Pet Therapy

I had a goldfish when I was about 12.  I won it at the village carnival.  That was the extent of pets when I was young.  My Mum was and still is allergic to most animal hair, so we weren’t allowed to keep anything other than that goldfish.

A goldfish in a bowl swimming around in circles was fine.

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That poor thing didn’t even have anything else to look at in that bowl, it just swam around.

I can just about remember my Dad’s face when I won it.

I sooooo wanted a cat.  But every time I came in contact with one, I had to be careful not to touch my face or I’d go blotchy.

Even into adulthood, the allergies remained.  When I met my Husband, he was living at home with his Mum and they had a cat.  She was lovely.  Quite kitten-like, even up to when she died at the ripe old age of 18! But I was allergic to her too.

After many years, and two children later, still no cat. We did manage to look after two hamsters and some tropical-fish (actually ‘look after’ fish was a nightmare and they kept dying) but that was the extent of it.  My Husband also had mild allergy of cats but he became immune to his own.

Ah-ha!  I thought.  This could be the way in!!  Maybe he’d become immune to ours!  And maybe I could too!  But we agreed to disagree and carried on pet free for many years.

Then Cancer Arrived

That period in my life from diagnosis through surgery and Chemotherapy was full on, emotional, painful and exhausting.  I decided to concentrate on getting through it, rather than on much else.  At one point I felt so down that my Husband admitted that he’d thought about getting a kitten, to help with the distraction from everything else that treatment consumed.

“Oh no I couldn’t cope with a kitten”.  And I couldn’t have – that’s for sure.

A year later, and it was January.  Treatment had finished and things were improving.  Christmas and a family wedding made it much more enjoyable and I was out and about with my colourful headscarves on, my head fuzz growing at snail’s pace.

We were watching funny videos of animals on the TV and I whispered to the kids ‘I still want a kitten’, winding the Husband up a treat.  A few minutes later my phone beeped.

“Well you’d better start looking for one then before I change my mind”.

That was it!  Keeping tight lipped, I got on the internet.  I was on a mission!  No turning back now! Only thing was, I’d always wanted TWO kittens… you know, to keep each other company… and double the fun!  Was that pushing it too far??

RSPCA

I started looking at kittens for sale and after a couple of weeks I wasn’t having much luck in finding what I were after – either too expensive, too far away, or I was nervous of who was selling them.

I then found the RSPCA website.  The local centre, in Ashley Heath, near Ringwood Hampshire, was about half hour’s drive from us.  I kept a close eye on the site for new kittens arriving, but it was a quiet time of year.

Then on my day off one week I checked their website and saw that 6 kittens had been advertised.  I rang the Centre and the lady confirmed that the pictures had only gone up on the website that morning.  There were only 4 out of the 6 left.  I had to go over.  I rang my Husband (thought I’d better warn him!) and said I was going.

When I got there a lovely lady showed me to the Cattery, through the door and left me to look.  She confirmed there were now only 2 kittens left to reserve!  I looked to the left and saw a lovely 2 year old cat nuzzling up to the window.  I turned to the right to the first window and saw her.  This bright eyed, pretty little kitten sat right by the window.  Staring at me.

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There was NO doubt in my mind – I had to have her!! She was so beautifully marked, huge eyes, something mischievous about her. She was named Hollie and she was about 3 months old.

Hollie was found under a bush around Bonfire Night in the November, at about a week old. So, she was taken straight to the RSPCA and hand reared by one of the members of staff there, until they reluctantly had to advertise for someone to take her to her forever home. All the staff there loved her and would be sad to say goodbye. They wanted to make sure she went to a good home.

I reserved her. But I still had it in my mind I wanted two kittens, if possible.

I walked further down to another window and there were 4 kittens playing with each other. Their mum Jasmine had been brought in to the Centre, pregnant, and the 4 kittens were born on 6 December. By the time I’d gotten there, three of them had now been reserved leaving one little one left. The more I stood there looking at him, the more I wanted to just pick him up. He was smaller than his siblings and seemed to play a little, and then stand back and watch. They had named him Genie.

