Just before lockdown started, fate threw Nori, a one year old Ragdoll with brilliant blue eyes and myself, a cat sitter with a dwindling clientele, together. Her owner had managed to get a last minute flight out of the country and was spending lockdown with her parents. Nori was booked to stay with me for two months and settled in quickly, mastering the cat flap that leads to the protected balcony in minutes. We fast became friends, her loyalty contagious. It wasn’t long before she was following me everywhere, fixing me with her eyes, preempting and often arriving at my destination before me.
She was oblivious to the changes in the outside world and her relaxed and floppy nature that saw her rolling off the sofa and sleeping with her limbs splayed in every direction, meant I relaxed too.
Every Thursday at 8pm, Nori sat on top of her perch on the balcony and watched fascinated as myself and my neighbours banged saucepan’s and clapped for NHS staff and carers.
In the evenings, when not on the balcony, Nori and I play fetch. She follows as I throw her toy mouse through the air, bats it about a bit before collecting it in her teeth and dropping it at my feet.
As Nori’s two month booking draws to an end I begin to dread her departure unsure how I will cope without the presence of a feline in my life. My job means that I often meet and care for fifteen to twenty cats a day but lockdown has brought this to an abrupt end. I secretly hope I will be asked to keep her for an extra month but word comes that she will be leaving on the agreed date and I steel myself for her departure.
Then fate intervenes again. The night before Nori is due to be collected I receive a call from a long standing customer. Her, her husband and their two cats, Scampy and Ginger have been planning to return to Florida for their retirement. This plan was halted by lockdown and now with restrictions starting to lift they can finally book their flights.
After a lifetime of leisure, Scampy and Ginger are horrified when their owners begin packing up their life and hurriedly call the decorators in, in a bid to sell their home. Conscious that their cats are unhappy and with perfect timing they asked if I could take them for a week as soon as I have a space.
On a sunny Sunday I say goodby to Nori and wiping away a tear, I immediately busy myself preparing for our new guests.
I hear them before they arrive. Scampy’s loud wail of a meow cuts through the silenced streets. Due to lockdown restrictions they must be handed over on my door step and once inside Ginger immediately slinks out of his basket, his back is low and his tail is down as he searches for a dark corner to disappear into. He finds it in the cupboard that houses the litter tray. Scampy is slower to emerge allowing me a quick stroke before following his brother into the darkness.
It is a few hours before I see Scampy again. He is cautious but curious, sniffing and climbing, whilst staring at me with his big eyes. He comes out every ten minutes or so to check his new surroundings and is soon allowing me to rub his cheeks. Before evening sets in, Scampy is tucked comfortably into my lap. Unsurprisingly there is no sign of Ginger, a timid cat, but I am sure he will appear as night falls. It is 11pm before Ginger quietly steps out of the shadows and starts to explore. I am happy that he is making progress and I soon retreat to my bed.
The next few days continue in the same vein. Scampy wails for breakfast and company in the morning, curling up on my lap after he has eaten. Ginger still only comes out after dark but this now happens earlier. Occasionally he will stretch his legs during the day but this is unusual.
By the third day Ginger is letting me stroke him and by the fifth day we all hang out on the sofa together, me watching TV and the boys watching the world outside the window.
Too soon it is time for them to go and they allow me to lift them into their carriers without a struggle.
There next stop is Florida and although I know they wont enjoy the journey there owners contact me a couple of days later to say they they have arrived and are all together in Florida.
Meanwhile I am alone in my home for the first time in months. But I have a new customer, Louis another blue eyed Ragdoll, that I will be meeting tomorrow.
I will tell you all about him next time.