Often I have wondered what life might be like had I not been brought up with animals. Being an only child (note: I have two wonderful brothers who live and work in Australia, but I was brought up on my own), pets have played a huge part in my little family throughout my childhood. 5 years before I came along my parents brought home a rescue dog, a mix between a Golden Retriever and a Labrador, and they couldn’t have chosen a more well-natured, funny, gentle giant than Barney. So naturally when I came along, they had no worries of Barney ever becoming viscous or dangerous with a baby in the house. As far as I can remember, Barney was always incredibly patient, sitting at the bottom of the slide in the back garden and just waiting for me to send down one dog biscuit at a time for him to eat. As a child, I loved nothing more than to cuddle my giant dog who I seemed to think was there solely for my entertainment.
Things got even more exciting for me when, at the age of 6, I got my wish of a cat for Christmas. I was delighted, and chose the very original name of Purr for the newest member of our family (obviously due to her constant purring – I was really thinking outside the box when it came to naming her…). It wasn’t until secondary school that I actually became aware enough to realise that many other children my age weren’t as fortunate as I was in terms of growing up with animals. I’m sure she won’t mind me saying, but my best pal Roop was one of the first incidents when I realised people actually feared animals. I used to walk home with her through a park every day, and I have a very distinct memory of her running away from a chihuahua screaming “Kate! That’s not a dog, that’s a bulldozer!”, and I’ll not even start on how long it took for her to actually go near my cat when she came to my house.
Fast forward to April 2016, and I have moved out of my childhood home to study Musical Theatre in Epsom for the year, leaving my mum to look after Purr. I was home for the Easter Holidays when Purr went out one night and didn’t come home for a week. When she did eventually return, she was looking sleek, well looked after and had put a fair bit of weight on, which we did not expect at all considering we thought she’d been injured and couldn’t get home. After a very stressful week of ringing up all the local vets and chip companies, we were relieved to have our cat back and went back to our usual routine of caring for her. On the last Sunday of the holidays I said goodbye to my parents and the cat, and set off back to Epsom to start my training again. A few days later I got a phone call from my mum to tell me that Purr hadn’t been home since I left.
Obviously as time went on and the cat didn’t come home, my mum and I were completely distraught that she was gone and still continued looking for her, but considering the unusual events of her previous disappearance we came to terms with the idea that she was being looked after by another family. It is now July, and 3 months have gone by since Purr left and didn’t come back. Rewind to 4 days ago and I’m driving home midday with my mum. Completely out of the blue when we turned onto our road, who should run out in front of the car but our little black cat. In shock, we sat in silence for a few seconds until I jumped out of the car and ran after the cat, picked her up, and jumped back in crying my eyes out at the thought that after 3 months of being missing Purr was back. Once she was back home, it didn’t take long for us to realise something wasn’t right. She was completely skin and bone, wouldn’t eat or drink a thing and couldn’t remember her name despite the fact that she remembered a lot of things about us and the house itself. To cut an already long story short, we got her to the vet (where she had such a bad panic attack her heart started failing) and a couple of days later found out that she is so unwell due to a Thyroid problem that is severely effecting her liver. Easily treatable, Purr is now home again happy and on the road to recovery.
Having the cat back and being able to finally relax has helped me to reflect on not only the events of the past few months, but also on my entire life growing up with pets. It wasn’t until she was home again that I realised how deeply upset I was that Purr was gone in the first place. It may sound ridiculous to some, but having her around as my companion as an only child was very important to me. From the first time I stayed at home alone and held on to her for 3 hours for comfort, to playing games with her and making her toys out of wool and string. Unlike the usual nature of cats, Purr is extremely loyal and I’m so glad to have her home back where she belongs.
I realise now how truly lucky I am to have had such good childhood companions in Purr and Barney – it has given me so much more of a deeper appreciation and understanding of the importance of animals including not only as recreational pets, but also service dogs and other uses of animals (for example cat rooms used to relax stressed patients). Nursing Purr back to health will not be easy or simple, but animals are more than worth the effort and care that their owners put into them and seeing her healthy, happy and playing again will be reward enough in itself.