I first met Jaffa as I walked my son home from his first day at school. My son was always rather obsessed by cats and wanted to make friends with every cat he met, unfortunately in those early days of our relationship with Jaffa, he wasn't too impressed with our attempts at getting to know him - in fact it would be no exaggeration to say he hated us and probably every other human in existence!
One thing we did notice on our daily walks past his house was that his food bowl was kept in the front garden and that sometimes when it rained the dish would fill with water and stay that way for a couple of days, so we started buying cat food and throwing it for our ungrateful new friend from a distance because he would hiss, spit and strike out if you got too close. One day, a couple of years on, I noticed that Jaffa had one of his front legs trapped under his collar and he was struggling frantically to free himself. I tried to help him but couldn't do it alone, so I knocked on his owner's door. Luckily someone was home and between us we managed to take the collar off and that was when I learned our little furry friend/fiend was called Jaffa. He seemed to be warming to us a little after that, so my son suggested I should try to stroke him - I waited till his mouth was full of cat biscuits before I tried and thankfully survived unscathed.
After that, both Jaffa and I became braver and I think we both used to look forward to our daily meetings. Sometimes after dropping my son off at school, I would sit on the pavement and Jaffa would climb onto my lap for a cuddle. This went on for several more years until one day, he just wasn't there anymore! We were so worried that something had happened to him but then we met one of Jaffa's neighbour's in town who told us that he was now living at a local cat sanctuary. Well as you can imagine, both my son and I wanted to go and see how our little furry friend was doing. I didn't drive back then, but one of our neighbours offered to drive us over and I don't know who was the happiest - him or us - and I'm sure you've guessed by now that within two days, Jaffa had moved into our home.
The top right photo above was taken on the day he moved in, in fact it was taken within the first hour that he was under our roof. When he arrived and was taken out of the travel box, he gave us a sniff, he stalked from room to room to get his bearings (or maybe just to be nosey), then he jumped onto the sofa, into the seat nearest the radiator (it was February) and as you can see, he made himself right at home!
I worried a lot in the early days that he wouldn't settle into living indoors after so many years outside, but he never wanted to go outside again. The one and only time I took him downstairs onto our courtyard, he climbed onto my lap as I sat on the outside step and he was trembling so much that I quickly took him back indoors again and apart from the very regular vet trips in the last year of his life, he remained indoors for the rest of his life.
These days I share my home with another awesome cat, he's very different in looks and character from Jaffa for which I'm grateful. I love Marley dearly, but there was just something about Jaffa that I still miss to this day - six years and three days after losing him!
After he died, I couldn't bear the thought of just walking away, so I asked for his ashes to be returned. I would have liked to have buried them in a nice sunny spot but I don't have a garden, so his ashes are still with me. Maybe one day I'll have a little garden where he can be laid to rest.
I would say to anyone who is thinking about getting a pet, check out your local animal rescue centre. The connection you can develop with a rescued animal is amazing. I've grown up with cats and dogs, we were never without pets when I was a child, but the best relationships I've ever had with any pet has always been with those who have been rescued. I probably would never have considered taking on an eleven year old cat if I hadn't known him before he needed a new home but I'll never regret taking Jaffa into my home, he was such a gentleman :) and I would definitely consider taking on an older cat again in the future. Everyone loves kittens, but older cats need love too and if you find room in your heart and your home for an older cat, I found the rewards were definitely worth it and I hope you do too.