Facing loss in lockdown
A sad part of this year has been the loss of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, family and health and social care staff, in numbers that horrify. The consequences for their families are devastating. Beyond the grief, the home, social and financial turmoil there are consequences for pets too.
In April our dear friend Edith died. She was 95 years of age. She had led a good life, a kind and generous woman who had served her country as a Land Army grafter in WW2. She had tilled the earth, driven tractors and developed a resilience which would see her overcome many challenges in her life.
The week before she died she said
- ‘ I have never known anything like this. Even in the war we could socialise’.
We mapped out a picnic plan for when the weather improved but this was never to be.
Homeless cats to consider
Edith had two old black cats. They are sisters. My task was to get them rehomed.
I sent out over 100 emails asking for a home for two cats. One dear person offered a home after she had moved house. Another offered a home for one but could not take two.
Domestic abuse cat-style
This made me think. They were sisters but did this mean they had to be housed together? There is always an assumption that siblings ‘ get on’. But when I thought about it they did not eat together, sleep together nor play together. In fact the week after Edith died Tammy had bitten Jenny so hard she needed treatment.
I remembered seeing Tammy punch Jenny with her paws. The fact that Jenny was ‘ the shy one’, ‘ the timid one’ and ‘ hid all the time’, began to take on a different meaning. Was I dealing with a situation of domestic abuse cat-style?
Single cat placement
I emailed out again to 56 contacts who I thought might be willing to take a single cat.
I also called the Mayhew clinic https://themayhew.org in case I had no more offers. The Mayhew receptionist called me back. She was delightful but unable to help. They were full. She suggested contacting cat rescue centres. From these the message was consistent..closed or full. One asserted that the next-of-kin should take the cats. Easier said than done when the next of kin either live in already congested flats, have fur allergies or have rescue cats themselves.
Cats to be put to sleep
I could feel a chill spreading over me. The only other option would be a vet. They would have to be put down. They were 13 after all.
The idea of failing Edith so profoundly saw me crying again. Edith had loved these cats and they had provided her with purpose over her last years.
New homes offered at last
With a single cat calling for a home I had a little more success. I ended up with four offers of which two were chosen. The others agreed to be standby if the placements did not work. I thank them all.
One of the families was north of Watford, the other in the metropolis while the cats were in a home county.
The next challenge was logistics in a lockdown.
Essential travel in lockdown
Here we were with two cats liable to starve to death and be emotionally deprived if nothing was done. Or worse still Tammy might decide one bite of Jenny was not enough and who knows where that might end. But we were in lockdown. Nothing but essential travel allowed. Was this essential travel?
The plan was to save two living creatures. There had to be action. This must be essential travel.
World War 2 prisoner exchange
Edith’s cat loving (but full house) nephew and his wife agreed to help. A day which felt like something out of a World War 2 prisoner exchange movie began.
I drove to a car park on the County border. I parked in an empty area of the car park. A few moments later Edith’s nephew arrived. He parked 4 cars away from me. His wife got out with Tammy in her basket. Through teary eyes she walked forward and placed Tammy on the ground, then stepped back. I walked forward, picked Tammy up and put her in my car. A few words of reassurance were exchanged and a promise of photos of Tammy in her new home.
They set off with Jenny onto the motorway. Over an hour later they arrived at another car park. They waited a few moments for the new owner to arrive for Jenny who had fallen asleep in her basket. The ‘prisoner exchange’ process was repeated.
Greeting the new arrival
By this time Tammy had arrived with me at her new home. Tammy’s new owner was my daughter. The boys had won their call for a ‘catty’.
I was not allowed into the house as had been the case for weeks. All the boys were at the lunch table and had no idea what was about to happen. I stood by the open front door and listened.
As my daughter held up the basket so Tammy could see her new ‘siblings’ I heard Elliot shout, ‘ the catty you found him’ as if it was only a matter of his perfect Mum looking in the right place and the cat would be there, I smiled and left.
Happy old age ahead
Over the days to come photos of a very happy Jenny, cuddling up to her new ‘sister’, and a chilled ‘ Tammy were exchanged.
I was surprised to see Jenny so relaxed and engaged with her new 6 year old adoring carer. Getting Jenny out of her abusive relationship with her sister was one of the best results. She could live a happy old age.
A week later Elliot called. He wanted to tell me,
- ‘We’ve got a catty Nan’.
- ‘Have you Elliot, how lovely. Is your cat a boy or a girl?
- ‘He’s not a boy or a girl, he’s a catty Nanny, silly Nanny’.
Silly Nanny indeed, what has gender got to do with it!
- It can take a lot of effort to find a home for older cats and for a pair.
- Splitting up a pair of older cats can work but think about their relationship first
- A known friend is likely to be better than cat rescue
- Saying you are willing to rehome again if it does not work helps.