"My cats have been my guardian angels"


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26 September 2022
Esther Chilton tells of two special cats who have been there when she really needed it.

It’s well-known that cats can provide comfort to people in times of need, whether it’s medically, emotionally, or physically. I’ve had several cats who have come into my life over the years, but two of them are very special to me as, right when I needed it, they have nurtured me through very difficult times. I call them my guardian angels.

Twenty-five years ago, I badly injured my back after a fall. I was more or less bed-ridden for two years and had to leave my job at a bank. I was devastated. My days were filled with pain and discomfort. But my lovely ginger moggy, Clio, looked after me. She’d come right up to me and rub round my hand. Then she would lie just to the side of me. Every now and then, she’d seemingly be in a deep sleep and then up her head would pop, and she’d look at me before going off to sleep again. It was almost as if she was watching over me to make sure I was OK.

Thankfully, with lots of treatment and rehabilitation, I began to see some improvement in my condition. I was soon able to go out for short walks. Clio would always be at the door, waiting to welcome me back. When I progressed from lying on the bed to lying on the sofa, she joined me.

When I tried going back to work, I’d arrive home to see Clio peering out the window. If she was a human, I’m sure she would have stood there, hands on hips and said: ‘Where on Earth have you been all day?’ I knew she missed me so I always made an extra fuss of her as soon as I came through the door.

Clio lived to the age of 17. Just before she died, we’d added to our cat family with a rescue cat called Lexi — a beautiful but mischievous, naughty tortie. She was a tiny little thing, but sweet in nature as well as being cheeky. She seemed particularly drawn to Clio and when Clio died, it was as if she took over from her, as if Clio had taught her everything she knew and told her I needed looking after.

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Wherever I went, Lexi would be there, making sure I was all right. If I had any down days, she seemed to sense it and would snuggle right up to me, her purr soothing any demons away.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve unfortunately had to undergo four operations. The first was a shoulder operation. I wasn’t well afterwards and the anaesthetic had a bad effect on me, so I could barely get out of bed for a few days. Lexi kept me company, though she was drawn to where I’d had the surgery. She kept trying to lie across my shoulder, purring madly all the while. It really felt as if she was trying to heal the wound. The same thing happened when I had to have surgery on my stomach some months later and for the two other surgeries. It’s as if she can sense where the pain is and she wants to take it away.

Of course, her lying across the area where the surgery has just taken place is extremely painful and so I have to protect the operated area. She’s not one to give up easily though! Stubborn isn’t the word, but then she’ll give a sigh as if to say ‘I’m only trying to help’ and move away from the pained area. She then snuggles in close, where it doesn’t hurt.

Whenever she’s looking after me, she reaches out a paw and wraps it round my arm or leg protectively. My partner has been an amazing help over these past months, supporting me and looking after me, but he can’t be with me all the time. Lexi makes sure I’m never alone. She really is a special cat, just like her tutor, Clio.