Were you born a cat lover or were you influenced to become one, by the people in your life? I think I was both. I can’t ever remember a time in my life not loving cats.
First and foremost of course the cat lover who most influenced my lifetime of loving cats, was our late mother. She grew up in a country village where cats were part of the family and she used to tell Barbara and me stories about them, especially her own cat ‘Mrs Moss’.
We grew up in a family with dogs, because our late dad was a dog lover, but we and our mother were always longing to have cats in our lives. I suppose in a way our dad influenced me too, he said he hated cats, yet in the factory where he worked mending trains there were many cats and he along with his work mates used to share his bait (a Northern word for a packed lunch) with them.
A neighbour was next, her family had a cat called Tibby who lived in a shed in their yard and had many litters of kittens, I spent some very happy hours in that shed and learned a lot about cats and kittens just by being with them.
After I left school and was awaiting a chance of a career with animals I worked for a while in a wallpaper and paint shop. A cat we called Tuppence used to come to the back door to be fed, I loved that little cat but other shopkeepers didn’t want her around. There were no local Sanctuaries back then so the RSCPA were called to collect her, I cried when they did.
But through that sad happening I met the local RSPCA secretary who turned out to be my old headmistress! We became very friendly and I loved going to her house as she lived alone with her two beautiful cats, a long haired brown tabby called Teddy and a black and white called Coco and I was always welcome there.
We had lots of happy times having cat conversations. When I landed my first job at a vets I had to travel quite a way every day, setting off early and arriving home quite late and working weekends too, so I hadn’t much free time and our friendship fizzled out.
I next met up with another cat loving lovely lady, she was the secretary of the local BUAV branch (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) and we became good friends. She used to travel 20 miles by bus every Monday to a town and buy all the cats and kittens for sale on the weekly market there, because it was a place where animals were known to be bought from for laboratories.
The vets where I worked also had boarding kennels and cattery and after I’d done my kennel maid training, my stint in the cattery was my happiest time. I remember one lady used to send her three brown tabby cats a postcard each from her holiday, I still think of reading those postcards to those beautiful cats, Thomasina, Go Canny and Sooty Moo.
But all too soon I was moved on to nursing and most of my time then was helping the vets in the clinics and with the daily operations and after care of the patients. Although I did take my turn on the reception desk too and learned office work and also still worked in the kennels and cattery some Sundays and Bank holidays when there was only emergency cover so not many clients coming in with their pets.
We had three resident cats there, Fluffy a long haired tabby who used to butt under chins so hard she knocked the person’s head back lol. She used to sit on a chair in the waiting room, totally unfazed even by dogs and was much admired and petted. Fluffy was a long haired tortie and Ebony was a very shy black cat, all had been abandoned at the surgery and just stayed there.
Eventually a job came up nearer home, in a mixed animal practice. When I went for the interview the owner of the practice snapped me up as I was just the ‘jack of all trades’ he needed. There was only him, another vet and me!
So for many happy years there I was secretary/receptionist/telephonist/nurse/ cleaner/mortuary attendant…the lot!
I met many more cat lovers during that time and became friends with some ‘crazy cat ladies’ too lol. One was very poor but had cats on every available surface in her home, she was absolutely besotted with cats and hated anyone who didn’t share her passion lol.
I was still working at the vets and Babz and I were still living at home when our dad died suddenly aged only fifty-five. We only had one old dog at that time and I took a long haired black kitten home for our mother who was shocked and heartbroken at her bereavement. She called her Kitty and that cat saved her sanity!
Forty years on from that day and many beautiful cats later, Babz and I live together again since she was widowed and we have our two boyz, Walter and Jozef.
I feel sad when a child longs for a cat because I know how that feels. But I tell them the wait is worthwhile in the end.
Having lived with, worked with and volunteered with cats all of my adult life, now I can’t imagine my life without them in it!