Before we knew it, 2 years had flown by since we lost our two 18 year old cats. They were, and still are in our hearts & minds, family. The temptation to get another one was huge, but there was a part of us that actually wanted to feel the loss. Well, wanted isn’t exactly correct, but it kind of is, too. Almost like grieving for them really proved how much they meant to us. So we didn’t (get another one) and we did (feel the loss rather keenly).
Then, as if by some ‘message from above’, my partner decided it was time to get some company. There was no real excuse why not, only a hundred reasons for. So we started looking online, some friends warned us about the pet trafficking business, someone else threw a list of incurable feline diseases at us, a decent vet to register with, micro-chipping, passport, top-notch food, travel bag… the list just appeared to go on - all before we’d even found a kitten! Not like 20 years ago, where getting the cat was the main event, then a check-up at the local vet - had never heard of pet insurance (nor half the bugs & conditions that seem to be rife these days!), didn’t know that a good number of pet foods are like feeding your cat McD’s every meal time (only because we really spoiled our last cats with the best food we could find)… Suddenly we weren’t able to be responsible for our soon-to-be new baby in our own way, we had very specific public guidelines to follow. Which didn’t really bother us too much as we’d pretty much done everything the same way 20 years ago, just not like the clockwork schedule a new pet owner is expected to follow today.
- we figured there are gazzillions of pet owners out there who have managed to sort all of the above without making too much of a drama out of it all, so so could we!
We found Timo on Gumtree. He was the last of a “surprise” litter from a stunning mother, sire unknown. We didn’t care, we weren’t looking for a pedigree. The young woman, who only asked for vet costs, had inherited a recently deceased family member’s cat, who turned out to be pregnant. Timo was 8 weeks old, full of energy and very curious. As if we thought we’d have the choice once we’d seen him(…) we ‘decided’ to take him. We got him home just after the new year 2020, obviously not knowing what was about to hit the world and therefore unaware of how truly lucky our timing was.
Consequently, Timo has had our company more intensely than any other animal we’ve ever had. If we go out for a walk we’ll find him sitting by the front door waiting for us to get back. Something the other 2 cats only did if they were hungry. And it’s the same when we wake up every morning, literally smothered in cuddles.
Consequently, when we had the chance to travel to our place in Italy between lockdowns, we had to include Timo in those plans. We also weren’t sure how long we were going to be away as most restrictions were still in place regarding working from home etc, so there was a chance we weren’t going to be away for the usual short-ish annual holiday. He had to come with! 3 days before we were due to fly out of Heathrow the government decided pet travel was no longer permitted. So either we didn’t go, or we found some other way to travel with our boy. I discovered that used cars in the UK are ridiculously cheap! In fact, we found an old BMW 1 series for less than Timo’s airfare and less than the car hire we had budgeted in for Italy. We literally saved ourselves thousands (and a lot of grief) by buying a car.
The next 3 days turned into a massive learning curve: car insurance for abroad, routes through Europe and what that might mean for road fees & taxes, which stickers needed to be displayed on the windscreen (even WHERE on the windscreen), shields for the headlights as we’d be driving a right-hand drive car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, required onboard devices (France requires that you carry a breathilyzer, for example), how long we were allowed to keep the car abroad for and where to get Timo checked in through Customs at the border… By the time we left we were shattered, and we had a 30 hour journey ahead of us. Fortunately, we were able to stop half way at a family member’s place without breaking quarantine as they were away.
We spent almost 3 months in Italy in 2020, which wouldn’t have been possible if COVID hadn’t slowed the planet down. Timo, according to our neighbours, became the prince of the quarter. And despite the (potentially horrible) idea of travelling a furry family member for so long, he seemed to handle it the best of all of us! We made sure his travel bag was elevated and strapped in between us at the back, so he could see in all directions. He was calm, we think, because he could see us all the time. We didn’t need to use the travel sickness pills we’d bought for him at all.
But 2020 would have been a completely different year for us if Timo had not come into our lives. We’ve learned so much about him and from him. He's good company, and his presence in the house means we're automatically not stuck inside our own heads dealing with whatever consequence COVID has caused. If you know someone who’s struggling with having to endure lockdown alone, a furry addition to the family might be their best bet. Or even looking into minding others' pets, if that looks to be a more suitable option. It's a really nice responsibility, and honour, to take on.