Being rescued and hand-reared after being thrown in the canal at eight days old Dickie has always been an adventurous cat.
But his last adventure was almost an adventure too far.
My name is Nikki, and I am the Practice Manager at Roundwood Vets and the owner of Dickie.
My husband made me solemnly promise that I would not bring any more pets home when I took the job as a Practice Manager at Roundwood. ‘Our house is full!’.
So when six eight-day-old-kittens arrived at the surgery after being thrown into the canal on a Saturday morning, I instantly volunteered. I had hand-reared puppies and kittens earlier in my career as a Veterinary Nurse, so I took them home- much to the delight of my children, not so much my husband.
I spent six weeks sleeping on the sofa (due to getting up every 2-3 hours to feed them- not because of my husband’s rath) and regularly caught my husband having secret snuggles with them. Though he swore we could never keep them, it soon became clear that we would be keeping Dickie and Sneezy.
Of all the kittens that survived, why I had to pick the most adventurous little devil is still a mystery to me. When I found him up the Christmas tree, sitting in the water bowl and sleeping with the dog, I should have known that Dickie was a mischief-maker!
My colleagues at work would laugh when I would call up to say I was running late as he has stuck up a tree- again. They howled down the phone when I called them to say that I would be late as the cat was in my car, and I had only discovered his presence halfway to the surgery, and I needed to take him home.
Early on Sunday morning, when my weekly shop arrived, Dickie disappeared. I was instantly suspicious that this mischief-maker was up to no good. Surely he would not have jumped into the van, I thought, he’ll turn up in a minute as he is never far, always there to terrorise the dogs or dive into the weekly shop as I scramble to put it away. Yet, there was no sign, nothing.
Two hours passed, and I began to worry. Luckily our house has quite a lot of CCTV, so I began to trawl through the system. It came as no surprise to see his last known movements on our CCTV wandering down towards the delivery van and vanishing.
Still not quite ready to believe Dickie would get into the van, I went and asked my neighbours if they had seen him. After jokingly telling them my suspicions about him being a stowaway, my neighbour informed me that he gets into their van all the time (he’s a landscape gardener). It was time to call the supermarket.
After waiting in a queue for what felt like a lifetime, I was utterly relieved to hear, ‘Hello, how can I help you today. I explained my predicament- at this point, I don’t think the call handler felt my cat would be daft enough to get into the van. So after putting me on hold, he returned to the call to tell me due to GDPR, they couldn’t tell me the delivery schedule or route, as the driver was uncontactable as he had taken a different PDA. Finding him would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but they would call if they discovered the cat at the depot.
Seven hours passed with no sign of Dickie. I knew 99.9% he had gotten into the van. I called again, this time more desperate.
‘Hello, How can I help you today?’
‘I believe my cat got into the van this morning; I’m pretty sure after checking my CCTV’.
He replied, ‘I’m just going to talk to the depot; I’ll be as quick as I can’. I readied my argument- I wasn’t going to be brushed off this time.
‘Hello, Mrs Roberts? I have spoken to the depot manager and have a list of the postcodes after your delivery. The driver said that the cat wasn’t in the van when he checked it at the depot. If there is anything else we can do to help, please let me know.’
When I asked about the inside of the van and whether a cat could hide within, he explained that the main compartment was one whole area accessible via a roller door. So a cat, if it wanted to, could hide easily behind or in a tray undetected.
I checked the first postcode, certain he would jump out at the first opportunity. It was only one road from us, so I set off on foot to find him. As I began to walk down the road, I shouted his name ‘DICKIE’, ‘COME ON DICKIE’, ‘HERE DICKIE, PUSS PUSS PUSS’. After several weird looks from my neighbours, I realised that calling your cat Dickie was not ideal in these types of situations. He was nowhere to be seen.
So I turned to social media. Posting on Nextdoor, Facebook community and local lost and found groups. A local school event that involved going from street to street to tabletop sales had taken place earlier in the day, so I posted a plea for help on the school PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) Whatsapp group.
‘PING’ The message read, ‘I think I saw your cat with my boys at the tube station’.
My husband shot out of the door with me in hot pursuit. The tube station was just over three streets away. As we shouted ‘DICKIE’ walking past the school we saw him. His tail shot up, but he looked scared- as if he may dash off. We called him again, and he came running. I scooped him up, and a loud purr erupted from him. He purred all the way home.
Unfortunately, Dickie had managed to injure himself on his adventure and had to come with me to work to have a wound stitched (10 stitches!) and x rays, but he is healing well and going to make a full recovery.
I can hear you asking: ‘Did Dickie learn from his adventure?’. The answer is no- he is currently sliding down the side of a tent that has been erected in the garden- I fear his adventures have only just begun.
Many cats may wander and become lost, so I recommend getting them microchipped. Even indoor cats can benefit, providing a secure form of identification. Microchipping pet cats will become compulsory in the coming months under a wide-ranging new animal welfare plan which will help reunite thousands of cats every year. I knew that if I didn’t find Dickie, his microchip was the best chance of getting him home, especially as he could have been miles away- disorientated and lost.
Microchipping your cat is like having an injection, and it is a one-off payment that is less than £30. It is quick and easy to do and can be given in our nurses’ clinic.
Read about what to do if your dog gets lost.