swollen. He had quite a fever and seemed dehydrated. I had a busy end-of-week coming up, so I gave her the go-ahead to do all the necessary tests there and then to confirm or rule out FIP. I knew about FIP because I’d researched it when Bagha was diagnosed with FIV — while we were waiting for the test results FIP had been a possible diagnosis. I’d been praying that Bagha didn’t have FIP, and the FIV diagnosis, though a shock, almost came as a relief.
Not so for Safran, sadly. My usual vet had come in to check out Safran, I guess because of the suspicion of FIP (my appointment was not with him). I waited for the results with a sinking feeling. When I saw that it was him coming back to give me the results, saying “not cool”, I knew it was bad. He told me that it was a clear case, that with “dry” FIP it was worth trying a treatment (he had more than 50% success rate), but that with the wet form, which Safran had, he had never managed to save a single cat. The decision was obvious to me, but the news was such a shock…
I took sleeping Safran in my arms (the other vet had brought him back) and just cried and cried.
My vet left me with him for a while, but when he came back I wasn’t closer to being ready to let Safran go. He told me I could take him back home with me, that a day wouldn’t make that much of a difference, and that I could call tomorrow to make an appointment when I was ready.
I went to eclau first and shared the news with the couple of coworkers who were there. I texted and tweeted the news, and got messages and calls of support. It was a sad evening, but I was glad to have this little extra time to prepare myself. Safran and Tounsi’s catsitter, who had looked after them the previous week while I was on holiday, came to say goodbye and spent the evening with me.
The next day was really hard. I made the appointment for early afternoon, as I was booked all morning for consulting with a client (at eclau, thankfully). A friend of mine had offered to come to the vet’s with me. I had put a note up in my building entrance so that any neighbours who wanted to say goodbye to Safran at eclau that morning could drop in to do so. I also informed everyone at eclau, of course. I managed to work (thankfully my client is a cat-lover too so he could empathize) but felt physically sick all morning.
Safran was clearly not well, and getting worse. He did eat and drink a bit, but that was about it.
My friend arrived — she had been the one to accompany me to the shelter when I chose Tounsi and Safran — and we chatted a bit with a cup of tea until it was time to go.
I was about to say it was time to get going when Safran got up and went to lie down next to Tounsi. The two of them had barely had any contact since I had got home. Clearly Safran’s illness had disrupted their relationship. But there, as Safran lay down, Tounsi started licking his head.
It lasted a good few minutes.
My friend and I were very moved. I’m wary of attributing human emotions to animals, of course, but it really seemed like a kitty goodbye. It was very sweet. Finally Tounsi got up and left, and then Safran got up too, and I picked him up and put him in his carrier.
We got to the vet’s without any drama, just in time. Didn’t have to wait. I had the good surprise of finding my vet there — it was his day off and he had told me he wouldn’t be able to be there. I don’t know if he came just for Safran or if he also had other business to tend to (probably), but in any case I was very grateful for his presence.
He put Safran under, and I picked him up in my arms, and he stayed there until he fell asleep. He went peacefully, and I’m grateful that I was able to let him go before his condition worsened even more. I’m also glad that I — and others — got a chance to say goodbye to him.
My flat feels a bit empty, though of course Tounsi is here. Safran was discreet but he was there, and I miss the lovely chirping/warbling sound he’d make to greet me. He didn’t meow much, but he made charming sounds. He would also wake me up in the morning by licking my hair — cute even though a little annoying. When he did want to be petted, he was very gracious about it, rubbing his head lightly in your hand.
The morning after I returned from vacation (the day I went to the vet and got the diagnosis), I was woken up by Safran curling up on my pillow just next to my ear and purring. It reminded me of my first night with my cats, where I was woken up in the middle of the night by stereo purring, one cat curled up against my ear on each side of my pillow.
I had a doubt about collecting Safran’s ashes. I’d only had him two months, after all. I didn’t feel I knew him all that well. What was I going to do with the ashes? With Bagha, it was clear — they belonged in this garden he loved and lived in for 10 years. It took me months to be ready to scatter his ashes, but what I was going to do was clear. What about Safran? I don’t even really know where he liked to hang out. We were still getting to know each other.
But then, I realised that yes, of course I was going to take his ashes, and scatter them in the garden. Even if our time was cut short, Safran had found a home. He was my cat and he belonged here. This is his home.
- Bye-Bye Bagha (1996-2010) (2010)
- Three Weeks With My New Cats, Tounsi and Safran (2012)
- A Week Without My Cat (2010)
- I’m Home (2011)
- Bye Safran: FIP is a Bitch (2012)
- What Made Bagha Such a Special Cat For Me (2011)
- Bagha’s Story, First Part, First Draft (2009)
- Kitty Kitty (2000)
- Missing Kitty (2004)
- On Grief and Losing Bagha (2010)