They say that you are either a dog person or a cat person. I’m a cat person. We currently have two cats who are sisters. They are called Barbara and Mittens. We acquired them from the Cats Protection League shelter in 2012. My husband wanted us to have a cat that had a human name. So, we found Barbara and as she was with her sister, we took both.
Over the years, I’ve had quite a few cats and each one has had their own unique personality. I lived in a student house in Nottingham whilst doing my PGCE. A ginger cat, who we assumed was a stray, used to come to our house at night and we took to feeding him.
He’d stay overnight and sleep on our bed and then go in the morning. We became very fond of Ginge, as we imaginatively called him. We thought he was ours and had started to treat him to fresh chicken and tuna. That was until one night an elderly man named Bert came and knocked on our door. Bert told us that he lived a few doors down and his cat, ‘Turbo’ not ‘Ginge’ tended to go to other people’s homes and eat. He had done it to many houses on the street and it reminded me of that children’s book, ‘Six Dinner Sid.’ Where a cat called Sid goes to other people’s homes to get fed and each home owner believes he is theirs. We were disappointed when we realised that Turbo had his own owner and so we would have to stop him coming to our house at night or he risked becoming incredibly fat.
Thus, we decided to get a cat ourselves. We found a pet shop in Nottingham city centre and that was where we bought Tilly. A black and white short hair. Tilly came to live with me when I went to work in a boarding school in Malvern. Tilly was like a dog. I trained her to go into her bed every night and there she would stay until the next morning and I called her to have her breakfast. Tilly became a huge cat. She loved being adored by all the boarding children. Sometimes she would follow me in the morning, down the short path to my classroom and she would come in the classroom as I taught. Tilly lived for over six years. Sadly, when I moved to work in a school in Wellow in Nottinghamshire, Tilly was run over by a speeding car. I buried her at the bottom of my parent’s garden. I had never felt such grief in my life.
After Tilly died, I decided to get another cat. This was a grey and white girl that I called Tiggy. Tiggy was a very affectionate cat who enjoyed licking my hair as I lay in bed. A week later, I discovered I was pregnant and as I couldn’t bear to smell cat food, we had to put her on the Cat Science diet. We moved to another boarding school in Windsor and were given a flat on the top floor of a Victorian house to live in. For Tiggy to get out she would have to jump out of the bathroom window onto the tiled roof below and then walk across the roof and down a very long spiral staircase. I remember our first Christmas there and Tiggy had gone out. She came back in through the bathroom window having climbed up with her back leg hanging off and blood gushing everywhere. It cost £400 to have her leg removed at the vet’s. It was a very expensive Christmas that year.
Tiggy never seemed to have any difficulties not having one of her back legs. I always found it amusing that when people came to visit, they would tell me that my cat had only three legs as if I didn’t know. Tiggy survived many moves from Windsor to Cranleigh and then to Sussex. When my marriage broke down, I decided to return home to Nottingham. I tried to get Tiggy to come in on my removal day, but she wouldn’t. I asked people who lived in the school to try and catch her, but no one could. Then several months later, I received a call from a cat rescue centre in Sussex. They had found Tiggy – fortunately she had been micro-chipped. Tiggy and I were reunited. A few years later Tiggy went missing again when we had snow storms. She was found in a neighbour’s shed down the road.
I guess that in the end Tiggy’s nine lives ran out. One Christmas, she started to have difficulty swallowing. The vet confirmed that she had advanced stages of throat cancer and it would be kinder to put her to sleep. I said my goodbyes and held her as she received her final injection. It broke my heart when Tiggy died, we’d been through so much together. Not least the house moves and two marriages! Tiggy had always been there since my children had been born. They were equally devastated by her loss.
Finally, several months later, we decided to get another cat. We went to the Cats’ Protection League shelter in Nuthall. There we found Mittens and Barbara. Mittens has short hair and is a tortoiseshell whereas Barbara has long black hair. They had come from a litter of stray cats that had been found. Mittens was initially confident with us, but Barbara would not let anyone come near her.
The first few months they had quite a difficult time settling in. Barbara went missing for a week and we had to tempt her back with Dreamies cat treats. She was terrified of people and it was very hard to get her to trust anyone. Then both cats discovered a small gap under the bath in the bathroom and spent several days hiding down there.
We have had them for over six years now. They recently turned seven. They are such a vital part of our family that even if we go away, we still feel something is missing. Mittens prefers to stay indoors and can be quite sparing with her affection. It must always be on her own terms. Barbara is a real hunter and loves the fact that we live in front of a railing line and fields. She hunts mice, rats, birds and even rabbits. Yet she is incredibly loving and is no longer terrified of people.
I couldn’t imagine not having cats. I love their independence and yet surprisingly they are very loyal. I really would love more cats, but we have been advised by an expert that tortoiseshell cats do not like new cats on their territory. There is nothing more relaxing than stroking and showing love for a cat or having a cat curl up to you as you read or write. As the famous French writer Colette said, “Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” And as another writer Aldous Huxley also declared, “If you want to write, keep cats.” I can think of no greater reason.