Opinion

Sam Delaney: 'My cat Nelson has gone and I'm absolutely gutted'

Sam Delaney had his moggy for 15 years, and after his death things will never be the same again

Nelson the cat

Nelson the cat. Photo: Sam Delaney

My cat died last month. His name was Nelson.

He was pretty old and had lived a full life, as far as cats’ lives go. I bought him from a woman outside Hammersmith tube station for an extortionate £170. She turned up cupping the tiny creature in her hands, sodden with rain. I pushed the cash into her hand, snatched the furry asset and drove off home in my car where I presented it to my wife as a birthday gift.

Nelson was frail and scared; the woman had assured me he was eight weeks old, but the vet said he looked no more than a fortnight. Too young to be taken from his mother. It seemed unlikely he would survive. But my wife and I nursed him diligently for those first few weeks and he fought through. I think that’s why I formed such an extra-special bond with him. He kinda thought I was his mum.

At the time, we had a couple of tough Russian blues living next door to us. They would jump over the fence to bully Nelson. Sometimes they would even enter our house through his catflap and make themselves very much at home. He was terrified. To be honest, so was I. Their names were Oscar and Archie and they reminded me of the Kray Twins. In the end, we had to move. 

While the new house was being renovated, Nelson moved in with my mother-in-law for a while. But she had a malicious Bengal called Hector living next door who was even more trouble than Oscar and Archie. Hector terrorised Nelson throughout his stay. It was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Finally, at the home we live in now, he settled. The local cats were generally respectful. They seemed to have a nice little feline community going, where bullying wasn’t an issue. Nelson was happy and calm. But one day during lockdown the back door slammed shut in a sudden gust of wind and caught Nelson’s tail in it. It was broken in two places. He had to be operated on twice. At one point it looked like he might have faced an amputation. They fixed him eventually but I’m not sure he ever 100 per cent recovered from the psychological scars.

Although this all sounds as if he had a life of unrelenting anxiety, there was always a lot of love around Nelson. He was an affectionate cat who was always right at the heart of everything the family did. He wasn’t housebound – he liked going out to do cat stuff in the streets once in a while. But he would put his time in at home too, sitting on my lap while I watched Netflix, interfering with my laptop while I was trying to work, always trying to steal the poppadoms from our Friday night curry order. 

My favourite moments were when I would come in late from a night at the football and he would be waiting to greet me on the arm of the sofa. I’d stroke him for a while and chat to him quietly, telling him about my day. He’d stare into my eyes like he was really listening and purr enthusiastically. I found it very soothing. There was a reassuring permanence to him; a reliable calmness; a consistent warmth. He genuinely made me feel better when times were rough. He was my mate.

And then we came home from lunch at my mum’s one Sunday and he was lying in one of his usual spots, quite peacefully. I knelt down to stroke him and realised he wasn’t breathing. Strangely, when I realised he was dead, I felt a bit annoyed. “Why did you have to die, Nelson?” I thought. We’d adopted him just after our first kid was born, 15 years ago. He’d been an integral part of the family unit ever since. Now he’s gone and I am absolutely gutted.

Still, I drove over to Sutton yesterday and bought a kitten called Bobby. He’s distracting me with his adorableness right now as I try to write these words. Life moves on. Bobby might not be Nelson, but he’ll do, I guess.

Read more from Sam Delaney here. Follow him on Twitter here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Homelessness has exploded since I slept on the streets. Here's how to end it once and for all
people experiencing homelessness also face stigma
Matthew Torbitt

Homelessness has exploded since I slept on the streets. Here's how to end it once and for all

BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty: This is how we stamp out teenage misogyny and sexism
Naga Munchetty

BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty: This is how we stamp out teenage misogyny and sexism

Purists might baulk, but Sam Smith headlining BBC Proms opens a pathway to classical music
Sam Smith arrives for the 2023 BRIT Awards ceremony at The O2 arena in London. Image: Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Claire Jackson

Purists might baulk, but Sam Smith headlining BBC Proms opens a pathway to classical music

We need more women MPs – but we can't just expect women to stand for election. We must act
Lyanne Nicholl

We need more women MPs – but we can't just expect women to stand for election. We must act

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know