Forget puppy love - find a feline friend

I AM finding it very hard to write this article. It should be easy, even on a sunny day like today and the house quiet as a church.

But I am completely distracted and can’t concentrate.

All because of a little puff of fluff that is currently asleep in a neat little ball in the corner of my sofa in the living room.

Yes, we have a new kitten. And we have all fallen in love and are wasting hours just gazing into his gorgeous green eyes or just savouring the feeling of having him sit on your chest, purring away like a little tractor. What is it about that fuzzy feeling that gazing at babies or kittens engenders?

Even himself comes in the door in the evening enquiring “where’s the little fella?” His name is Diego and he is three months old (the kitten that is, not himself!).

These days are the perfect antidote to the black day back in May when we discovered that our little Kitty (little because she was the youngest of our normal retinue of four cats) was suddenly and very seriously ill. She had been a little off colour the previous evening and in the morning she seemed to be having problems coming down the stairs. I wondered if she had hurt her back legs jumping and took her to the vet. But Kitty has something far more serious, in the form of a huge inoperable tumour.

Her deterioration that day was spectacular and very disturbing to watch. In the late afternoon we had a family meeting and made the difficult decision to take her back to the vet.

It was the first time I had held the paw of an animal I loved very much as she slipped out of pain and on to cat heaven. We cried rivers of tears in our house that night. But through the very real grief, I told my girls that there would be another day in the not too distant future when we would be ready to offer another little kitty a safe and comfortable home; a bright, sunny, funny day to balance the black sadness of losing our Kitty.

I know many people who have lost much-loved precious cats and who vow never to get another, as they cannot face the heartbreak.

But if your cat could speak to you from the other side she might just suggest that you offer the warm, loving, safe place she had to another abandoned, lost kitten or cat in need of a home.

I have always lived with cats; to me they are part of my family, part of the household. There is a saying “I have lived with many Zen Masters — all of them cats” which goes a long way towards summing up how I feel about my feline friends. They lend the whole house an air of languid uselessness in a way that no scented candle or soft music can.

Often I explode in the front door, laden down with bags, harassed and mithered, only to be met by the sight of Fat Cat stretched out on the hall chair, catching the sunlight. He opens just one eye to acknowledge my presence. Above his head is a giant thought bubble which says “what’s the fuss? You should chill woman,” in a voice reminiscent of the old Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny.

Then he drifts off back to cat dreamland and I arrive into the kitchen wondering which of us represents the more evolved species.

According to Clare Meade, vet at the Cat Hospital in Glanmire, Cork, cats are the most popular pet in the world and the relationship between humans and felines may go back 50,000 years. “Many people don’t really make the decision to get a cat. In lots of cases a cat just wanders into people’s lives,” says Meade.

“This means that valuable healthcare can be overlooked in the first instance,” she adds. A new cat or kitten should be vet-checked immediately so that vaccinations, de-worming, de-fleaing and neutering can be sorted out.

Summertime is ‘kitten season’ when veterinary clinics all over Ireland find themselves operating as mini dating agencies, matching up kittens to potential new families.

“Neuter, neuter, neuter” is Clare’s message. “A stitch in time saves lots of unwanted kittens,” she says.

Cats are not for those precious about their home and furnishings. Although they are clean, they do like to sharpen claws on sofas and chairs and they do shed hair. But on the positive side, with a cat flap they require very little maintenance beyond fresh food and water.

But cats, unlike dogs, whose love can easily be bought, are aloof and independent. So when they decide they like you, it is the most precious and wonderful gift.


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