Jill Eckersley chats to Suzi Ruffell, one of the rising stars of British comedy, about her love of cats.
Like most comedians, Suzi Ruffell’s career has been transformed by the pandemic. Lockdown meant that stand-up gigs and a live tour had to be replaced by highly successful podcasts such as ‘Like Minded Friends’ (with Tom Allen) and ‘Out with Suzi Ruffell’. However, working from her home in London has meant that Suzi has been able to spend more time with her seven-year-old Cornish Rex cat, Velma.
“I’ve been lucky; I didn’t fancy doing online gigs at first, but they can work!” says Suzi. “As for Velma, she loves to be with me. She will sit on my shoulder when I’m working or on a Zoom call. I do miss stand-up though. Velma has been mentioned in my routine and sometimes audience members will bring along treats for her, which is sweet.”
GETTING A CAT
Suzi grew up in Portsmouth and says her family did have a cat when she was a child, but that it preferred an elderly neighbour’s quiet home to her family’s busier one! When she considered getting a pet of her own, her first plan was to get a dog, but she realised that as she is normally away from home a lot and works irregular hours, giving a dog the walks it needed might be a problem.
“I then thought cat,” she explained. “I started doing some research to find out which breed would be most dog-like. The Cornish Rex was mentioned and I eventually found a breeder in Staffordshire who put me on a waiting list for when a kitten would become available. I said yes as soon as I saw the kitten they suggested, and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Her fur is ginger, tortoiseshell, and white, and I called her Velma, after Velma Kelly in the musical ‘Chicago’, as I am a huge fan of musical theatre.
“She was travel sick all the way home and hid behind the sofa when we arrived, but within a couple of weeks, she was completely comfortable and confident with me. She has so much personality. Rather than meowing, she cries like a baby when she wants something, and she needs just as much attention as a human baby, too!
“Every time I left the house, I would worry if she was all right. She runs to the door to greet me when I get home and although she has two cat beds of her own, she prefers to sleep on mine. I don’t know why people think cats aren’t as loving as dogs, and are much more independent and rather aloof, because Velma isn’t like that at all. She loves visitors who come round, and especially male visitors. When I have to be away, I have a male cat-sitter for her and she has a big crush on him!”
Suzi says that basically Velma is an indoor cat.
“She sometimes goes on to the balcony but she was scared of the garden and terrified of any other cats she saw,” she explained. “She certainly isn’t a hunter — she will manage to catch a fly now and then, but that’s all. Sometimes I think she isn’t very bright; she tends to fall off things when she is sunning herself in a warm spot, but she is certainly beautiful, so if she was a celebrity, I think she would be some kind of film starlet!
“During the lockdown, she has been the most wonderful company. When I’ve been feeling down, I just have to listen to this little purring creature beside me and I feel better. I have been through some turbulent times in the last few years, for example when my grandmother died. I had been very close to her and whenever I was feeling sad, Velma never left my side. I’m sure she sensed that something was wrong. She is very special and I wouldn’t be without her!”