Cathy Stanworth: Joy and benefit of having a pet

An incredibly loud “woof” resounded around the huge high ceilinged premises of Pets At Home. This was followed by another and another...I think we were treated to over ten!


Peeping round from the other side of the sales counter, where I was waiting my turn in the queue, I smiled to see an absolutely huge St Bernard dog. There with his owners at the other till, he was obviously having the time of his life, after discovering just how loud his bark could carry in the cavernous store.

He was beautiful, and so large I felt he could easily carry three small toddlers on his back, while still having the strength to carry a brandy barrel round his neck before charging off to help resuscitate some poor skier trapped on some snow covered slopes.

I noticed that, unlike some supermarket shopping queues I have been in, no one was scowling at the noise or the waiting time, or huffing and puffing at the customer in front, fussing at the till. The people – pet owners of course – were being patient, while also enjoying the “woofs”. Now that made a nice change.

And I can happily report that I once again stand amongst their ranks.

After a very sad year, in which depression and panic attacks needed to be fended off, I had decided to fight back and get a cat. You may say that’s no big deal, but it was for me.

Four years ago myself and my small family of two sons had lost our 19-year-old cat, Itchy, following a stroke. It was another terrible time, and I had sworn to never get another feline friend, as none other could ever match up to her.

I had bought her from a pet shop, in the days when it was allowed. A rare female ginger, she didn’t like being picked up and wouldn’t go on your lap. I wondered if she had been mistreated by her breeder.

However she would follow me round the garden and wake me up in the morning by very gently putting her paws on my closed eyelids.

We moved house five times. Each time I would walk her round the garden in a small dog collar and lead to acclimatize. She always loved a bbq – weaving round the legs of friends and relatives. That’s as sociable as she got.

Many of us know that there are many benefits to giving a pet a home. For example, for those suffering from depression, just by stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet, can give them a chance to relax and calm their minds.

Caring for a pet also gives your day purpose and reward. They fend off the seemingly ever-increasing problem of loneliness in our world. People with Alzheimers, autism and ADHD are thought to have fewer anxious outbursts by having access to a pet, and some have even been known to have saved their owners’ lives, through their actions.

So, back to our purrfect new friend. After investigating the options open to me I contacted Cats Protection Telford via their website, indicating that I was interested in one of their advertised “adoptees”.

My first choice of new friend turned out to already had somebody interested in adopting her. Did I want to have them come and do a home visit, and take it from there, getting access to other adoptees, if all was ok? We passed with flying colours. Phew!

The co-ordinator then told me how two more cats were being advertised online. I asked about Smiggles. Her foster carer Linda then rang me and we organised a trip to visit her in foster care. My eldest son went with me.

I was nervous. I needn’t have been. Smiggles was being beautifully cared for in a safe, purpose-built three-sectioned, heated pen. She was staring out of the window of it as we walked across the garden towards her. She was so friendly and gentle. I had bought her a toy to play with, which she loved.

Then Smiggles and I touched noses. That was it, I was in love. We were told her sad history and how it was felt best that she be the only pet in the home.

After Smiggles’ next jab at the vets Linda would call me to tell us when we could collect her. We then had to tear ourselves away while planning our trip to Pets At Home.

Then getting a call from Linda, she sounded distraught, as the vet’s appointment had had to be postponed for a few days. “She keeps looking at me when I’m in the kitchen,” said Linda.

I imagined Smiggles doing the animated Puss In Boots’ desperately cute big eyes look – ‘Please take me into your home Linda, please take me inside’.

“I have just spent £150 in Pets At Home Linda,” I said, hoping to reassure this wonderful lady that Smiggles was going to a good home. We agreed a time to pick Smiggles up as soon as possible after the vets.

Paperwork had to be filled in. A donation was given. We were then on our way home, with Smiggles safely inside her smart new cat carrier.

Our new family member settled in nicely. All was well. She has to be kept inside for a number of weeks. Signs are up at the inside of doors that must be kept shut to her for now. Warnings of not leaving windows open were relayed.

Then disaster. My boys were picked up by friends. I went upstairs to check on my new friend. She was gone.

My one son had left his bedroom door and window open. She must have jumped out and skied down the conservatory roof into the garden. It was black as night, with heavy rain pouring down.

On going outside and calling her, she was nowhere to be found! I was utterly heartbroken – for the third time this year. Then I put on the main conservatory light and she came to its door, meowing to come in. “Oh thank God,” I think, drying her with a towel.

I feel so much better now. Thank you Smiggles.

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