'Emmerdale' actress talks about her lifelong love of cats
‘Emmerdale’ actress Samantha Giles tells Jill Eckersley about her lifelong love of cats — and the charities she supports.
Cats are ideal pets!” says actress Samantha Giles, best known for her role as Bernice Blackstock in ITV soap ‘Emmerdale’. And Sam should know, as she says she can’t remember a time when she didn’t have cats in her life, the most recent being littermates Bob and Maggie, adopted last October from Cats Protection’s branch in St Helens in Merseyside.
“We knew we wanted to adopt a pair of cats, and Bob and Maggie had been with the charity for six weeks. My daughters led us straight to them,” she says. “Bob was happy to be picked up straight away. I’d heard that ginger cats were the most affectionate, and he certainly is.
“I would always prefer to give a rescue cat a home. There are so many unwanted and abandoned animals and it’s so rewarding. I used to volunteer at Battersea’s Old Windsor centre, socialising the cats, and that was where I found Tilly the tabby. She was a beautiful, kind, gentle cat who was about four years old when she came to us. It seemed sensible to adopt an older cat since I was working. Tilly was with me for years until we lost her to old age last year. My husband also had a rescue cat from the RSPCA called Buckley. He and Tilly just about tolerated one another. One lived upstairs and one downstairs and when they met they would rub noses and then give each other a smack!”
After losing both Buckley and Tilly, Samantha and her family were eventually ready to welcome more cats into their lives, and Bob and Maggie moved in. It wasn’t all plain sailing, though, as Samantha remembers.
“At first I thought Bob was spraying because I kept finding puddles, but we realised he was having some kind of seizure. Of course I took him to the vet. He seems quite happy without medication and doesn’t have seizures very often. I’m thinking of changing his diet to see if that helps. I’m also a Reiki healer and I can feel the power ‘switching on’ when I stroke him.
“He went missing for two days when he first started going out, which was awful. I felt we had let him down! I was so worried that I couldn’t eat, until someone phoned us to say they had seen a ginger cat not far away. My husband went out and found him. He now wears a safety collar with our phone number on!”
Samantha thinks that sister Maggie keeps an eye on Bob: “She is a longhaired tortie who is the most meticulous groomer. I have a brush for her but I rarely seem to have to use it!” she says. “She is very independent and loves her food — she will miaow to be fed and then walk away.”
Samantha and her husband have two young daughters, Eve and Olivia, and feel that it’s important for children to grow up with pets.
“They learn that animals are not toys, and that they need love and attention,” Samantha says. “Eve was very upset when Tilly died, even though we told her that she’d gone to heaven and that, in a way, she was still with us, even when we could no longer see her. Even little children can learn about life and death from animals, just like I did myself. We had cats called Sooty and Sweep who came from a farm when I was small.”
As well as her acting commitments, Samantha finds time to work for a local cat rescue charity, Animal Aid, in Walton, Liverpool.
“It’s a small charity and they do fantastic work,” she says. “I want to help out with raising the profile of the charity and fundraising too. They have about 30 or 40 cats to look after and find homes for. Strays are brought in all the time, often after being abandoned or found on building sites with litters of kittens. I don’t know how people can abandon their animals like that. Having a cat — having any pet — is a lifetime commitment!”
This interview was originally published in the October 2016 issue of Your Cat Magazine.