Smitten by a kitten! She turned out to be a he, went to war with my other cat – and broke my foot. But, says Amanda Platell, I"ve fallen head…


Smitten by a kitten! She turned out to be a he, went to war with my other cat – and broke my foot. But, says Amanda Platell, I've fallen head over heals for this little moggy

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UPDATED:

07:02 GMT, 9 October 2012

Paw pals: Amanda with feisty Ted and a dour Jim

Paw pals: Amanda with feisty Ted and a dour Jim

More than four million people a week are tuning into Paul O’Grady’s new TV series set in Battersea Dogs Home — which is no surprise to me.

For The Love Of Dogs highlights the cruelty pets often suffer, even in a nation of animal lovers, but it also shows the happy endings.

One show featured the haunting tale of two old dogs, Heidi and Oliver, who are as inseparable from each other as they were from their elderly owner.

Heartbreakingly, when their owner had to go into a care home, the dogs couldn’t follow and had to be taken to Battersea.

Like many of the sad creatures who end up there, though, they were lucky, and were swiftly adopted by a couple who fell in love with their grey whiskers on sight.

I’ve been to Battersea myself and I know how the dogs’ new owners felt.

Four months ago, I was looking for a kitten when a friend suggested I contact Battersea, as they also rescue cats — something I didn’t know.

I had been searching for months for the perfect all-ginger girl kitten as a companion for my elderly ginger cat, Jim. He has a gentle temperament and my vet had told me he couldn’t cope with a feisty young male in the house, so I had to get a female.

Before he met me ten years ago, Jim had been rescued from — and returned to — different shelters three times. As a result, he is wary of strangers, whether in human or feline form.

I emailed Battersea, and a few days later they called and said a kitten had come in and was now, after veterinary care, ready to be re-homed.

Her name was Sparkle, and they sent me, via email, a headshot of the most adorable ginger and white kitten — with ears so big she could never grow into them, and sorrowful eyes.

I wondered if there were any other pictures, but there weren’t, and later I understood why. So I made Sparkle my screensaver and fell in love with those eyes.

To be honest, I was nervous as a kitten before I went to meet her. But when I first saw her little head poke out from the box in the cat section of the home, any apprehension I’d had just melted.

As she darted up to me, though, I noticed that something was wrong.

New found friendship: Amanda has fallen in love with little Ted, who she first named Sparkle believing she was a boy

New found friendship: Amanda has fallen in love with little Ted, who she first named Sparkle believing she was a boy

As it turned out, Sparkle’s journey from abuse to abandonment was a particularly horrible one. The only luck that tiny kitten had ever had was to be dumped at Battersea.

She had virtually no fur on the underside of her body. She had a skinny naked rat’s tail and her paws were red and swollen — twice the normal size for a kitten. When I picked her up, she had a huge red crossed scar on her bare pink belly.

It was immediately clear that Sparkle was one of the many who end up at Battersea after being neglected or mistreated.

The woman who’d dropped her off claimed she had ‘accidentally’ fallen into a tub of boiling water.

I’ve never heard such nonsense. I’ve shared my various homes with cats for 50 years, and know full well they hate water of any kind.

The woman who dumped her fled without further explanation. That happens a lot at Battersea. Now I understood why there were no other photographs of Sparkle — because, I suspect, few people would have taken her if they’d seen the truth.

As she walked away from me that first day at the home, I almost wept at the sight of her red-raw hind legs, wrinkled like an old man’s face, and her blistered feet. How could anyone be so careless, or so cruel

I didn’t care that she wasn’t really ginger, as I’d hoped. She was an adorable kitten worthy of a loving home, and I had one waiting for her.

Every abandoned kitten is worthy of a loving home, even if they are a handful to start with, Amnda Platell says. File picture

Every abandoned kitten is worthy of a loving home, even if they are a handful to start with, Amnda Platell says. File picture

A few days after I got her home, I noticed a tiny pair of acorns where none should be. Sparkle was not the little girl I had longed for — and needed for Jim. She was a he.

Much soul-searching ensued, as I had to consider the needs of my beloved ageing Jim. However heartbreaking it would be, I couldn’t keep Ted (as I’d hastily re-named Sparkle) if he and Jim didn’t get on.

And the first signs were not good. Desperate for affection, Ted would attempt to suckle Jim. Jim found this such a profound affront to his dignity that he would whack the kitten so hard he’d fly halfway across the room.

I tried to keep them apart, but Ted would always escape and sneak up on Jim, playing with his tail as he tried to sleep or slowly ate his dinner with his one good tooth.

As a result of his deprived background, Jim’s teeth and gums had gone rotten and he’d had to have all but one of them out.

What chance did an old Tom with one tooth stand against a tireless (to him, tiresome) kitten who wanted to play constantly


'I don’t even mind that I have to wear
make-up on my hands to cover the scratches from his endless games or
risk looking like I’m self-harming.'

Jim would hit him with his gorilla-breath huff, and hiss and whack him again, leaving the little guy dazed and confused as to why Jim wouldn’t be his friend.

The vet had already warned me that with Jim’s problems (kidney failure and an overactive thyroid) it could shorten his life if he became threatened or distressed.

To Jim, Ted was an unwanted addition to the family and an insatiable attention-seeker. But it was already unthinkable that I could send him back to Battersea.

I’d taken him in, bathed his poor feet for weeks, and the claws he lost through the scalding had finally begun to grow back. As had his confidence. And this adorable little chap was so affectionate. He had a purr louder than a motor boat.

One night, I was agonising over what to do. I went downstairs with a heavy heart, only to discover Ted and Jim cuddled up together on the sofa.

Jim’s fur above his eyes was all wet and slicked up — like a member of a boyband. I knew then that not only had Ted licked his fur into this undignified style, but that Jim had let him.

The world famous Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in Battersea, London, where Ted the rescue cat was looked after until he was adopted

The world famous Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in Battersea, London, where Ted the rescue cat was looked after until he was adopted

There was no going back for the little guy.

As anyone who has ever owned a kitten will know, they bring such joy and laughter into your life.
I forgave him instantly when he tripped me on the stairs and I came crashing down, breaking a bone in my foot.

It was agony, and I was housebound for three weeks, unable to wear heels for three more. Yet one look from those adorable eyes was enough apology for me.

I don’t even mind that I have to wear make-up on my hands to cover the scratches from his endless games or risk looking like I’m self-harming.

Jim has forgiven him, too. He is no longer an interloper. They play together — mostly initiated by Ted — and they wrestle and chase each other.

I’m pleased to report that Jim, who before Ted’s arrival was getting very thin and crotchety, is rejuvenated. Before, he did nothing but eat, sleep and cuddle. Now, he gets daily exercise playing with Ted.

He also eats twice as much before — just to spite Ted, who respectfully waits for him to finish his food before pouncing on any leftovers. His fur has got thicker, he’s put on weight, and the old boy has a sparkle in his eye again.

As for Ted, like the thousands of other cats and dogs rescued by Battersea Dogs home, he’s found a loving home — and neither Jim nor I can imagine life without him.