Once, a very long time ago, I trapped a cat. There was a litter of feral kittens born beneath a pallet in the warehouse at my work and I was trying to catch them all and take them to the RSPCA to rescue them from my boss’ threats of poison. Most of the kittens were very sick and manky and hadn’t long to live anyway. But one Friday afternoon, as I was locking up to leave, I discovered I’d caught a shiny black kitten with clear eyes and a healthy coat. She was wet and shivering because it had rained in the afternoon and I hadn’t realised she was there. It was too late to send someone to the shelter with her so I did the only thing I could do: I picked up the cat, cage and all, and took her home on the train with me.

For the first three days she hid under the couch, refusing to come near anyone, but crying mournfully if you left the room. Eventually she emerged from hiding to eat, keeping a wary eye on everyone, before scuttling away to the safety of her cave. She never truly got over that skittish shyness. She was aloof and unfriendly but I liked her because she was pretty, with shiny black hair like mine and I’m shallow like that. That’s how Shiny came into our lives.

As a kitten Shiny had a thing for buttons and zippers and laces and jewellery. She’d work with determination to pull the buttons off our clothes, untie our shoelaces and a couple of alarming mornings I woke to find her on my pillow, trying to tear out my earrings.

She liked to come for drives, but was too terrified to get out and visit strange places, so Brad would bring her along when he came to collect me from work. She’d stand on the passenger seat, paws up against the window, watching the other traffic. Or else she’d try to crawl beneath Brad’s feet to hide beneath the pedals. You know, because that’s fun and safe.

Once she walked through a tray of motor oil and it took us literally hours of scrubbing to get it out of her fur. She never took well to bathing after that. And when we lived beside a creek, she’d come running, almost tripping over her own face, to climb down the rocks with me and walk by the water. We’d wander along the creek until Shiny decided it was hometime and then she’d race up to the top of the rock wall and stand there waiting for me expectantly. I’d try to follow but more often than not she’d reached the top by squeezing through a narrow cave I couldn’t hope to enter, and she’d sigh in exasperation, leap back down and seek out another path to the house.

Shiny was scared of birds, cars, people (especially after that time Kasey yelled in her face – she never got over that) mirrors, the dishwasher, thunder, the shower, invisible things, you name it. She’d jump at her own tail flicking. She was demanding – scratching incessantly at the bedroom door at 5, 3 or 2am if she wanted something. But she was pretty and I’ll forgive pretty creatures a lot of things. I’m shallow like that.

Shiny didn’t like many people, but she liked me, and whenever she’d find me sitting still in the yard or napping during the day, she’d curl up against me and purr. She was most definitely my kitty. It was a friendship based on mutual love and my doing everything for her.

Then she got sick. And after months of battling to get her well again, spoon-feeding her and cleaning her face for her, snuggling with her in my arms at night to keep her warm and anxiously watching to ensure my poor frail skeleton kitty was happy, she finally gave in. Shiny died yesterday. I know she was dying. I know it was time. I know we did everything we could and her last day was spent curled contentedly in Brad’s lap and she didn’t die alone. I know she was a cat. But she was MY cat. I feel like I’ve lost my baby girl, and I’m sad for all those years we won’t have to soak up the sun by the pool together, and all those mornings when I won’t wake to her fuzzy little face, or feel her silky little body pressed up against my skin.

Even though most people never caught more than a passing glimpse of her because she always hid from them, I will know she’s gone and isn’t just safely under the bed. And I am sad.