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Holly, who made headlines around the world, now serves as a bond for her adoptive family.
She may only have half a head, but Holly the cat helped bring a whole family together in Swansea, Wales.
“She’s been a godsend,” says Holly’s human, Julie Whittaker. “She’s come at the right time, and she’s made such a difference.”
Holly came into Julie’s life at the end of 2015, when a Facebook friend of Julie’s shared a post about a special needs cat at the Llys Nini RSPCA. The stray had arrived at the shelter with wounds and matted fur marring her pretty head. She had been scratching at a lump on her ear, and a veterinarian quickly diagnosed her with cancer. Holly’s ear and a pretty big chunk of her head had to be removed to stop the tumor from growing. It would take eight operations to fix her up, but it was worth it — the surgeries worked.
Holly’s cancer didn’t spread, but thanks to the internet’s obsession with cats, her fame did. Media in the U.K. picked up her story, dubbing her the half-headed cat and reporting on how the folks at the Llys Nini shelter were seeking a forever home for her. Soon, international media started paying attention and pictures of Holly made their way around the globe.
“A lot of people wanted to adopt her abroad,” says Julie, who notes that Llys Nini fielded inquiries from potential adopters as far away as the United States and New Zealand.
While all the international attention was nice, Holly’s health meant she wasn’t a great candidate for travel. The shelter’s policies also meant a home visit was required, so staff really were hoping to find Holly a place locally.
Meanwhile, Julie herself was just moving back into her parents’ home in Swansea. After living away for years, she had come home to care for ailing family members, including her grandmother who had been diagnosed with liver cancer. Adjusting to all the change in her life was a little more difficult than Julie had expected, but when Holly showed up in her Facebook feed, Julie knew she was interested in making one more change and adopting the kitty. The only problem was, the house wasn’t hers, and she wasn’t sure her parents would be on board with the idea of having an indoor cat.
“I had to convince them,” she explains, noting that they warmed to the idea after some discussion.
With her parents convinced, Julie connected with a shelter volunteer her family knew and proceeded to submit her application. She was pleased when the folks at Llys Nini called to say she was the most local applicant for Holly. After a home visit and some paperwork, the famous cat moved in with her new family. According to Julie, the gorgeous half-headed kitty wasn’t the only one to benefit from the adoption,
“She has helped settle me back in to Swansea.” Julie explains, adding that the cat has also bought the whole family closer together. “We were all living very busy individual lives, but she is the focus now. She is the baby.”
Julie’s family may treat Holly like a baby, but the truth is this cat is already a senior citizen. According to Julie, the cat’s exact age in unknown, but she is thought to be between 11 and 18 years old. Maybe that’s why Holly got along so great with Julie’s grandmother. Julie says Holly took a liking to her Nan and started watching over her soon after moving in. The little cat liked to perch on Julie’s grandmother’s bed give the older woman kitty kisses and sweet head bonks.
“Holly seems to be very used to the older generation. She likes children but she seems particularly happy with pensioners,” Julie says.
Unfortunately, Julie’s Nan passed away from liver cancer in April. The house became quieter than usual as the family went into mourning, but Holly — who is deaf — broke through the silence to offer comforting cuddles to Julie and her parents when they needed her most.
The past few months have been tough for the family, but having their half-headed cat around has made everyone a bit happier.
“We’re just delighted to have her,” says Julie, who is amazed at how famous her cat still is five months after first making headlines.
“It’s surprising how many people you speak to around the area, and around the country who know of her,” Julie explains.
She hopes Holly’s story can help teach people that older cats are perfectly adoptable and make wonderful companions — even if they have medical issues (or half a head). While it’s true that Holly has to take pink tablets for hyperthyroidism, she’s also still spry enough to put on a pink hoodie and head out for a walk on her kitty leash. She probably won’t get far without being recognized.
Heather is a wife, new mom, and former TV journalist in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. You can follow Heather on Twitter and Google+.
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