I‘ve been volunteering at Cogges Manor Farm, (also known as Yew Tree Farm in a certain ITV period drama), in Witney for about three years now. I’ve loved every minute of it. Being a people person, I love meeting and greeting the visitors that come through the doors, even the awkward ones who seem hard to please. My role is very varied from, serving in the shop, to chasing chickens and ducks in an effort to try to tuck them up safely away from the foxes. Another of my jobs is to feed the three farm cats that live in a loft above one of the stables; at least that’s where I put their food down. #cats
There’s Patsy, a ginger female of unknown age, who came to us when the farm she’d been living on was sold and she was left homeless. She’s very wary of people and has a permanent scowl on her face, although she will occasionally let me stroke her when she’s eating. She has a short, stubby tail, obviously the result of some incident, but we don’t know what.
Then there’s Bonnie and Clyde, brother and sister, who came to us as kittens about two years ago. I named them. Bonnie, with her long tabby fur and cute green eyes, is such a pretty little thing that I couldn’t have called her anything else. She also has a ‘bib‘ of long white fur under her chin that resembles a jabot. Bonnie is definitely ‘my‘ cat. she follows me around the farm, which can be a bit of a problem when I’m trying to put the chickens to bed.
Clyde, on the other hand, is more aloof. He is a short-haired tabby with a white underbelly and four white paws. He’s the hunter of the family and disappears off for days at a time. But he too will now follow me when he’s around. All three cats are meant to be feral and I’ve earned myself the reputation as being a bit of a ‘cat whisperer’.
Over the past year I’ve also had another role, that of foster carer to four stray cats, two black and white and two tabbies, that have made Cogges their temporary home. Here are their stories, as we know them.
Early in 2014, I began to notice a rather handsome tabby cat around the farm. I even observed him coming out the cat sized hole in the door of the loft where I place our cats’ food. At first I tried to chase him away. Then, one day I decided to phone someone I knew at Sunshine cat rescue to see if they would be able to come and catch him and, either find his owner, or re home him. The next day, when I arrived to feed the cats, a lady was waiting for me. She told me that she was looking for a lost tabby and was hoping to see if the one I’d reported was him. His name was Alex. Unfortunately he didn’t appear that day, but the next morning she went along to Cogges with a trap. The cat appeared and to her delight it was him. She was able to catch him and took him home to foster until a new home could be found for him. Thankfully one was and within a few weeks he was installed with his new family.
A couple of weeks after Alex was taken away to be fostered, I began to notice another tabby cat hanging around the farm. At first I thought perhaps that it was Alex. That somehow he’d escaped from his foster home and made his way back. But a phone call to his foster carer assured me that he was fast asleep upstairs on her bed.
This time I rang the cat rescue people right away. Unfortunately they were full, so it was agreed that I would look after him at Cogges until such times as, either they could take him in, or his owner could be found. To that end, I contacted a local animal finder charity and uploaded a photograph of him. A visit to the vet showed that he had been neutered, but wasn’t micro chipped. He was a very friendly little chap and I soon became very fond of him. The feeling was mutual. Just like Bonnie he would follow me around and let me pick him up and stroke him.
After a few weeks as there was no sign of his owner, it was decided that I should try to find him a new home. One afternoon I arrived at Cogges armed with a ‘wanted, new home’ poster that I’d printed off on my computer. But when I arrived, I was met by the director of Cogges who told me that a new home had been found for him already. Filming of a certain ITV drama had been taking place and one of the film crew had fallen in love with him and had offered him a home. so now he is a ‘Downton tabby’.
This left the two black and white cats. With the help of my friend from the cat rescue I managed to get hold of one of them. He was in a terrible condition. when the vet examined him he was found to have severe liver problems and it was decided that the kindest thing to do was to put him to sleep. I was extremely upset, but I know it was the kindest thing that we could do for him.
But, I’ve saved the best to last. Morgan was first spotted well over a year ago by another volunteer. From time to time, he would disappear for weeks at a time, but then he’d be seen again. When I phoned the cat rescue about Alex, I also told them about this black and white cat, but they already knew about him. A lady who lived in the priory next to Cogges had already contacted them. She’d been feeding him, but she was moving and was worried about what might happen to him when she left. As they were full, all they could do was make him top of the list when a vacancy appeared.
About the same time that Toffee was rehomed, a vacancy at the cat rescue centre arose. Armed with a cat trap, my friend made her way to the priory. However, she didn’t need to use the trap. As soon as she placed some food down, Morgan appeared and allowed her to pick him up. Their policy is to take any cats they find to the vet to be checked out. The first thing the vet did was scan him for a micro chip and actually found that he had one, so she phoned the owner. To say the owner was surprised is one very big understatement. It turned out that Morgan had gone missing ten years ago. Her owner couldn’t believe it.
He’s now reunited with his family. He’s about fourteen years old and has some health problems. But the vet is sure that, with the help of the tender loving care of his family, he should live for a few more happy years. How wonderful is that.
Are far as I’m aware, we currently don’t have any visiting cats. But at least I now know what to do if we get any. I love my job at Cogges and find it especially satisfying when I find myself with stories such as these to tell.
Photos: Isabel’s own apart from the one of Morgan which is courtesy of Cogges veterinary practice.
Isabel Johnstone ©