I don’t usually write about very personal things on this blog – except when they directly relate to my piano playing or music – but this morning we had to take the very difficult decision to have our beautiful Burmese cat Freddy put to sleep. Saying goodbye to a much-loved animal companion is never easy. Freddy had enjoyed a very long and happy life, but in the last few weeks he had become increasingly frail, could hardly stand and eventually stopped eating, and it was clear he was nearing the end of his life. As pet owners, we usually know when it is the right time to do the most humane thing (what a pity we are not at liberty to do the same to our human loved ones in similar circumstances…..). In his youth Freddy was a great wanderer, a fearless fighter and a slayer of squirrels, but he was also very companionable and he loved the company of humans.
My piano students, especially when they were young kids, loved Freddy and my other cat Poppy (who died in 2009), and Freddy would frequently “join in” with piano lessons, either by yowling loudly (he had a very distinctive miaow, a feature of his breed) while a child was playing or by jumping up on the piano, or sitting on the piano stool next to a student. Sometimes he would leap onto the keyboard and parade up and down – “Ooh look, he’s playing his scales!” the surprised and delighted student would exclaim. Once, when a pianist friend came to lunch, Freddy leapt onto the keyboard interrupting our conversation with what I claimed was “Stockhausen”. “That’s amazing!” my friend declared, rushing into my piano room to witness my cat playing “plinky plonky music”.
I’ve always lived with cats, and I’ve owned five cats (including three Burmese) during the course of my nearly 30 year-marriage. Cats strike me as good companions for pianists – I know many pianist friends and colleagues who have cats. We both crave and often actively seek solitude and quiet, and a cat is an undemanding companion, unlike a dog who seeks attention and, rather like a toddler, cannot be left to its own devices for long. Cats are independent (something which non-cat people regard as a negative trait) and come and go as they please. Freddy would often wander into my piano room and sit under the piano, or join me on the piano bench, leaning gently against me as I played.
He will be much missed, as are all our cats, but I have a feeling we will not be without a cat for too long…..