Running a boarding cattery from home has meant that over the years several un-neutered male cats have been enticed into the garden by the smells of food & the occasional girl. Most have been feral or semi-feral, all those that decided to hang around were dually trapped, neutered & released. A couple became friendly & were found new loving homes, after all that what you do when you volunteer for an animal rescue group.
Prior to Peter, there had been Hamish; I thought I had found him a great home, until a day after his adoption when his new family had let him slip past them through the front door, never to be seen again. Night after night I walked the streets trying to find him, setting the trap, hours spent sitting in a cold car, waiting. In the end the family asked me to stop hanging around, they thought I was doing it to try to make them feel bad, “after all“ they said, “it’s only a cat” ....
It must have been 2004 when I first noticed Peter popping over the garden fence. A few times I found tufts of fur on the lawn where he had gotten into scraps with another visiting cat. So out came the trap & off to the vets he went to have his pockets emptied!
After he was sufficiently recovered I let him go, he was semi-feral at the time & glad to get away, so it was a few days before I became aware of a pair of beautiful feline eyes watching me. A little food, a kind word & a few months later & Peter became a regular feature around the place. He was named after a friend of mine who’s birthday it happened to be the day he was trapped & neutered. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to why I chose the name!!
In less than a year Peter had become the cattery mascot, he loved the customers & would escort them on & off the premises. He would trot ahead of them down the path as if to lead the way & would always wait for a fuss at the destination. If he happened to not be around when regular’s visited I was always asked “where’s Peter?”
One dreadful morning I came down to find him hauled up in his kennel obviously sick or injured, he was in a lot of pain & would not come out so I had to try oh so carefully, to lift him out. He cried & struggled but never lashed out. Once at the vets we could see that he had been clipped by a car. His mouth was ripped inside so that the inside of his lip was torn from the gum, his lower jaw was fractured as was his pelvis. The vet said we would know in the next 24 hours if he had sustained any life threatening internal injuries. Of course he did survive & he spent the next 2 months in a crate in my conservatory, Doctors orders.
At the time I had several pedigree cats & I occasionally bred from the girls. All my cats were indoor pets & so to keep Peter in the house when he was used to going outside was not an option. It would have posed a risk of infection & possible disease for my girls & their babies. So when Peter was well enough he enthusiastically returned to his life as cattery escort, with one noticeable difference; Every night when I went down to the cattery to tuck everyone in bed, I would call Peter with the promise of super. I could usually hear the neighbouring fence panels rattle as he came bounding over them, arriving seconds later so I could snuggle him down in the empty isolation pen. He loved it, it was heated & cosy & he would stay there until the next morning, safe & sound. After a lazy breakfast he would trot off to the “bathroom” then come & go as he pleased for the rest of the day.
It was May bank holiday weekend 2007. I was late going down to the cattery that night & I always blamed myself for that. I called Peter & waited. No rattling of panels, no sign of him. I called some more, I went out the front & called again. Eventually I went to bed with a sick feeling in my tummy hoping my gut was wrong.
The next day was the first of many spent searching for my boy. Adverts, posters, flyers, days & nights spent combing the area & praying, endless praying.
Eventually I had to stop, my health was beginning to be deteriorate & I had others I needed to be strong for. It broke my heart that he was gone but what else could I do. I imagined all sorts of things most of them bad, really bad, but on good days I imagined that perhaps a visitor to the cattery had taken a shine to him & knowing I would not part with him after my previous experiences with Hamish, they had catnapped him for themselves.
Months eventually turned into years but he was never far from my thoughts, I often spoke of him, to anyone who was going through something similar I would say that I understood how they felt, that it was the not knowing that was so crippling.
My favourite story about Peter always made people laugh. It begins with the fact that he was a great mouser, thankfully never birds though. Often he would bring “gifts” & leave them by the cattery office. I would thank him & then give them a decent burial. One evening he sat in front of the office with his gift waiting for me. I thanked him but explained that he could not take credit for catching this particular mouse. “I most certainly did catch the mouse mummy” he replied.
“No Peter, you didn’t” I maintained.Peters puzzled face demanded an explanation as to why I didn’t believe him.“Peter you did not catch the mouse, my darling. I know this because it is still attached to the mouse trap!..”Oh well, you can’t blame a boy for trying
.Fast forward if you will 8 years & 9 months later. I am out driving in the car when I miss a call from my vets. I stop the car & return the call knowing they only call if it’s important. “Beverley“, they ask “have you lost a cat?” Because I microchip rescued cats all the time & I put my home number down as an emergency backup I had to stop for a moment & think. “No, I don’t think so” I said “why who do you have?”
“Peter“, came the reply. “Peter!?!” I exclaimed “NO!!”
Yes Beverley, how long has he been missing?” they asked “9 years” sob “Almost 9 years”
The reunion was odd, it was him, of course I knew it was him, micro-chips never lie but I would never have recognised him unless I had been told. I didn’t speak right away, I just leaned into the kennel & put my face on him. He stopped for a moment & looked at me, he sniffed my hair& nuzzled me. “where have you been baby boy?” I asked. His reply came in the form of head bumps, licks & nibbles. I thought it was because he remembered me but the vets nurses said he was like that with everyone, but he must remember me, right??
Who knows but he’s back now & this time he’s going no where.
So what had happened to him? It turns out that he had spent at least the last 6 years, if not the whole of his absence, a mile down the road at Brooke Street Industrial estate. It is situated directly in a straight line from my front door. He had been fed for the past two years by several of the unit holders, & one lady in particular called Claire, had noticed that he looked unwell so she took him to the vets to have his cat flue treated & that’s when the vet, my vet, scanned him for a chip.
Claire said that he was nervous & spitty when she first started to feed him which suggested he had not been around people for a while. Why?
Well the horrific truth lies in the fact that Peter has lost his tail. Not a neat little stump that most vets leave behind when they amputate a tail but a complete absence of anything where his tail should be. If he lost his tail the night he disappeared, that would explain why he ran; the shock & adrenaline rush after another road traffic accident would have spurred him on until the pain set in.
I can’t begin to imagine what he would have gone through in the days & weeks that followed. If this is what happened to him then it was a miracle he survived, perhaps my prayers helped, who knows.
It would also explain why he never tried to get back, he would have been too afraid, ill or confused to even try.
I have been contacted by the good people of Brooke Street Industrial Estate, they love him too & are visiting him in turn with gift of food & toys etc. It turns out they have “Peter stories” too, he has quite a following there, but knowing him as I do that comes as no surprise. I owe them all a big thank you for helping my boy keep body & soul together.
Poor, poor Peter, he is old & frail now, as you will see from his photos, the before & after are so very different. But at least I have been able to have “after” photos & there will be many more photos of him in the future. Once he is well enough he will come into the house like he should have done 10 years ago, this time he will stay here. I am hoping that age has calmed his roaming spirit & that he will settle in his retirement. If not then I will just have to move to the country & find a safe place for him to potter in....
Here is a little video, by way of an update on Peters progress, hope you enjoy seeing the man himself