I decided that my 14 year old cat Phoebe needed a friend once Camille, my 21 year old, died. Whoever he or she was, they needed to meet Camille so she would know who the next generation was. I adopted a two year old cat from the SPCA in late September. I named her Ella and she is a black and white Manx, that is, she has no tail.

The Wees at five weeks

The SPCA told me that she had been spayed. Two days later I took her to my own Vet, who told me she was “really fat.” Two months later her water broke when she was sitting beside me on my bed. She gave birth

Wee Russell at four weeks

to nine kittens on November 17th. Unfortunately, two of them died at birth, but seven are doing well. It takes me about 40 minutes to get everyone ready before I go to work. The SPCA will help me adopt them. However, I will keep the smallest one. I’ve named him Russell.

I should also mention that Phoebe doesn’t like Ella and is horrified that she has multiplied herself.

Phoebe's version of helping to wrap Christmas presents

My family has had 15 cats (not including this latest brood) and four dogs over a 45 year period. I loved them all, but Camille is the one that sticks out for me. Everyone is drawn to her as she is beautiful and knows how to make an entrance, sometimes five in a half hour period. She greets everyone at the door, and sachets around so people can get a good look at her and tell her yet again how

Queen Camille in her prime

wonderful she is. She is known for her partying and loves a large crowd of people. Her last soiree was a 40th birthday party in March where she wound her way around the many feet at the standing room only bash and allowed everyone in the kitchen to pass her around.

She is a natural mother and that is how I met her. She was dropped off pregnant one September evening and gave birth to six kittens herself on October 9, 1993. She tends to whoever needs love and attention, including my boyfriend Mack’s cat Jake, who found himself hiding under the drapes at our place having been dispatched out for a week long sleepover he didn’t agree to. It was Camille who walked over to the protruding bulk under the thick curtain to greet him, a little aghast at his spitting at her in response.

She has a slight arrogance about her as she knows how beautiful she is, how loved she is by everyone who meets her, and forever confident that she will be take care of no matter what.

Ella and Camille. Unexpected companions

The last six weeks, Camille has been fading, growing very thin, and unable to care for her long Technicolor coat. She has taken to sitting outside the spare room where the kittens are and often Ella sits next to her in the upstairs hallway. Once, Camille started yelling, for what reason I have no idea. Ella, attending to her kids, perked her long black ears up, gave a short yell and jumped over the barrier to sit with her. Camille settled almost immediately.

Camille happy that she is not the mother of these kids

Last week, I looked in on the kittens and couldn’t place what was different about the scene. Ella was in the corner with a few kittens nursing. A few others were playing on the scratching post resting on its side as a makeshift jungle gym. When I focused in a little more, I saw Camille eating the kitten food, oblivious to the little one hanging off her. She then went over to observe a pile of them sleeping, and then sat down to be a part of the group.

Camille died yesterday morning, just outside the kitten’s room. I was with her when she gave her last breath and as we heard the soft-pedaled thunder of kitten feet breaking into a new day behind us.

I have one wish for the new life in my spare room and as I brace myself to have them adopted out in three week’s time. That is to have the life that Camille had from birth to death as I know no better way to have lived.

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