I couldn’t just leave him to be the last in that room, no one to play with. I spoke with the staff and said I’d like to reserve him too, but obviously realised that he and Hollie weren’t siblings.

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They put Genie and Hollie together for a week to see how they got on. We weren’t allowed to take them until they’d had their injections and their operations to be spayed and neutered. During that week I brought the family over to meet them. My Husband and children fell in love with Hollie but Genie was shy and the family unsure. He was 4 weeks younger than Hollie so we all had to realise that he might not be as confident as her, especially as she was hand-reared.

My Son took to Genie though, but we decided that the name needed to change. He decided he’d like to call him Max. So Max it was.

A few days later, school holiday time in February, I took the children over again with my late Mum-In-Law. She couldn’t get out of the house very often and after her cat died she couldn’t face having another. But she was really looking forward to going to the RSPCA.

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When we arrived at their window, the member of staff opened it so that we could sort out their blanket and try and encourage them to get used to us. My Mum-In-Law took one look at Hollie and said “oh you’re going to be trouble, you are! Look at that mischief in her face!”

Max was ready to pounce on Hollie once again. During the weeks they’d been put together, they were tolerating each other. Playing and chasing a little but fighting too, bit of hissing going on! But the Centre agreed that they’d be fine to be homed together.

So that day came – the inspector was pleased with our surroundings, and us as a family, and knew the kittens would be well cared for. We were so pleased with how the RSPCA had looked after them, had all their checks and we registered with a local Vet, also known to them.

Then the fun began!

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Here’s a little taste of what they were like.  Thankfully during their first year, our lovely expensive curtains remained intact, the sofa was already old so any clawing wasn’t too much of an issue, however when they started they were told off and directed to the cat post for that!  The vertical blinds at the patio door did suffer a little, mainly because they could see the cords hanging down and leaping up to catch them was a great game!

We put towels on the dining chairs as they seemed to like sleeping on those under the table – cat beds weren’t good enough clearly.  To be honest cat owners did say to me that they’d probably sleep anywhere BUT their beds.  This was true.

The half-net curtains in the bay window did however become a casualty.  Mainly because they’d both sit on the window sill, looking out at birds and flies, raindrops dripping off the sloping roof, and try and catch them, hatching the curtains in the process to point of holes appearing.  Oh well, I think we got off lightly from I’ve read!

So, what are their personalities like?

Having kittens in the house apart from stressing my Husband out as they seemed to trip him up on a daily basis, were a happy addition to the family and the children love them.

Pet TherapyHollie and Max are very different.  But as they’ve grown, explored the outside, the fighting has reduced and they look out for each other. They don’t tend to venture very far and we are lucky to be in a quiet area with no through-traffic.

In the first year, we could hear them running around the lounge at midnight, or early hours. It was out decision not to allow them upstairs at night, having heard a friend of mine say they allowed theirs to do that, resulting in sleepless nights with cats on your head at all hours. Oh and treating the bedroom like they’re doing a Circuits class, didn’t sound like fun. So, despite the children’s pleas, they slept downstairs from the start and still do.

Hollie

Hollie is a small cat and will remain that way.  Her fur is extremely soft; she has some Cornish Rex amongst her Tortoiseshell features.  She is scatty.

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If she sees a box, she’s in it.  But if she sees a handbag and it’s big enough to get her head in and pull out bits of paper or receipts, she’s there.

Oh receipts! She. Loves. Paper. If there’s paperwork anywhere, she HAS to sit on it. If there’s wrapping paper, sweet wrappers (the Chocolate Orange foil screwed up is a favourite) she will chase and play with it all day. She can be sleeping, and I would screw paper up and she’d be by my side like a shot! We think she’s part Retriever dog – throw a ball of paper into the kitchen, she’ll bring it back to you in the lounge and drop it. Endless amounts of fun!

She’s a bit of a fussy eater. She eats little and often and prefers the dried food, to the meat. And she likes her water. She would prefer it if Max wasn’t around when she eats as he just annoys her.

