The past holiday season was anything but jolly for Annette, whose two beloved cats – a 20-year-old Burmese and an 18-year-old Tonkinese – both sadly passed away within a few weeks of each other.
“My Burmese died very suddenly just after Christmas and my Tonkinese grieved terribly for him. He was already unwell but losing his friend just seemed to exacerbate his condition and he passed away as well,” Annette said.
“It was very difficult to deal with. You do your best to remain adult, rational and coping. But without any animals, the world was not the same place. And the house seemed so empty.”
Despite her friends encouraging her to get out there and enjoy her retirement sans all the responsibility, Annette knew she wouldn’t feel complete again until she had cats in her life. A volunteer at Lort Smith Animal Hospital for 20 years, she had a strong understanding of what sort of feline she was looking for, although it didn’t prove to be easy.
“I’ve always loved exotic breeds, but I’ve never had the budget for one,” she said.
“It’s not a snobby thing, not only because they are beautiful to look at. Most moggies are very self-sufficient, but breeds such as the Siamese are very people-orientated. They can be demanding, but if you love these breeds, that does not matter. I just like the interaction.”
“I nearly fell of my chair!” Annette laughed.
On her way to the North Melbourne shelter to meet the striking boy, Annette prepared herself for a rusty first encounter. She knew that Siamese cats can sometimes be very cranky when they are outside their comfort zone, as often breeders will breed more for looks than temperament.
“I was expecting for Emperor to lash out at me when I first met him,” Annette said.
“I thought it might take a while before he warmed to me. But it was the most amazing thing; he tucked his head under my chin and started purring madly when I first held him. The staff said to me, ‘So do you want to take him home?’ and I don’t really think there was ever any question that I wouldn’t.”
Annette got exactly what she wished for with Emperor, who she describes as almost ‘dog like’ in the way he follows her around. But it seems when you wish for something hard enough, it can come true twice!
“Not long after Emperor came, I got a phone call from my friend who asked me if I had room for another little kitten,” she said. “I told her that I had Emperor now, but that I was willing to give it a go!”
After bringing the little kitten home and carefully observing Emperor as he got to know him, Annette said she was preparing herself for a great clash of whiskers! Luckily there was no aggression and within 48 hours, the two were best friends!
“I’ve renamed Emperor ‘Emilio’ and have decided to call the new little guy ‘Enzio’,” she said. “The two of them together is wonderful; they have such a good time.”
The two boys spend their days frolicking in their very own, custom-made cat enclosure, which Annette said didn’t cost a whole lot but is priceless in terms of the cats’ safety and happiness.
“It’s just so perfect for the cats, because it means they get fresh air, are safe from cars and they can’t hurt any wildlife either. It’s something I feel very strongly about and want to let more people know about.”
As for Annette, she said her world has finally gone back on its axis. While she still grieves for the two boys that have gone, Emilio and Enzio have brought her so much laughter and joy that she feels like the heart is definitely back in her home.
“I think a lot of people who adopt think about what they are giving the cats – a new life, comfort, a home,” she said.
“But no-one really thinks about what the animal can give you in return. Emilio and Enzio have made me so happy and I wish more people knew about the kind of love you can receive from an animal. Adoption is rewarding for everyone involved.”