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Alfie's still a real scaredy cat

Owner: Catriona Mitchell,

from the city centre

Animal: Alfie, her five-year-old cat

Problem: Alfie is allowed outside, but he refuses to leave the house

Alfie was found one morning, as an adult cat, by Catriona's daughter, Holly. He was huddled on the doorstep of the city centre shop where she worked, having squeezed through the security grill at the front of the shop doorway.

Alfie was emaciated, with the bones of his spine and ribs protruding, and he was filthy, covered in grease and tar. Holly took him to the vet who told her that he was a male neutered cat, aged around three, and that it was likely that he had once been well looked after. From the state of him, it looked as if he had been fending for himself for several months.


Holly put posters up around the city centre and posted messages on 'lost-and-found' websites, but no one contacted her. Alfie was homeless.

Holly already had three cats, so she couldn't take another, so Alfie ended up going to stay with a colleague who only had two cats. She hoped they would welcome Alfie, but they treated him like an annoying intruder, and he ended up hiding under furniture all the time, so scared that he refused even to come out to eat.

At this stage, Holly called on her mum. Catriona liked cats, but after her previous one had died at the age of 20, she had decided not to get another. When she was offered Alfie, she agreed at least to give him a try. He moved in, and the two of them discovered that they enjoyed each other's company: two years later, they're still living happily together.

Catriona's front door has a cat flap: her previous cat enjoyed coming and going. She presumed that Alfie would do the same, but he soon made it clear that he had no interest in going outside. Even when she leaves the front door wide open, Alfie refuses to venture out. Now that he's found a comfortable home where he's loved, he isn't taking any chances. Perhaps he has a memory of heading out from his previous home, then getting lost and becoming homeless.

Catriona feels that it's a bit of a shame that he doesn't go out: her front door opens into a pedestrianised area with plenty of trees, bushes and greenery. Alfie might enjoy the exercise and entertainment. There are several other cats in the neighbourhood and Alfie is wary of them, which probably adds to his dislike of going outside. There's a cat called Gizmo who once came right up to Catriona's front door when it had been left open. He was about to step inside when Alfie met him: they had a yowling match, which finally resulted in Alfie seeing the intruder off.


Alfie doesn't seem to mind so much when Charlie, another local cat, comes through the front door. However, Catriona felt outraged on Alfie's behalf recently, when Charlie brazenly grabbed one of Alfie's favourite toys (a catnip stuffed mouse), bolting out of the door with it hanging from his mouth. Perhaps it's no wonder that Alfie doesn't trust other cats.

Catriona isn't worried about Alfie: he's a contented indoor cat. He even watches television with her, trotting into the room whenever it's switched on and sitting beside her, watching the screen intently. He particularly enjoys nature programmes, pawing at the television when small animals and birds are shown.

The real outdoors remains out of his comfort zone: if Catriona is sitting on the front steps, enjoying the sunshine, Alfie may join her for a few minutes, but he's always keen to go back inside. With a comfy bed, good food, cable TV and plenty of love, what more could a cat want?

Visit Pete's website at www.petethevet.com