When I was seven years old a stray kitten showed up on our doorstep. With its big blue eyes and fluffy white and grey coat, it appeared to be a pedigree breed and someone’s much loved, and no doubt missed, family pet.
But with no collar or means of identification we had no means to return it to its home, and as we already had four cats of our own I wasn’t allowed to keep it, no matter how much I begged.
Instead my mother made me take it up the road to a children’s playground, and leave it there. I presume she thought it would find its way home, or someone would take it in, but either way it would no longer be in our garage and bothering us.
So, through tears, I did it. Hours later a flyer was pushed through our letterbox from a frantic mother searching for her little boy’s new kitten. “Son fretting,” I remember it said.
30 years, I was heavily pregnant with our first son when my partner and and I took in a pair of abandoned cats, a mother and her kitten. They had been zipped in a suitcase and left for dead in an alleyway. We called them Daisy and Puku.
For the first week they kept us awake all night and cried all day, messed up the carpets and ruined everything, including Christmas day when Puku took ill and was rushed to a very, very expensive after-hours vet clinic.
But they became part of our lives and when we brought our son Charlie home from the hospital Daisy adopted him as her second kitten and Puku fell instantly in love with the little human.
But months later when the time came to leave New Zealand we were faced with an agonising decision – do we rehome our little ladies or spend thousands of dollars taking them with us?
It was an easy enough decision to make: we thought the move would be permanent, and in our post-baby glow nothing seemed to difficult.
But after only 18 months in Northern Ireland we were ready to come home with Charlie and our new twin baby boys, but the cats posed a bit of a problem.
The move had left us all but broke, and the cost of flying them back around to the other side of the world was well into four figures (I never did bring myself to calculate the total cost and my husband won’t tell me).
It was also a logistical nightmare. The UK had all sorts of animal diseases, including rabies, that NZ didn’t, and customs weren’t too keen on letting them back into the country.
It started to dawn on me that perhaps it was best to rehome them in Northern Ireland, to leave them behind.
I gave myself a week or so to think it over. And I remembered that little kitten I had been forced to dump at the playground because it was all too hard for my mother to deal with, to take care of.
And then I realised, that’s the key, the secret to owning pets when you have children.
You have to understand, and accept, that animals are going to find their way into your kids’ lives, and their hearts, whether you want them to or not. They did with us, we never expect our boys to become to attached to Daisy and Puku, but they did and in the end we couldn’t break up their little wolf pack.
I never wanted them to feel how I did that day in the playground, and I never wanted them to one day ask whatever happened to the scruffy little cats spotted in the backgrounds of all their baby photos.
So after six months of waiting and wrangling and paying lots and lots of money a cage arrived at the front door of our Kiwi home with two slimmed down and smoochy cats.
”I never want Daisy and Puku to leave us ever again mama,” Charlie said.
”I am happy they are home.”