Slipper came to us in December 1989, a tiny stray by way of a student who'd been temping in mum's office. Slipper

She was such a wee scrap of a thing that we thought she was only a matter of weeks old. The vet told us she was actually a few months, just small. And she never grew into the biggest of cats.

At first we worried about how she'd get on with the dog, Boot. Or more to the point, how he'd get on with her. But it was never a problem. In spite of his natural disdain for all things feline, he seemed to understand that she was part of the family. Indeed, there were times we thought she was being brought up more dog than cat. Even when Boot died and Boggart arrived on the scene, she was the boss. Sure there were times when the pup would try his luck, but he'd never push it too far, fearing a scratched nose or worse.

When my parents moved to Wales in the mid 90s, she stayed with me in Yorkshire to look after their house. During this period of a year or so, we became particularly close, forming a bond that was never really broken, even after she moved down to Wales and I struck out on my own.

We could always pick up where we'd left off. We had this routine, wherein she'd lick my fingers and I'd use them to stroke the crown of her head. I never knew exactly what she got out of it, but I like to think it reminded her of being groomed by her mother.

She was fearless for such a small thing. She took on foxes in the middle of the night, warning them away from her territory. Once she even jumped on the back of my grandmother's dog, Sally, after she attacked Boggart. She knew where her loyalties lay.

In later years, she seemed to go a bit dappy. Mum was convinced she lost her marbles a couple of years ago. But she was always in good spirits, happy to come on late night walks with the dog - a habit which always mystified and amused us.

And the end came quickly, in a matter of a fortnight or so. Apparently she probably had end-stage kidney failure. Her muscles had wasted away, so that in recent weeks she'd barely been able to walk. She ate very little, Mum feeding her her last couple of tiny meals on the end of a teaspoon.

Slipper died this morning at the age of 16, the vet's doing, but something he didn't have to talk my parents into. A cat of such calibre deserved something of a dignified ending, and it seems that's what she got. Quick, peaceful, in my mother's arms. I'm only sorry I didn't get to say goodbye when I last saw her in August.

So goodbye princess. I love you.


The reason for the current silence is that I'm currently on retreat, recharging my anecdotal batteries. High time, some might say. I'm inclined to agree. Stories aplenty when I return in a couple of weeks. So if you wouldn't mind popping in to water the plants, I'd be ever so grateful.