Persistent garden visitor changes owners' perception of cats forever


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06 July 2020
We speak to owner Jenny Richardson who, after disliking cats for many years, had her opinion changed by a friendly black and white cat that came into her life and refused to leave. She used to plot the downfall of Alan, until they fell in love!

Q) When did you first meet Alan (real name Dudley), and where did the name Alan come from?

I first encountered Alan when we moved into our house in 2015. He appeared in the garden during the first week we moved in, and I was not happy about it! I have never liked cats (what an empty existence that was), and was so excited to finally have a garden with a lovely bird table – the last thing I wanted was this fluffy nuisance stalking them. It was during one afternoon in these first weeks at the house that my Mum and I heard him having a fight with another cat. We opened the bedroom window just in time to hear him let out a blood-curdling howl that sounded just like ‘Alaaaaan’! From that day on, that’s what we called him. 

I continued to try and chase him off, and was even quick to buy a ‘super soaker’ attachment for the hosepipe in a bid to drench him, but he could not be deterred. He turned up almost every day, and would sit and stare at the house or make himself comfortable on the back doorstep. He also started turning up later and later at night and didn’t seem in a rush to go anywhere. It was at this point we started to worry that he might actually be a stray.

After a few weeks of leaving him at the back door way past midnight, I decided to knock on some doors behind our house – the direction he always came from. I started on the road directly behind ours and the house directly behind his favourite corner of our garden. I knocked on the door, a man answered and I showed him a photograph of Alan asking if he recognised this cat. As luck would have it, he said it belong to him and his wife! I explained everything: that we had just moved in and were worried he was a stray etc. I also asked what his real name was, and that’s the day I first heard ‘Dudley’.

Q) Why did you decide to set up an Instagram account for Alan?

I first started taking photographs of his antics and posting them on my personal Instagram account (jens_endlesshappydays). I would use funny hashtags to illustrate my dislike for him and our ongoing ‘battle’, and people began to get involved in the story! There became such an abundance of pictures, that I decided to set up an account specifically to tell the story of ‘The Downfall of Alan’ and how I was trying my best to get rid of him... and failing! I had no idea my little side account would gather thousands of followers from all over the world. I have connected with so many people from so many countries over my posts of Alan, and we have amassed a wonderful online community of cat lovers who comment and message us daily.

Q) So, we heard that you’ve now actually adopted Alan from your neighbour, how did that happen?

It was like fate, actually. About a year ago, after falling in love with him and spending the last five years seeing him every day (except for when we went away on holiday, but even then I’d get family to FaceTime me from the garden so I could see him), we made the decision to ask his owners whether or not they would ever think of rehoming him to us. He never seemed to want to go home, and would sometimes spend up to six hours just sitting on our garden table or on our back doorstep.

We wrote them a carefully worded letter and within a few days I received a lovely message from them to say that they have had him since he was a kitten, that they love him and he would remain their cat, but that they were touched to hear how much we loved him, and that they gave their blessing for our special friendship to continue. From this day on, we actually formed a lovely friendship with his owners. They added me to a WhatsApp group dedicated to messages about him, where we would share photos and they would tell me about his life. Then, the week that we went into lockdown here in the UK I received a message, completely out of the blue, asking if we still wanted to adopt him.

I have to respect their privacy, and so can’t go into specific details, but their circumstances were changing and they decided he would be happier and better looked after if he came to live with us. When I read the message I immediately burst into tears! My husband, Alex, thought something terrible had happened when I handed him the phone to read it. There was never even a discussion between us. There was no question that he would be ours, and within a week we had taken him to get microchipped and registered to us. At such a crazy time in our lives, he has provided such a welcome distraction from the events of the last few months and has been such a lovely companion for me whilst I’ve been working from home.

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Q) Alan looks like such a cheeky boy! What’s the funniest thing he’s ever done? 

He is incredibly cheeky! I think his window-peeping is legendary. He has spent years popping up at my kitchen window to peer in at me, often scaring me to death. I’d say that now he lives with us, his attempts to get some of our dinner or to steal a cheeky snack from the kitchen worktop are some of his naughtiest moves! 

Q) How has Alan changed your perception of cats, and do you now class yourself as a cat lover?

Oh, he has changed my heart completely! I never understood what people got out of having a cat. With dogs, it’s obvious: they instantly give you so much back, but I never thought cats did. I was wary of them, didn’t like to be near them and saw them as unpredictable and boring. How wrong I was!

I am enthralled by Dudley every day. I could watch him and his quirky little personality for hours and never get bored. Plus, the love he gives us feels magical because I know it’s earnt. It’s as if this was his mission all along, and he knew we were destined to be friends even before I did. His followers keep telling me that cats choose their people. He chose me, and I will be forever grateful.

Q) Describe Alan in three words…

Hilarious, loving, and special.

Fact File

• @the_downfall_of_alan
• Followers: 5,630
• Name: Dudley (or you can stick with Alan, it’s up to you!)
• Age: 9
• Favourite treat: Tuna – he goes absolutely insane for the stuff!
• Favourite thing to do: Sleep in his fluffy bed until he snores.
• Favourite toy: Tatty Rat!

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