There are two main differences between Hollie and Max. Firstly, Hollie would happily stay in all day and sometimes does. Especially if there is someone else in the house. I can be milling around, doing the housework, upstairs, downstairs and even if I pop to the bathroom she’s there! She is our shadow.
Secondly, Hollie is very quiet. She won’t meow. She just makes a sound, mainly of discontent if you’re trying to put flea treatment on her, or she’s not in the mood to be picked up. Oh and at the birds, she gets VERY frustrated at them! She has been successful in catching a couple of small ones, has been found tapping a Toad’s bottom repeatedly to make it jump, and likes playing with worms, and eating spiders. Mmmm yummy.

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She loves chasing butterflies, insects, twigs, rough and tumble in the grass. She’s such a time waster!

When Hollie does venture outside, if we are outside too, she’s stay near to where we are. That human interaction again.  In the lounge, Hollie wants fussing. And lots of it. As you can see – she is Pet TherapyDEFINITELY a lap cat. And it’s lovely. She loves ‘beating up’ with the men of the house. Rarely do the claws come out, and she’ll put her teeth on your skin but there’s no biting.  She will climb up on your lap and just sit, wanting that fussing there and then – regardless if you are watching TV, on a phone, or trying to write articles for your website!

 

 

 

Max

Now.  Maximus!  Well he’s the complete opposite.  Max was one of 4 and they think they had some feral in them as the all displayed the same traits apparently.  Max doesn’t like being picked up or handled much. He tolerates my daughter more than anyone picking him up.  However over the last 6 months or so, he’s taken a liking to jumping onto MY lap of an evening and stretching out for a snooze.  He’ll stay there for about half an hour or so. I am the honoured one.

 

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Every day Max cannot WAIT to get outside. He has grown to be a kilogram heavier than Hollie and has a very long body. He looks like someone’s dropped splodges of black paint on him and dipped his tail completely in it. He has more of a pointy face and his fur is coarser than Hollie’s – possibly some Siamese in him.

He is also quite vocal. You can have a conversation with Max. Well – you know what I mean – you can talk to him, ask him questions, and he’ll answer you. You know when he wants to go out (ie all the time) and especially when he wants food. He seems to know the clock and will be there waiting for you to refill the bowls. He has a daily routine of where and when he sleeps.

He prefers the meat to the biscuits (we put both down for each of them) and will start on Hollie’s food given the opportunity!

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He’d happily stay outside all day. We have two birch trees in our garden, and Max can generally climb them in three strides.

And he’ll then happily sit in them. Hollie will climb too if he’s there.

Of course Max feels he can reach that elusive pigeon, he’ll climb to the very top.

Oh yes, there’s my 15 year old Son following him up… he’s always needed to climb too…

I’ll tempt fate here and say we’ve not had any ‘live’ presents yet… Max was partial to bringing in a feather. At least a couple of times a week he’d bring it in and drop it then go all silly like ‘look Mum, look what I’ve got’ then flick it around the room for half hour.

He has caught a couple of mice and delivered them into the back garden but not actually into the house.

So what effect did it have on me?

Those two bundles of fun made me laugh like I’d not laughed in a long time.  On my own I’d sit and play with them, have Hollie climb on me.  For that moment I’d forget about all my aches, pains and anxiety and enjoy their company.  They definitely had a calming effect.

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I am no longer afraid of a cat litter tray (!), or the smell of cat food, so I have overcome these too!!  I don’t think my husband could believe I could, I was such a wuss about all that years ago with his cat!

My GP thought it was a brilliant decision to get kittens, as in his experience pets can help so much with illness recovery.  The distraction is good for the mind.  And these two monkeys certainly gave me that!  Something else to think about every day, other than after-effects of treatment.

As they have grown into young cats, their personalities are so defined and it’s great they are so different yet keep each other company, indoors and out.  Coming home from work, being greeted, I talk to them, they are part of the family.

I thank the RSPCA Ashley Heath in taking such good care of them before they released them to us, and for the wonderful work they do for animals in general.

https://www.rspca.org.uk/local/ashley-heath-animal-centre

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