By "Doreen" (Chelmsford Cats Protection Supporter), 1997

I promised I would tell you of an incident concerning my cat Mandy. I think that you will find it funny, and a bit sad, but perhaps not as surprising as my husband and I found it as you may have come across something similar before.

One Thursday lunchtime, Mandy cam hobbling up the garden with a nasty injury to her back leg. Husband Don and I were very concerned, especially as our vet just around the corner doesn't hold a surgery on Thursdays. We have no car and we were frantically looking up vets in the phone book. Imagine how we felt when we realised that Mandy had disappeared. We hunted everywhere in the house and garden, then widening our search to the whole area round about, desperately calling her name. We hoped that she would put in an appearance at bedtime, but there was, alas, no sign of her then, nor the next morning.

We knew that her injured leg needed treatment and you can imagine how worried and miserable we both were. I telephoned our vet, but Mandy hadn't been taken there. I phoned [local missing cat helpline] and gave them her description and a very kind lady told me where I could obtain a hundred "Missing Cat" leaflets to distribute. I walked to the address given - one and a half miles away - and got the leaflets and spent most of the Friday filling in all the details on them. There was still no sign of Mandy, though we had another search. On Saturday morning, not feeling at all hopeful, my sister and I put the leaflets through all the doors in the immediate neighbourhood.

When I got back home, Don told me that he'd already had a phone call, but that he couldn't make sense of it. He had taken the number for me to call them back. I did this at once. A pleasant young woman answered.

She said, "I think I have found your cat, but her name is 'Fluffy'"

So I replied, "Well then it isn't our cat, for she is called Mandy."

The young woman replied, "I am sure it is the same cat. She is exactly as you have described her - all black, long-haired, flat ears that stick out sideways and an injury to the left hind leg."

So I said, "Well it certainly sounds like our Mandy. What makes you say her name is Fluffy?"

To my utter astonishment she replied, "Because she belongs to my friend Kim and that's where I took her when I found her."

This was ridiculous. We'd had Mandy for 4 years and she was hardly ever away from home more than an hour at a time. She slept in our home every night, ate regular meals, played in our garden etc. How could she be somebody else's cat as well?

Feeling totally confused, I asked, "Well, where is Fluffy now?"

I was horrified to be told that our dear Mandy was in a cage in her friend Kim's house. I asked for her address, but the young woman said she would get Kim to phone me. I've never known such a long day as we waited for that phone call which finally came at 7.30 pm. Kim turned out to be a very nice young woman who was able to solve all the mystery. They'd had Fluffy as a kitten 8 years ago, when their daughter Abby was born. Then 4 years later they'd got another cat. Fluffy didn't approve of this and walked out. They were so upset, especially 4 year old Abby. Then to their delight, Fluffy came back, but she didn't stay. For the past 4 years, she'd been visiting them about once a fortnight, just to say a brief "miaow". They realised that she must have found another home somewhere as she was fed well and her long coat was always brushed and shining. This all tied up, as Mandy came into our lives 4 years ago, so she had come to us when she had left her old home. We had tried to trace her owner without success.

Kim told me that they had driven Fluffy/Mandy to their vet - a large practice a couple of miles away. I asked if I could go and see her and discovered that she lived only 5 minutes' walk away. I went round right away and was relieved to find that Mandy was in a large rabbit run outside, against the back wall of their house where she could look at their lovely garden. Inside the run there was a rabbit hutch for shelter. Mandy was lying on top of the hutch when I arrived. She had a thick green sock covering the injured leg and she looked miserable and listless. I had taken some cold cooked turkey which I had got for her and that did liven her up and she enjoyed eating it. She showed no signs of recognising me!

Kim said the injury was a bad one and the vet said it looked as if the cat had been caught in a trap and dragged her leg out, which had ripped all the fur and skin off. Kim said her first reaction on hearing about us was that she would ask us not to feed Fluffy any more and then she would go back to them. That would have been terrible for us, for how would Mandy understand why we wouldn't feed her? Luckily, Kim had changed her mind.

She said, "When her leg is better and she can be set free, we will let the cat choose and see what happens."

What a relief! I felt sure that Mandy would return to us. Don absolutely worships her and treats her like a Princess and she adores him. I don't think he could bear to visit her and not be able to cuddle her. I went several times, taking her treats of rabbit, chicken etc like taking grapes to someone in hospital. At one time, when things went badly, the vet thought he'd have to amputate the leg, but it finally began to heal. The last time I visited, Mandy had an "Elizabethan Collar" on and there I was, poking bits of chicken through the wire netting and Mandy tried to catch them in her mouth. She hadn't yet mastered the art of picking up food with the collar on.

The stitches were due to come out on a Friday morning. Then the dreaded collar could come off and Mandy could be set free.

I said to Don, "There is a 6 ft high fence all round the back garden. Mandy usually leaps over it with ease, but she might not be able to with a bad leg. Maybe she'll manage it by Sunday and come back to us."

Of course, Kim had continued to take Mandy to the same vet, which saved us a lot of trauma as she isn't very easy to get into a basket. We paid the cost, of course, or as much as Kim would let us pay.

On the Friday, I kept thinking of Mandy all day and wondering how she was and if she'd had the stitches out okay. At 10.40 pm Don went to bolt the French doors and a little furry black face peered in. It was our Mandy - safely back. I phoned Kim the next morning to tell her and to thank her for all she had done. She said she would pick up Mandy a week later for a final check up at the vets.

It all went well and when she brought Mandy back to us she said, "I can see how happy she is with you and how much you love her. I want you to feel that she is completely your cat."

We were so pleased. It could have been a very awkward situation if she hadn't been such a nice person. We had a Christmas card from them and Kim had written "Fluffy still comes to visit us occasionally."

This all happened 2 years ago. Mandy is such a loving, happy and contented cat - thoroughly spoilt and loving every minute of it. At least we now know how old she is and that she was born with her funny flat ears. I have never seen even a picture of a cat with ears like hers.

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