There’s been radio silence over here for a couple of weeks, because our Gilbert died. There’s no easier, nicer way to say it, because it’s neither easy nor nice.

He was our friend, cat-about-the-place, companion, sociable participator and giver of paws-on healing. Also, giver of catupuncture, which was one of the many surprise bonuses of letting him sit on your lap, apart from being allowed to beg favours and cups of tea from other people not quite so comprehensively pinned-down.

You see, Gilbert was mostly Maine Coon, which put him in the “lounge tiger” category of cat. He was HUGE: almost 8kg for most of his life, and we were astounded to find out that he was actually quite small for his breed. Maine Coon males usually hit between 9-12kg full grown. So we affectionately called him “our runt,” because cats like dignified nicknames like that.

We buried him in a spot he’d taken to lying in for most of the day. For better or worse, it’s just outside the dining room window, on an embankment that we can see when we’re sitting at the table. From inside, I wasn’t sure it was the best spot. After all, I am going to be staring at his grave each mealtime for the forseeable future. But once I was outside, standing in the spot he’d chosen for himself, I could see exactly why it was perfect. Sunny for most of the day, peaceful. A good vantage point to survey both the front and back gardens, and with a fence to the back and sides, so that nothing could sneak up on him.

We buried him with many tears and rememberances in an afternoon that felt full of ceremony. Texts from friends and family were read out, because he was a cat loved my many.

So for a while we’ll be opening the back door at random moments, to let in a phantom cat. And looking out for our footing whilst carrying loads of washing around, in case of sudden cat-between-the-ankles lunges, and other things you do when they’re habit and you’ve done them for 11 years.

Sigh. It’s just not the same without him.