You first turned up (rather bedraggled) around 7 years ago.

You've changed my life. More than that, you're a special, special boy and I would be lost without you. 

This post is a little different and dedicated to my true love, my chunky cat Tom. Or as the vet calls him 'a great big lump of a cat'.

An Ode To Tom The Cat

We moved into our wonky cottage in December 2011, deep in rural Norfolk and never expected at the time to take in 1 stray cat, let alone a few years later another 2!

Tony originally was renting a flat in the Brecklands and I had been living at home with Mum and Dad after a rather messy (eat your weight in cake and max out your Amex to feel better) break-up. Tony and I had been together around 8 years and we decided to take the plunge and move in together. At the time I used to stay with him at weekends, well we were now ready to make a proper home together. 

To cut a long story much shorter we have lived together in our lovely home ever since. 

After picking up the keys and celebrating with a bottle of cheap plonk and a chip dinner served straight from the newspaper, we moved Tony's cat into our new home to become settled and start to enjoy her new surroundings, she had only ever been used to flat life and precariously balancing on the windowsill.

Now she had a 2 bedroom cottage to explore and eventually she would be allowed outside to the garden and wooded area with paddocks at the bottom of the garden. 

My brother Joe and sister-in-law, Rosie came round in January, a few weeks after we had moved in, to cook roast chicken and drink copious amounts of beer. While Rosie did most of the work (I am not a natural cook) and I was the sub-standard sous-chef, Tony and Joe both managed to drink the house dry of any left over beer we had. It was on this dreary January Sunday that we decided to push kitty through the cat flap so she could start to explore and enjoy outdoor life. She pottered down the garden towards the horses in the paddock and returned soon after through the cat flap. Mission accomplished.

6 months later and a new arrival turned up. A rather gaunt, but pretty tabby and white cat. He would sneak through the cat flap when he knew we were not around and eat the dregs of any left over cat food. A few mornings we would catch sight of this strange boy through the kitchen window and he would make a dash and clatter for the cat flap, completely petrified by the aliens who stood before him.

It took months to coax this lovely boy in. Our very first encounter happened on the lawn (in my dressing gown) next to our recycling bin, he eventually let me stroke his matted coat. 

Apprehensive at first, after that encounter we became inseparable (and still are).

An Ode to Tom

It was around September/October time when our new arrival moved in. I remember we were preparing for Halloween and picked up from the supermarket a pumpkin to carve for the very first time and a cardboard box for our boy. Just a temporary bed until we could buy something better and know that he would be staying for good.

We shipped him off to the vet for a check up and to be registered. We had to check he was not micro-chipped and we were not swiping someone's pet. With no microchip in sight, I could now be classed as his Mum (especially after we had formed such a bond). He was neutered, weighed, aged at around 18 months, wormed and given all the jabs. He quickly put on weight and was eating 2-3 nutritious meals a day. 

He had the best cat food my bank balance would allow to buy along with chicken and tuna. He was brushed daily and when he had been out on the prowl at night he came home with bloodied ears which I bathed for him with salt water and dowsed in Sudacream. The cardboard box and old bath towel, quickly turned to a basket and soft blanket with heating underneath to keep him toasty in the cold weather. 

He got on well with the original cat we had although she still gives him a quick tap now and then all these years later to keep him in line.

Scared of everything and anything, we often think he's gay. He's a real pretty boy, his coat is soft, shiny and his stripes and spots gleam in the sun. He rolls on his back, you rub his tummy and hold his lovely fat face in your hand with your face buried in his soft fur and he's happier than anything. 

Tom is the most wonderful friend, full of magic beans. If I've had a bad day he always puts a smile on my face and immediately a cuddle with him makes things seem better. He follows me up and down the garden and talks as though it's going out of fashion. 'Had a good day Tom?' meow, meow, you get the drift. 

Tom, Tom Tom, Tom Tom Biscuit (he was going to be called biscuit if he was a girl - at the time of taking him to the vet initially his big balls nor did his chunky fat face give the game away), Tommy Whiskers and Badger boy you are the sweetest most magical cat in all the land. Your gentle soft, nature could not be replaced and I thank every day that you turned up to become part of our family.

An Ode To Tom

Sunny

Just when we were settled with 2 lovely cats, a ginger and white tom appeared at the bottom of the garden under the conifer tree on a August rainy bank holiday weekend. I didn't dream of taking in another, however his sad eyes, battered ears and general demeanor soon appealed to my soft self. 

After breakfast feeding under the tree at the rear of the garden, Sunny (as we named him) made his way up to the house over a 2 week period. He spent a wet, rainy night in our log store (which was log-less) on a dry towel with a bowl of biscuits and another night sleeping in the garden shed - the night before the visit to the vets.

Tony and I already agreed we would take him to vet for the once over and we would take care of him. We asked around the village and no-one seemed interested or knew where he had come from. 

He was grubby, had a cloudy eye, injured ear and he looked like his paws had been sewn on the wrong way.  He was sad, wobbly and very, very old. It occurred to us he could have been dumped due to his age.

He had exactly the same treatment as Tom and more so. Sunny followed Tom everywhere and in some strange way it was as though Sunny was like a grand-father of this rather un-orthodox cat family. Him and Tom became quite good friends and used to sunbathe on the patio slabs at the back door together. 

He soon settled into life with us and enjoyed the amount of attention he was getting. He ate for England (2-3 pouches at a time) and within 1 week of him being with us his whole aura changed, he was brand new and he looked as though he was smiling. We also knew we would only have him a short time due to his age. He was a fiery fellow and had a palatial 18 month retirement with us. I missed him as soon as he was no longer with us, he was a real character. Tony was heartbroken.

Fast forward a couple of years and we have another new recruit...

Tilly

Tilly was originally called Rufus. She was taken in by work as a mouse catcher at around 8 weeks old. The plan for when she was older was to control the rodent population on the farm in exchange for a meal a day and warm, safe place to sleep in the barn. 

I remember her very first litter tray was a disposal bacofoil turkey roasting tin. She lived in the bottom office when she was very young and eventually made it up to the main office where she got plenty of fuss and cuddles from the office girls.  

When she was 4 months old she accidentally was let out into the farm yard, she crawled into Tony's car engine where she must have felt safe and warm.

When Tony left work mid-afternoon, he turned the ignition on and there was an almighty commotion, at this point we realised where she had been hiding all day. I shipped her off to the vets wrapped in an old scarf, nestled in a box with air holes cut in the top. 

The vets thought she may have broken her pelvis, we arranged the necessary x-rays to see if there was a chance of recovery and kept our fingers crossed. She stayed at the vets for around 4 days and they discovered she only had soft tissue damage, a damaged tooth and bruised jaw. She would be ok.

Tilly never returned to work, she came home to live with us and to recuperate at the cottage. She has genuinely been repaying us with her kind nature and affection ever since.

She adores Tom jumping on his head, eating tuna and chasing wooden pegs (Peggy) around the lounge. Due to lock-down, she hasn't been neutered yet, so we bought a harness and we take her out several times during the day. I keep telling her she hasn't got long to wait and as soon as her appointment is arranged (she's on the wait-list) she will be allowed to roam wherever she wishes.

Since writing this post, Tilly has now had her op (just over a week ago now), she is currently propelling herself around the garden like a rocket (after a weeks rest) in her bright red jumper (from the vets to protect the wound). 

She's turning into a very sweet girl and loves snuggling on the sofa in the evenings chirping like a bird as she makes puddings.

Our cats are an important part of daily life and give more joy and love than I could ever wish for. After reading about our unconventional cat family, I would love to know about the special animals in your life.  Please do drop a comment below.