May 9th, 2021

Harry turned up in my back garden about ten years ago. I didn’t take a lot of notice of him at the time, because my garden is basically a jungle, and it’s not unusual for one of the neighbourhood cats to spend time there during the day.

Cat lying on his back under lemon tree with his paws in the air.

At first, I thought he lived over the back fence, and just spent his days here, lying in the sun. He was such a beautiful cat, and I didn’t imagine for a moment that he was a stray. I just thought he was extra friendly. If I was gardening, he’d try to climb into my arms. He particularly liked to do this if I was doing something delicate, like sowing carrot seeds. I spent a lot of time pushing him away.

Close up of grey and white cat looking up at the camera.

But he was a determined cat. And very early one morning, in the middle of winter, when I saw him catching mice in the compost heap, and eating them as soon as he caught them, I realised he was actually living in my garden.

So I started feeding him. He was pleased, but obviously wondered why it had taken me so long. And I named him Harry-le-beau. Because he really was the most beautiful cat I’d ever seen.

Closeup of cat's eye and nose.

I couldn’t let him in the house because I had another cat at the time, Miss Mouse, and Harry didn’t want to share. So he lived outside, and Miss Mouse lived inside.

At one point, I gave him away. He so obviously wanted to be a house cat, and I was getting a bit sick of having to protect Miss Mouse from him. But it didn’t work out, so a couple of weeks later I brought him back again.

And then Mousie got sick. Kidney failure. She hung on for a while, but the day came when she had had enough, and I called in the vet.

The next day, Harry moved inside.

Cat lying in the grass with speech bubble: "I understand you have a vacancy for a house cat."
Cat lying in the grass with speech bubble: "You will be pleased to hear that I am available."

I’d never had a boy cat before. Are they all so affectionate? So cuddly? The girl cats I’ve had have all been reasonably affectionate. But with every one of them, there would come a time when they had had enough of patting and tummy rubs, and would let me know it. Sometimes with claws.

Not Harry. With him, it was more a case of ‘Why are you stopping? You’ve only been patting me for an hour.’

Cat lying on his back wide eyed, with a book beside him.

He wasn’t the boldest of cats (except when it came to wanting attention). But he had a huge personality. And at one point he had his own blog, telling fantastical tales that he swore were true.

Like all writers, he was a sensitive chap. He was allergic to fleas, and had to have a special diet, otherwise he got urinary tract infections. And I always suspected he had some sort of neurological problem. He had a very strange twitch, which got worse as the years passed.

Cat sitting on bed with red ribbon draped over his head.

And then one day he had a seizure. That was ten months ago. So I knew the end was coming. In March this year he started falling over, and the vet diagnosed a probable brain tumour.

He died on April 23rd, and it broke my heart to lose him. He is buried under the plum tree, and friends gave me tulips and lilies to plant around him. I miss him so much. But I wouldn’t have missed living with him for the world.

Cat at window, looking up at camera.

Good night, Harry-le-Beau.

4 thoughts on “Harry

  1. Daphne Toombs says:

    I’m crying right now, Lian. Talk about you having been chosen! In answer to the above, it is not a male female difference. The best cats I have ever had were two females, with a male in third place. All of them as affectionate and personable, and characterful, as you could want. Harry has entertained us all so much and I agree, he was so beautiful. He chose his person well. I hope that Harry selects his replacement and sends him/her to you soon. xx

    1. Lian Tanner says:

      Daphne, I’m sorry, for some reason I’ve only just seen this. Thanks for such a beautiful comment. I did indeed feel chosen – and hope that Harry is currently auditioning his replacement. xx

  2. Colleen Anne Davidson says:

    Hello Lian
    I am so sorry to read that your dear Harry-le-beau has passed away. He definitely had a wonderful personality and brought you so much joy!! Yes, I have learnt from experience that male cats are very affectionate and cuddly.
    One day perhaps Harry-le-beau could be a children’s book?
    Take care

    1. Lian Tanner says:

      Thank you, Colleen! Yes, he brought me so much joy, and his affection was a major part of my life. I’ve been trying to work out how I could make a book about him. Haven’t figured it out yet, but I will.

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