'Why my cats are a blessed constant in a world of uncertainty'

Life is way better with animals in it and on this Love Your Pets Day, writer Kat Brown celebrates the two cats who helped her through IVF and reconnected her with lost loves

Love your pets day

Life is way better with animals in it and on this Love Your Pets Day, writer Kat Brown celebrates the two cats who helped her through IVF and reconnected her with lost loves

When I first imagined having a pet, it was as a familiar or a best pal. A daemon, say, like the ones Philip Pullman conjured up so brilliantly in His Dark Materials; your soul made flesh in a fabulous creature (no spiders need apply). I grew up with family dogs, but they were never 'mine'.

I ended up with a Voldemort-esque horcrux. My cat Ambridge is an absolute monster – and I wouldn’t be without her. Loving your pets, as we are celebrating this National Love Your Pets Day, doesn’t mean it has to be conditional on their being cute, photogenic, or undemanding. Much as with humans, you love them just as they are.

I was 30 and struggling with a lack of enthusiasm for anything in my life when I realised that the only thing stopping me from getting a cat was me. After being accepted as an adopter by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, I popped in “for a look” and met a sulking five-year-old lump of coal called Patch.

I could see why she was the last unadopted cat on the floor when she punched me for stroking her tummy – rooky error! Yet, I was so grateful to be allowed a pet at all that I took her home in a taxi, anxiously listening to her yowling the song of her people all the way home. I renamed her after the village in my beloved radio soap, The Archers.

Love your pets day

Ambridge the cat

The boundaries I set collapsed immediately. She completely ignored the cat cave I had bought her, making a beeline for my bed. There was no point shutting doors in my small flat; I could hear her determined scratching as though it were boring into my soul. I bought a bigger duvet as her tiny frame absorbed my existing one, like a furious black hole. And yet I was enchanted. What character! Disdain dripped off her like paint. I adored her refusal to be companionable during daylight hours, instead manoeuvring onto my lap for evening TV, and yowling irritably at 10.30pm that it was bedtime and who the hell did I think I was, Kate Moss?

I knew my now-husband was the one when I left him cosied up in my flat one day and he sent me a selfie of the pair of them sitting together. It took him a few years to admit that he loved Ambridge – she is an acquired taste, like petrol – but when he did, I was more moved than when he’d said he loved me. Ambridge and her judgmental expressions quickly earned an army of fans on Instagram: one year, Nintendo even sent her a tiny Mario hat to wear. She hated it, obviously.

Ambridge loves a lap but doesn’t see the point in being cossetted, manhandled or otherwise cuddled in any way. But this doesn’t mean she isn’t wonderful (although, blinded by her fluffiness, I often ignore this, with extremely negative results). When I was recovering from an exploratory operation after years of failing to get pregnant, she stayed with me quietly for the whole weekend. Last year, when we had to step up to IVF, she sat next to me while I had my hormone injections, her comfortable presence helping to keep me calm through a process I loathed. When the IVF didn’t work, her character was a blessed constant in a world of uncertainty.

Love your pets day

Kat and Ambridge together at home

This Christmas threw a spanner into Ambridge’s exhausting routine of wake, breakfast, lie on radiator, sleep under duvet, dinner: I found a grey and apricot coloured cat on the street outside my therapist’s office in Oxford Circus. I took her to the vet to have her microchip checked – I have never in 15 years seen a cat within a mile of Oxford Circus – tweeted about my find and did due diligence to try and find her owner, to no avail.

And now we have two cats. The Found Cat – Genevieve, as we named her after the vampire heroine of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula novels – is as chilled as Ambridge is irate. But in the two months we have had her, they have progressed to pointedly ignoring each other when in the same room, one on my lap, one behind my head, chase each other around the house when they can be bothered to squabble over territory.

Love your pets day

The 'found cat', Genevieve

Having a cat reconnected me with what I forgot I loved. It reminded me how much I thrive around animals. I reconnected with my old hobby of horse riding, which in turn has brought me close to some wonderful dogs and people – and even more cats, thanks to the rat control squad at stable yards.

Life is simply better with animals. It’s not that they replace something which is missing rather they fill a void you never knew you had. They might share traits or funny habits, but each is entirely themself. The honour of getting to know one is one of life’s great joys. Coming home to hear quick pads running up to the door to greet you is pure heaven. How lucky are we to have these quirky, glorious souls in our lives.

Maria Coole

Maria Coole is a contributing editor on Marie Claire.

Hello Marie Claire readers – you have reached your daily destination. I really hope you’re enjoying our reads and I'm very interested to know what you shared, liked and didn’t like (gah, it happens) by emailing me at: maria.coole@freelance.ti-media.com

But if you fancy finding out who you’re venting to then let me tell you I’m the one on the team that remembers the Spice Girls the first time round. I confidently predicted they’d be a one-hit wonder in the pages of Bliss magazine where I was deputy editor through the second half of the 90s. Having soundly killed any career ambitions in music journalism I’ve managed to keep myself in glow-boosting moisturisers and theatre tickets with a centuries-spanning career in journalism.

Yes, predating t’internet, when 'I’ll fax you' was grunted down a phone with a cord attached to it; when Glastonbury was still accessible by casually going under or over a flimsy fence; when gatecrashing a Foo Fighters aftershow party was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy and tapping Dave Grohl on the shoulder was... oh sorry I like to ramble.

Originally born and bred in that there Welsh seaside town kindly given a new lease of life by Gavin & Stacey, I started out as a junior writer for the Girl Guides and eventually earned enough Brownie points to move on and have a blast as deputy editor of Bliss, New Woman and editor of People newspaper magazine. I was on the launch team of Look in 2007 - where I stuck around as deputy editor and acting editor for almost ten years - shaping a magazine and website at the forefront of body positivity, mental wellbeing and empowering features. More recently, I’ve been Closer executive editor, assistant editor at the Financial Times’s How To Spend It (yes thanks, no probs with that life skill) and now I’m making my inner fangirl’s dream come true by working on this agenda-setting brand, the one that inspired me to become a journalist when Marie Claire launched back in 1988.

I’m a theatre addict, lover of Marvel franchises, most hard cheeses, all types of trees, half-price Itsu, cats, Dr Who, cherry tomatoes, Curly-Wurly, cats, blueberries, cats, boiled eggs, cats, maxi dresses, cats, Adidas shelltops, cats and their kittens. I’ve never knowingly operated any household white goods and once served Ripples as a main course. And finally, always remember what the late great Nora Ephron said, ‘Everything is copy.’