Sunday, 7 February 2010


This isn't an easy piece to write, partly because this particular story isn't finished yet, and partly because I think we may have made a big mistake.

Several weeks ago a lady called Lilian got in touch with Animal Krackers about taking on a cat. She sounded a little bit odd so Andrea and Susan did some digging to find out more about her. It turns out she's a special needs case. In less politically correct times she would have been called slow. She lives in a flat in Silksworth, a decent enough if somewhat deprived area of Sunderland, supported by a carer who visits regularly and attends a day care centre at Fulwell (a posh part of Sunderland). I've no idea how old she is -she could be around 60 or much younger (mid-40's). Andrea and Susan talked to people involved in her case and concluded that she wouldn't be able to look after a cat.

If that was the end of the story then I wouldn't be writing this. Lilian wouldn't take no for an answer and regularly phoned the shop about having a cat. Eventually, Susan began to reconsider, though Andrea remained opposed, and this is where my involvement started. I hadn't met the woman and had no opinion either way. As Susan and I have spent our working lives helping people so, as I thought about it, I tended to go along with the idea on a trial basis. Get her a mature calm friendly adaptable cat (bit like our laid-back Ted) and see how it goes.

Then, mid-way through last week, I was told about a couple who wanted their cat rehomed because it had caused their daughter to have eczema and their baby had started coughing. For the last six weeks they'd been keeping the cat outside. I spoke to them on the phone and they described it as very affectionate, seven years old, female and neutered. Sounded pretty good. Susan agreed. Now as I was taking one of Carol's cats to the vets to have its stitches out, I thought I'd get this new cat microchipped at the same time with Animal Krackers as the owner just in case it got out and got lost.

I went and picked it up, literally. Molly was a small mostly black cat who purred and didn't struggle as I held her. she was fine at the vets too, apart from being very reluctant to come out of the cat carrier and hindsight tells me this latter was very significant. Anyway, I had a pile of stuff -food (dried, tinned, sachets), cat litter, and litter box. I'd also written a very basic guide to caring for a cat (see Appendix), though, now, I'm not even sure if Lilian can read. Time to take Molly to her new home.

It wasn't as bad as I'd expected. The front door was at the side of the house and you had to open a high gate to get through; there was a field at the back. Molly herself looked a bit like a sack with human features -yes, I know I'm being uncharitable. Her manner was in keeping with her appearance, calm to the point of docility, quiet, monosyllabic. I talked about what she should do, emphasising that when she left the house, the cat must always be shut in a room before she opened the front door. I put down food, water and cat litter and then I got Molly out of her carrier.

While I held her she was fine and Lilian hestitantly stroked her saying how lovely she was. Then I put Molly down and she shot behind the settee. I got her and showed her the food and litter in the kitchen. Now in the kitchen Lilian had a washing machine that was too big for the slot so it was pulled out. Molly immediately disappeared behind it. I shrugged and told Lilian that she'd come out in a little while and left them to it.

As I arrived home about an hour later, after a detour to do some shopping at Asda, the phone was ringing. Lilian and the cat still hadn't come out. I told her to be patient and give it time. Half an hour later she rang again. And again and again and again. And when she wasn't ringing me she was ringing the shop.

By teatime the cat still hadn't emerged so Susan and I went up to look for it. We checked everywhere, under everything, inside everything, behind everything, on top of everything. No Molly. Susan asked Lilian if she'd gone out at all that afternoon and left an inside door open. She had.

That was it. The cat had got out. Full of self-recrimination and with the car full of the cat stuff I'd brought the day before, we left. I was furious with Lilian and sickened with myself. That couple (a lovely couple as it turned out) had put their trust in me to find their much-loved cat a good home and it had got lost within hours. Susan was mad at herself for relenting in the first place. We can't be social workers and animal rescuers, we told each other. The animals must come first and we ever have doubts about  the suitability of a person to adopt an animal then we shouldn't let it go.

I rang Carol who said she'd ring round to see if she could get a cat trap. She reckoned that if it had got out -she was far from sure that was the case- then it would go to ground somewhere near. A little later, Phil rang me about the van and I told him the story. He had a trap, came and picked me up and we went to Lilian's where he set it up just outside her front door.

Hell of a day.

Around eight next morning Phil rang again to say that he was at Lilian's where he'd gone to check the trap and saw the cat sitting on the windowsill inside the flat, though it disappeared as he approached. I got there an hour later with all the cat stuff I'd removed yesterday and Phil showed me where the cat had been hiding. One place I'd never have guessed. In the space behind the washing machine was a small hole that was just big enough for Molly to get through and hole up underneath the kitchen units -almost impossible to see and impossible to get at. The other place was under a tv unit, a heavy large wooden thing with only a small gap at the front. And yesterday, both Susan I had assumed it was like that at the back. I looked and there was Molly. Yes, I did feel like an idiot.  Poor Lilian had done nothing wrong.

Off home we went and it wasn't long before Lilian was on the phone telling me Molly had disappeared behind the washer again. And we got these phone calls all day. Susan and I decided that the cat was obviously too timid and nervous and would be better off in a cage at Carol's while we got Lilian an older calmer cat. I had two in mind but when I rang Carol this morning was awaiting collection and the other, which had just had an operation needed careful watching. Susan and I went up this teatime but Molly was firmly ensconced under the kitchen units so I decided to borrow Phil's trap and take it up tomorrow evening.

That's the story so far. Expect at least one update.


Food, drink, cat litter.
Half of one large tin twice a day. Or 2 or 3 packets.
A dish of dried food and change it every day.
Always have a bowl of fresh water down and change it at least once a day.  DON’T give her milk.
Change the cat litter every time it’s been used.
Wash all cat dishes every day.
Any problems at all, phone Ian on (number deleted)

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