Cat & I: Maryanne & Nouska

Modern life doesn’t allow for much relaxation and reflection. Perhaps this is why feline companions are cherished by so many — they bring the fun back into our lives and remind us of what’s really important.

Our monthly series will explore the modern relationship between owner and cat — the challenges people face and the incredible benefits of owning a cat in this stressful, fast-paced world.

This week’s duo is Maryanne & Nouska. Maryanne is a therapist who lives in Woking with Nouska, her eight year old Persian.

We sat down with Maryanne to discuss Nouska’s incredible journey, how she helped Nouska settle into her new home, and what makes their relationship so special.

Nouska is a rescue cat. How did you find her?

I wanted an indoor cat, having lost my other cat. I initially approached the RSPCA, specifically asking for a cat that would be suited to living indoors, but they said that their cats needed to have leeway to a garden. So I searched online for a flat-living cat and it brought me to the website of RANA (Rescue Animals North Africa), a rescue charity based in Tunisia. They had a gallery of cats that you could scroll through and helped you find the right cat for you and your circumstances. Nouska was almost ready for adoption having gone through the fostering process. They thought she was about 3 years old and I wanted a cat under 4, so it seemed like a perfect match. The minute I saw her I fell in love.

How was Nouska rescued?

She was rescued in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Apparently an air hostess found her, put her in her hand luggage and smuggled her out. I later found out that she had been abandoned on the street by a wealthy family because she was ill; she was left in a box in over 40 degree heat. It’s such an incredible story. She was then taken in by RANA and spent several months in a foster home with a lovely lady who looked after her temporarily.

What was Nouska’s journey like to you?

They informed me that Ryanair would often carry the animals over for free, so this is where her journey began. ‘Superhero Steve,’ as I like to call him, brought her over from Tunisia. Steve brings the animals over from Tunisia and then Florence picks them up in England and brings them to their new owners. Steve & Nouska were originally supposed to fly straight to Heathrow, but then the Tunisian bombing happened, so their journey was diverted. They went to Charles de Gaulle and then to Calais and then finally arrived in Woking. So that was her journey coming to me. She had some interesting experiences along the way, stopping off in pubs and getting massages on the boat — she’s definitely experienced more than your average cat!

It was funny because when she first came, she was so confident. You wouldn’t believe she’d had the start to life that she had had. It was clear that she had been a domestic cat at the beginning of her life. She’s so good with children and very relaxed around people. The first morning she was so cuddly and affectionate — she seemed to settle right in. The next morning, she went into her travel cage — it was like she was expecting to travel somewhere because that was what she was used to!

Did you have any problems with her when she arrived?

So I’ve had her for a year now. Before I got her I did ask for a brief background on her personality and for them to send across some images/videos. Her teeth were in very bad condition when she arrived and she was so tiny. As a result, I assumed she was very young. But after taking her to the vet, I found out that she was actually 8 years old.

How did you help Nouska settle in?

To begin with I kept her in my bedroom for 7 days — just to let her get used to her surroundings. She had her travel cage in there so she could smell something that was familiar. After the initial 7 days, I let her explore the rest of the house. She seemed to love it and became comfortable very quickly. She was so easy — it was such a relief.

Does she have any mischievous habits?

She will have a mad moment at 5 o’clock, running around the house and dashing onto the bed. She does scratch. She’s naughty because when I used to tell her off, she’d just look at me and carry on! She’s got better though. Now I have to adopt a deeper tone to discipline her — I hate using it, but I have to. She’s also very fussy with her food. She won’t touch the pouches — I always say to her ‘Remember when you were walking the streets of Saudi Arabia!’

What’s her favourite thing to do?

She loves to get groomed. It’s expensive but it’s her favourite thing to have done. She’s very playful. Her favourite toy is a squashed fly — sounds very strange but she loves it. Even if I get a replica she won’t touch it! She just loves that fly! Her favourite film is Despicable Me. She loves to cuddle up on the sofa and watch it with me. She also loves watching cat programmes. She always wants to sit on my lap and she’ll follow me around the house like a puppy. Apparently that’s how you can tell your cat loves you!

What is her personality like?

She’s incredibly comfortable around people and even children. So many people come over to see her and give her cuddles. She’s even been painted by a friend! She just loves being petted and having attention — anyone will do! All my friends ask “can I have an audience with Nouska please?” She’s like a little princess with her suitors. I honestly get more friends coming over because of her! She’s amazingly calm — nothing phases her. According to Steve, when she was bought over on the ferry, which was very choppy, she remained beautifully calm. She’s just very chilled and seems to really enjoy life.

What does Nouska mean to you?

She’s everything to me. I had a lovely cat called Gristly and he passed away. It left me heartbroken. I initially thought that I wouldn’t have another cat, but soon realised that I needed one in my life. The timing with Nouska seemed like fate. My beloved Gristly passed away in December and she was ready in May. The way she came to me was just incredible. It was just meant to be. Her foster mum messages me to say how grateful she is that Nouska is here and happy. It’s so lovely to hear. The whole process has just been so incredibly rewarding, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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