A ‘tail’ of two kitties: an unbelievable story of luck and rescue
Date published: 07 November 2017
Naomi Rhys Thomas with Barney
Bluebell Cat Rescue and Rehoming in Littleborough certainly proved they were in the right place at the right time after they came to the rescue of two cats in an unbelievable story of luck and rescue on Saturday (4 November).
Bluebell Cat Rescue and Rehoming was set up in January this year by trustee Naomi Rhys Thomas, who gave up her high-flying law career to look after the felines full time.
The ‘tail’ of Thomas and Barney began when Thomas, a 13-year-old tuxedo cat, needed a new home to live out his years after his owner fell ill with cancer.
A rescue placement was offered to Thomas in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire – nearly 190 miles away. Naomi, and her husband, Toby, both trustees of Bluebell, arranged to travel to the rescue on Saturday (4 November), arriving in the early evening.
After microchipping Thomas, they set off on the long drive with Thomas comfortably packed into his transport crate with food, water, a litter tray and a comfy bed. Naomi and Toby stopped halfway there to check on their passenger and get some food to have later at the Travelodge where they were booked in at that night. As the traffic was good, they reached Aylesbury at about 9.30 where they met Thomas’ “wonderful” foster carers who will be looking after Thomas until a permanent home is found for him.
The husband and wife team then set off to the Travelodge at Cherwell Valley Services. The junction to the services was cordoned off, so they drove past before turning back, adding around 10 minutes onto the journey.
Naomi said: “We came back and stopped behind the barrier and Toby explained to the workmen we were booked in at the hotel and he let us through asking us to go slowly with our hazards on. We also saw another car parked up waiting.
“We got into the car park, which was half-empty due to the closed services, and so only hotel guests were using the car park. I have a bad knee at the moment, so I wanted to park near the entrance rather than the less-packed area further away.”
Naomi then drove around the car park again to park in a particular spot. However, as soon as she stepped out of the car, she saw something dart across her eyeline.
She continued: “I said, ‘Look Toby, there’s a cat. What on earth is a cat doing here, it is far too dangerous’.
“The cat, a huge tabby Bengal-type, then started to investigate a bin and scavenge for food. I grabbed the nearest bag of cat biscuits in the car and took them over to him and poured some on the floor. Being clumsy, I poured a huge pile; I think he thought I was throwing them at him. I then found a pouch of wet food and put that out for him, which he greedily ate.”
Naomi and Toby went into the Travelodge to ask if they had a feral colony, or if they knew of any reported stray cats, where they were told one had been seen, and the owners had been there just a day before looking for it.
Naomi added: “I wasn’t leaving the cat out there, so as we had a transport crate in the car, I asked if I could get it and keep it in our room for the night. If the answer was no, we would have taken the cat back to Manchester to scan despite the time of night and distance - either that or we would have slept in the car with it.
“I was kicking myself for having left my scanner on the side at home. After chipping Thomas, I just popped it on the side and left it there. Fortunately, he said he could stay with us, so we went back out to get him.”
After spotting the transport crate, the cat took one look before disappearing under a van. Much coaxing and sweet talk followed, and he came out to say hello with his cute little chirrup and Toby grabbed him and held on tightly.
They carried the cat in the crate into the hotel and with the help of the man on reception, transferred him to their room, where a little area was set out for the cat – “although he much preferred being on the bed”.
The rescue team contacted Cherwell Valley’s branch of Cats Protection asking if someone could scan the tabby for a microchip.
Naomi was given another number to contact, where she received a reply saying they had been trying to catch a cat there called Barney, who had been missing from his home over 60 miles away for six whole months.
Naomi explained: “It turns out that the week before, a dog breeder had been travelling up north and stopped at the services. She saw the cat, scanned it and notified the chip company but for reasons we do not know, let him go again. At least his owners then had a good lead and started making journeys over to try and find him. They asked the local Cats Protection for help and traps were set in the grounds of the hotel. He was seen around regularly but would not go in the traps and no one could catch him.”
When morning came, Cats Protection volunteer Carole who runs a cattery, came to scan the cat and take him. As luck would have it, the tabby turned out to be the missing cat, Barney.
Naomi added: “It turns out Carole was in the car waiting at the barriers just behind us the night before - she was coming to check the traps. His owners were contacted and came to get him straight away and we set off for a much-deserved day out and some brunch.
“That afternoon we received a call from Chris, Barney’s owner, who explained the background and just how far Barney was away from home. After all the attempts to catch him, it was amazing that he just came up to me, he knew a crazy cat lady when he saw one.”
Barney is now grounded but happy and safe back home with Chris and Clodagh, a lovely couple who were missing him terribly, and had all but given hope after such a long time.
“So many factors could have changed the outcome, had the services been open and busier, had we picked a different day to bring Thomas, had I parked at the other end…
"It is all so amazing, it gives me a headache just thinking about the possibilities. Barney clearly had a guardian angel looking out for him - maybe Thomas had something to do with it?” Naomi mused.
She concluded: “This is an amazing story highlighting the importance of having your cat microchipped and also how rescuers work best when we co-operate and act as a team.
“I would also like to say special thanks to Sarah of Aylesbury Cat Rescuers for finding a place for Thomas with amazing carers, Carole and Emily of Cherwell Valley Cats Protection, amazing women who really are a massive credit to the organisation, Marv, Carole’s partner who came out at an ungodly hour of Sunday morning to help, Cherwell Valley Travelodge whose awesome staff were so caring. I really can not thank them enough for being so kind and helpful, and clearly the hotel now has the Barney approval.
“And of course, thanks to my husband Toby, who never blinks an eye or hesitates when a little life is at stake, and never says no.”
Since Bluebell was started, Naomi and Toby have rehomed over 60 cats and kittens, conducting home checks, and rehoming each feline with the full package of neutering, worm and flea treatments, microchipping and a full set of vaccines.
In the coming weeks, Naomi is also opening a non-profit café in Todmorden, aptly named ‘Meow’, where every penny will go into helping their rescues. Bluebell is also now in the process of becoming a registered charity.
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