A few months ago, I was sitting in our conservatory writing, when I saw a new black cat in our garden. We have a black cat, (a rescue named Buffy), and at first, I thought it was her. Then Buffy strolled in through the cat flap, and I realised it wasn’t.
Looking a bit more closely, this new black cat looked a little the worse for wear, and although he had a very round face and didn’t seem to be particularly thin, his (her?) fur looked mangy, and there seemed to be a sort of scar on his left side. ‘He’ (we will call him a ‘he’), was still loitering in our garden when Andy came home, and my husband promptly christened him ‘Fatface’, which may or may not have been a little uncharitable. Fatface had, by now, found some left over cat food that I had put out at the top of the garden for hedgehogs, and was eating it as if it was his first meal for days. Within a few minutes, he and the food were gone.
Over the next few days, I watched Fatface as he would creep into our garden and look around hopefully for any scraps. He seemed to be a highly nervous cat, and I never managed to get nearer to him then 20 feet or so. My heart went out to him and I worried about him looking so hungry, so I started putting food out regularly, so that if he popped into our garden, he would always have snack waiting. The food would always be gone at the end of each day, but as Andy reminded me, it could have been other cats, or even Mr Fox who also occasionally graces our garden.
Weeks went by and I hoped that Fatface would become a little more trusting, I was feeding him daily after all, and let me get closer to him. Occasionally he would turn up when there was no food down, and I would scurry into the house to fetch some, and then try and approach him. He would run, stop, and then turn and look back. I would take a few more steps towards him, and he would run a bit further. I would then put the plate down and retreat to watch him from a safe distance. He would watch me carefully for at least 5 minutes before feeling safe enough to approach the food.
My cats (all three of them) watched these assignations from the conservatory or other parts of the garden, with something close to bored detachment. If Fatface was stealing their Felix and Whiskas, they didn’t look in the least perturbed, and there certainly didn’t seem to be any resolution on their part to drive this newcomer out of their territory.
What is it about rescue animals that tugs on our heart strings so mightily? I can’t bear the thought of animals being neglected, hungry or hurt, and I’ve told Andy a million times that I am just one small lottery win away from starting an injured animal sanctuary. Hedgehogs, horses, cats, dogs and alpacas, I would have the lot! Andy is not keen for some reason, so for the moment, it is just us and our three cats, Lili, Buffy and Dennis, who are technically all rescues. Dennis and Lili were gifted to me by a lovely neighbour when she emigrated, and Buffy was a stray we took in. They have such a wonderful life with us, much better than a lot of children worldwide I suspect, and certainly better than the millions of homeless cats that roam our streets.
According to Cats Protection, the UK’s largest feline welfare charity, there are over 9 million stray cats in the UK, and over 1.5 million feral cats. Last year, the charity launched the first ever ‘cat census’ and encouraged the public to report stray cats so that efforts could be made to keep them ‘safe and warm’, and vet treatment could be allocated where needed.
Cat Protection are also at the forefront of the ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’ policy, advocating visiting your local rescue centre, and giving a home to a homeless cat, (or dog, hamster, horse, rabbit etc) rather than buying from a breeder, and I would strongly urge you to consider a rescue animal if you are in the market for a new pet.
By taking in a rescue animal, you are doing a truly marvellous thing – offering to completely change the life of an animal. Effectively, giving them a second chance. It is a myth that rescue animals are often solitary and bad tempered, but some have had a horrible history, and have been abused, abandoned or left to fend for themselves on the streets. This often makes them more loving than shop bought animals!
By taking in a rescue, rather than buying from a breeder, you are caring for an animal that already needs support, instead of bringing another into the world. There are literally hundreds of organisations in the UK trying to rehome unwanted animals, so there will definitely be one near you. The only difficult part will be trying to choose your pet! There are so many desperate for love and affection. They will have been medically checked, sterilised and vaccinated, and you are doing further good by supporting the local shelter who are trying to rehome and care for animals, whilst relying solely on charitable donations.
For example, Blue Cross, a registered animal welfare charity in the UK have a re-homing centre in Hampshire near me. Their tag line is “Pets change lives. We change theirs.” They rehome cats, dogs, horses, gerbils, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and chinchillas, and they provide support for owners who cannot afford vets, as well as providing education in the responsibilities of animal ownership. If you do not have a Blue Cross near you, look online for your nearest shelter.
I still haven’t made much headway with Fatface, though I continue to feed him/her. My long term plan is to gain his trust long enough to take him to a vet. Firstly, to check his overall health, but also to see if he has a chip so we know who he belongs to. If he doesn’t have an owner, maybe Fatface could become part of our family…. Shhhhhh… just don’t tell Andy ❤️
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