I’d always considered myself a dog person so it was by sheer coincidence that I found myself wandering around the cattery of the local animal rescue centre with my niece one Saturday morning. We had gone there with my sister to support one of their coffee mornings and whilst she browsed in their small gift shop, we took a stroll and ended up in the cattery. I am sure that rescue centres for animal lovers are much like charity shops whereby you can’t go home without purchasing something and this day was no exception.
Any animal lover cannot be anything but moved by cage upon cage of endearing hopeful faces pleading for their forever home. Whilst we were browsing the pens, one of the elderly volunteers who was changing the litter trays remarked to us “cats are funny like that; you don’t choose them, they choose you”.
Mad as a box of frogs I thought to myself as I smiled vacantly at her and continued inspecting the cages. I had no intention of becoming a crazy cat woman, although that ship has since sailed!
My niece persuaded me to have a couple of introductions with two black cats after all I lived on my own for most of the time whilst Serial Shagger was away serving Queen & country and we had a nice little garden so grudgingly I settled for two black cats whom the volunteer said always struggled to find new homes because of the ridiculous old superstitions associated with them. As I had frequently been called an old witch, it somehow seemed to be a match made in heaven.
The first little cat we met was fairly disinterested in us and remained aloof at the back of the cage so it was then that we were introduced to Hobo who to be fair was a rather large black cat with huge green eyes. The cattery assistant told me that he had been renamed by the staff as he was currently six months old and had already been returned to the centre five times. Regretting our decision somewhat we gingerly stepped inside the pen expecting some mean hissing ball of fur that’s when he jumped up onto the ledge and placed his front paws squarely on my chest and looked into my eyes and touched my nose with his. The beaming volunteer who had been watching the proceedings with interest said “that’s the one then”. We completed the paperwork and agreed that we would collect him in a week’s time after I’d had a home check to see whether I’d be able to provide a suitable home.
Exactly one week later after frantically shopping for all things cat, installing a cat flap and buying a lifetime’s worth of kibble, I went to collect Hobo together with my family entourage. Whilst I was waiting for the cattery assistant I again browsed the cages; at the very end one was a small young bald cat who had been named Mermaid. The notice on her cage said that she had been found by a fisherman floating in a sack at the shore edge of the wharf and brought to the rescue centre where they had had to shave her fur because of all the oil and tar. I was debating whether to find a playmate for Hobo and as she wasn’t going to be winning any prizes for the prettiest cat any time soon, would probably be overlooked at the cattery amongst all the other sleek felines, so I asked to meet her.
Unsurprisingly, she was pretty terrified of people but that was to be expected as probably one of her last encounters resulted in her being dumped into the sea. I thought that this little girl needed a home and a chance so it was agreed that she would join me and Hobo a week later when her veterinary treatment had been completed.
As any anxious first time parent will tell you every snuffle, itch and cough gave cause for concern and it was no different with me and the cats; particularly as what I knew about cats could be written on the back of a bus ticket and then there’d still be enough room for the Lord’s Prayer. Hobo settled in pretty quickly and soon became the master of all he surveyed. A week later when Mermaid whom we renamed Chloe came home for the first time, it was then that chaos and disorder ensued. Not the least of which because Hobo didn’t want to share his new-found home with another cat.
I think the first two weeks Chloe lived under the sofa too terrified to come out and I considered returning her to the rescue centre more than once because I was troubled at the quality of life she had when she had been through so much already. Life gradually settled down although there are still nights when we’re woken by them thundering up the stairs chasing after each other to score the first swipe.
I am so glad that we adopted our kitties and nine years on they still aren’t the best of friends and probably never will be but they do bring us much joy. Our animal clan has been substantially extended since then and there’s always room at the inn for another needy four-legged pal, even if it’s only for a short while before finding a forever home with another loving family.
I’ve learned that your house will never be pristine clean when you have pets but a house isn’t really a home until you have a trail of muddy paw marks across your newly mopped kitchen floor but for all the love and laughter that they give you, it seems a small price to pay.
Animals have a way of finding people who need them and filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we have