If you follow me on Instagram, you may have quickly realised that I’m a bona fide cat lady (I’m not even sorry for the vast number of cat pictures that I share on a regular basis).
This complete, unfaltering admiration of felines is something that has been a part of my very core for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories involves, yes you’ve guessed it, cats! Dudley and Smudge. Two plump black and white fur babies that were a big part of my childhood.
Smudge got his name in an unusual way. I only remember snippets of this
tail tale but my parents explained that one weekend, they’d decided to give our downstairs toilet a coat of fresh paint. Four-year-old me obviously wanted to get involved and, as my Mum cooked tea, I ‘helpfully’ painted the walls, the toilet seat, the floor…and the cat! Poor Smudge.
After leaving home, one of the first things I did was head to a local rescue centre and adopt Rusty. An older cat with a beautiful orange coat, he stayed with us for around five years – until we moved house and a friend brought their dog to visit. Rusty left in utter disgust, never to return. I still think of that ginger tom cat on occasion and wonder where he went but as they say, cats choose their own humans, don’t they? I like to think that he moved in with a little old lady who fed him salmon and spoilt him rotten.
Oscar came from my Mums house circa 2011. When I saw his little ginger face, I knew we had to have him. He turned out to be a complex kind of creature. A little volatile and cautious by nature, over the years he slowly mellowed and is now my best buddy. With Oscar, trust is certainly something to be earned but once you do, he’ll happily come over for a snuggle and has been right by my side through thick and thin. He’s also roughly the size of a small dog so once he settles on your lap, there’s little chance of moving for a while!
The day after mine and Adams first date, he sent me a picture of three tiny black kittens that had been abandoned in the car park of his workplace. In a spontaneous moment of weakness, I instantly offered to rehome the two males (the third one had already found a home). Adam drove over to my house that evening (I’m still half-convinced he bought them as an elaborate ruse to get a second date) and brought the strays with him; I named them Dexter and Luther, after my favourite TV programmes at the time. The vet estimated that the twins were around four weeks old and we slowly nurtured them into fully grown, happy, and healthy cats.
They each developed their own little quirks. Dexter was the bold one; he’d play fetch (yes really), nibble my toes for attention as I awoke bleary-eyed at 6am and had the fluffiest little face; he looked like Toothless from ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ in the right light. Luther was a little more reserved and looked up to his brother, never leaving his side for long. In time, he took a liking to my youngest daughter and even now, is often spotted following her around the house like a friendly shadow or curled up on her bed, with his subtle purr providing a comforting soundtrack as they both sleep through the night.
Just one year after becoming a much-loved member of the family, Dexter was found with fatal head injuries at the bottom of our street. Lucie came home from school one day and casually stated: ‘Mum, there’s a black cat in the road. It’s ok though as ours have collars on and that one didn’t’. Dexter had discarded his neon collar the day before, being some sort of cat magician and removing them at every given opportunity (even to this day, I have no idea how he managed to do that on a bi-weekly basis).
My gut instinct told me it was Dexter but I couldn’t bear the idea of finding out first hand. Adam went to investigate and brought home a lifeless bundle of black fur, carefully wrapped up in the jacket he’d been wearing just a few moments earlier and confirmed my worst fears. Although we were 99% sure, I didn’t want to believe it. I mean, there are plenty of black cats around so maybe we were wrong? I sobbed uncontrollably as the vet checked his chip, reiterating that it was indeed Dexter and kindly explained our options; we chose to have his body cremated at the local pet cemetery.
After Dexter, I was adamant that I didn’t want another cat to ‘replace’ him. Yet two days later, the unimaginable happened. Another litter of kittens were found dumped outside Adams office. CCTV footage confirmed that the culprit was the same person as last time and I do hope they get their just desserts one day for committing such irresponsible and heartless acts of neglect.
I was still raw and grieving for Dexter and couldn’t offer all of them a home for practical reasons but decided to rehome one tiny black and white male kitten, whilst his sisters went home with Adams colleague. When he arrived, we took him for a trip to our long-suffering vet, who confirmed that he was healthy, albeit too young to have left his mother and again, was around 4/5 weeks old.
After naming the new addition Lex, we gradually introduced him to his new adoptive brothers. Unfortunately, he was met by a rather unpleasant reaction from Luther, who took an instant dislike to Lex and begin hissing and growling. The poor little guy was no bigger than my hand and scared senseless. Oscar simply looked at me in pure disdain for bringing yet another stray cat home.
It only took a few days of careful monitoring before the boys gradually began to bond. Rather surprisingly, Lex and Luther are now inseparable. I suspect that they’re biologically related, given the circumstances of their arrival and Luther is often found cleaning Lex’s ears or playing in the garden with his ‘brother’. I’m so glad that we could offer them both a loving home after a rocky start in life.
Oscar has always been
an antisocial little bastard a lone ranger and merely tolerates the other feline members of the family. That said, he can occasionally be found asleep on the sofa with Lex when he thinks no-one’s looking so I’ll assume that his grouchy persona is simply a facade to keep his ‘top cat’ reputation intact.
Cats are odd little creatures. Renowned for their arrogance and generally quite self-sufficient, they will give affection very much on their own terms; pick up or stroke a reluctant cat at your peril! They also love to run up and down the stairs at 3am for no apparent reason and if you’re super lucky (!) they will even bring you a rodent or bird as a treat.
We’ve been gifted with a few of these in the past, much to my horror. The ‘highlight’ was when Luther very gently brought a live bird into the living room whilst we were watching a movie; the chaos that ensued was comedy gold as I leapt onto the coffee table shrieking and left Adam to deal with three hunting cats and a petrified (luckily uninjured) bird.
The cliched perception of a ‘crazy cat lady’ is an old spinster, living in squalor, shouting at the neighbours and wearing a dressing gown whilst surrounded by numerous unkempt cats. That stereotype isn’t necessarily the case as cat owners are now seen as being rather cool and the majority of people seem to agree, with cat cafes, home decor and paraphernalia galore. (
most weekends on occasion, I can be found at home in my dressing gown and slippers, enjoying cat cuddles in a messy living room but that’s ok because it’s ‘acceptable’ now. Thankfully)
If you are considering adopting a cat of your own, I’d like to encourage you to check out your local rescue centre. Seriously, there are some beautiful cats there just waiting to find a loving home. Are you a fellow cat lover? I’d love to hear all about your pets in the comments below.