I met Tybalt in 1998. I'd just managed to move out of shared, rented accommodation into a place of my own, so pets became a possibility, and I pretty much immediately started to look around for a kitten.
And so, inevitably, 20 minutes later I was driving home with a small, fuzzy, annoyed tabby kitten in a cardboard box on the seat beside me, and he has been with me ever since.
I named him Tybalt, after the character in 'Romeo and Juliet' and on the basis of the notes on my school copy of the play, which said that Tybalt was a common name for pet cats in Shakespeare's day.
He never lived up to his name. He wasn't a rat-catcher, he wasn't a fighter. Indeed, if I didn't love him so much I might be tempted to say he was a bit of a wuss. He did run away from a rabbit, once. Admittedly, it was a large, and aggressive rabbit, but still. He used to moths, and the odd wasp which got itself trapped against the glass in the windows, and he tried to catch the vultures on David Attenborough's 'Life of Birds' (I had a really small TV then)
He was very nervous, to start with, and would rush off if I had the temerity to cough, or move, or breathe too heavily while he was sitting on me, but as he got older he got more relaxed. After 10 years or so he would even, occasionally, sit on people other than me, if I wasn't available.
Unlike many cats, he was unfazed by travelling, and after a few minutes complaining, would settle down in the car and snooze his way through the drive, and would then be perfectly happy in whatever new house I took him to.
He came to my parents home for Christmas, when he was younger he came with me to my grandmother's house (where it took him around 5 minutes to find the airing cupboard) and after these visits, he would always remember the houses, and be able to find his way to the warm spots, and to whichever bed I was sleeping in, without any difficulty, even after over a year.
He could be playful - my friend Stacy sent him a quilt filled with catnip, which he loved (the video was from when it first arrived)
He could be beautiful, and elegant, and sometimes he could be goofy as anything.
about 18 months ago he developed thyroid problems, and lost a lot of weight before he was properly diagnosed and stabilised, and he's started to slow down.
He spent a bit more time lounging and snoozing, and a little less playing, but he still enjoyed life, and in particular the extra treats and meals he got to try to get his weight back up.
This morning, when I came downstairs to give him his breakfast, he was as pleased to see me as he normally is, but I found he had not eaten his supper, and he had no interest in his breakfast, or even in his sardine (the delivery method of choice for his medication) and he was wheezing and not breathing well.
He couldn't be bothered to hide when I got his carrier out, or to protest when I put him in it, or to hiss at the vet when we got there. I had to leave him there, so they could start treatment for likely acute anaemia, and do tests to see what was causing it. I got a call about 2 hours later, to confirm that the blood counts showed he was very anaemic, but that he was sleepy, not too stressed, and they were going to treat the symptoms while they waited for more test results to identify the cause, but then an hour or so later there was another call. He wasn't responding to the treatments, his condition had deteriorated a lot, very rapidly, and he was fitting. They didn't think he would make it long enough for me to get back to the vets so I could be with him while they put him to sleep, or fair to him to make him wait for me.
And now I am sitting here, in this suddenly empty house, with tears running down onto my keyboard, because I've just been able to write a whole post, without anyone walking over my keyboard, or butting at my hands until I remember that laps are for cats, not laptops, and move it so he can sit there.