A pest removal expert seems an unlikely ally to a cat rescue charity, but his rescue of Mystery from destruction was one of the high points of our year.
Mystery’s story begins before the 2020 Covid lockdown, when she was still the much-loved companion of an elderly woman. Like many timid cats, she bonded with the one person closest to her and avoided interaction with most other people.
When her person sadly passed away at the beginning of lockdown, Mystery was initially left alone in the empty house. The family couldn’t get her out, and eventually called a local pest control company to remove her.
Pestproof owner Paul Chapman attended the call himself, and was told the son couldn’t approach her because she behaved like a wild cat.
“He couldn’t handle it, and he wanted us to do something with it… just dispose of it,” he said.
Paul blocked all the doors and corridors in the house, but couldn’t find her until he turned a sofa upside down and found her hiding deep inside. But before he could get her into a cage, she bolted outside through the cat flap, even though it was blocked with a gas bottle. Instead, he set up a humane cage trap in the lounge with food in it, and several days later, she was finally caught.
As soon as Paul heard she had been trapped, he immediately went to get her, even though he was in the middle of another job, so she wouldn’t be in the trap any longer than she had to be.
Instead of killing the cats he removes, he prefers to take them to the SPCA or UHARS (Upper Hutt Animal Rescue Society). This was the first time he had taken a cat to CPW.
“I find the way everyone is managing [cat removal] in general is awful,” he says. “I don’t believe that killing them is a decision for me to make.”
He had heard of pest control firms being called to remove neighbours’ cats just for coming into the garden, and shooting stray cats is common in rural areas.
“I believe that all cats should be microchipped. That would make everything easier.”
As well as making sure cats have a chance to be rehomed, he also usually passes on part of his professional fees for these cases to the shelters as a donation. Pestproof even rescues unwanted bumble bee nests, relocating them to the Wellington Botanic Gardens in collaboration with the Gardens management.
Mystery was in the CPW shelter for some months, gradually building her confidence as staff and volunteers worked with her. Though shy and hissy at first, she became gentle and affectionate with those people she got to know.
And then a few months back, the right person, Natalie, finally came through the door. She fell in love with Mystery and took her home to live with her and her sister.
“She has adjusted so well,” Natalie says. “We hang out in the garden together and she lets me know she’s eaten grass by throwing it up inside… the last time was on my pyjamas which was cool because it’s easy to wash.
“If I let her out the back door she sticks to the garden and doesn’t wander off to the neighbours or the road, which is awesome. She’s a very nosy neighbour and spends a lot of the night running between my bedroom windows.
“When she’s frisky, she likes to watch the toilet flush. She has lots of toys to ruck like a rugby player. We play hide and seek around the house, popping out of doorways at each other. When she’s chatting we have quite the conversation. She’s a hard case and we have a great time together.”
Paul was delighted to see pictures of Mystery doing so well in her new home and a video of her playing with a toy on a bed.
“It’s a big difference,” he says. “I wasn’t expecting that. That’s fantastic.”
Natalie also passed on her thanks to Mystery’s hero: “I wouldn’t have my girl if he wasn’t such an awesome guy.”
Natalie and Mystery enjoy happy ever after cuddles.
Pestproof owner Paul Chapman, who brought Mystery to CPW instead of destroying her, like many other pest companies would have done.