In all honesty, Cincinnati has been in decline for some time. A combination of thyroid trouble, gradual renal failure and a benign but growing tumour at the base of his tail has slowed the old boy down (he's about 84 in human years).
Last Christmas, he was so fragile that we were convinced that he didn't have long left. However, the permanent move to the country last summer seemed to give him a new lease of life, as he prowled the garden, visited polling stations, and generally pottered about like an old codger.
However, his various ailments haven't got any better, and the muscle loss caused by his renal problems has made him rather wobbly on his pins, and it can only be a matter of time. And so, when he appeared to stop eating and, more alarmingly purring (and he really does purr, as anyone who has met him will testify), it seemed like the moment had come to take him to the vet to be put to s-l-e-e-p, and with a heavy heart, I booked the appointment.
Naturally, as the week progressed, he perked up a bit, but given his general state of health, we went ahead with the consultation, to get a sense that we were doing the right thing (or not). The vet was most understanding, explaining that, in his view, it was a matter of weeks in any event. I steeled myself to do the deed and then, in the way only Cincinnati can manage, he sat up, looked at me and purred.
I couldn't do it. The vet suggested a steroid injection, quite popular with ageing cats as it gives them a bit of a boost, and so, injected with a pick me up, we brought him home. As a treat, Ros drove back whilst I sat in the front seat, cat over my shoulder looking out of the window like an old codger on an outing.
Clearly, Cincinnati is going to be one of those slightly anarchic heroic figures, clinging on to the edge of the cliff with one paw, flicking v-signs at the fates with another. Within an hour of getting home, he'd scrambled onto the dining table in the conservatory to eat the remains of the smoked mackerel we'd eaten for lunch. He seemed to enjoy the roast chicken with gravy we prepared for him too...