The Wadhams: Catnappers

Shutterstock / johavel © Brown cat eating from a bowl

Catnappers is the final chapter in our Life & The Wadhams’ series. Many thanks to writer Karen Byrom for crafting these wonderful Wadhams’ adventures over the last four years. Although we’re pausing the series, you can go back and once again read all the episodes here. Enjoy!

Not yet met the Wadhams? Read the background on My Weekly’s best-loved family, then come back and enjoy the next generation’s adventures as Mike and Polly Wadham’s elder grandson, Alex Clark settles into family life with wife Natalie, toddler son William and baby twins Lyra and Lottie. They’ve moved from their flat above Pretty Polly’s, the hairdressing and beauty salon which Natalie runs to live in a house with attached annexe for Natalie’s grandmother Julia.

That Friday morning in January started as usual for Natalie with a few hours spent amusing the twins, before they picked up William from nursery. She was pushing the double buggy up the drive of No 12, Linden Grove, William dancing around her, when there was a rap at the front window of the granny annexe attached to the main house.

Her grandmother Julia was waving and pointing to something in the garden.

Natalie looked around just as William exclaimed, “Pussy cat! There’s a pussy cat in our garden, Mummy.”

Sure enough, under the hedge sat a small, somewhat familiar-looking brown cat. It looked cold and miserable, and slightly scrawny, and as Natalie moved towards it, it let out a piteous meow.

She bent to coax it from its hidey-hole and it was just stretching towards her when Julia appeared at her front door and declared in imperious tones, “Natalie! I meant for you to chase it away, not encourage it. Shoo! Go on!” she flapped her hand in the cat’s direction. Startled, it retreated back, but did not scarper as she’d intended.

“I think it’s hungry,” Natalie said.

Julia had joined her by this point, and looked down at the cat. “It’s probably being fed by half the houses in the neighbourhood,” she said. “And it must belong to someone.”

“It does.” Natalie had a sudden flash of remembrance of where she’d seen the cat before. “It belongs to the young guy who lived at No. 22 – the house that went up for sale last week. I’ve seen it in his window.” She looked at her grandmother in horror.

You don’t think he’s just left it behind, do you? That would be so heartless.

Julia sniffed. “I wouldn’t put it past him, with his flash car and the succession of girls he had at the house. Hasn’t he gone off to Dubai or somewhere to work in banking?”

“The Cayman Isles,” Natalie confirmed. “But how could he leave his cat behind?”

“Well, it’s not our problem,” Julia sniffed. “Call the RSPCA and they’ll deal with it.”

The cat mewled again, and William tugged at his mum’s leg. “It’s hungry, Mummy,” he said. “And so am I. And so are Lyra and Lottie.”

Natalie sighed and turned from the cat. “I know. Come on, we’ll get you all fed, and then I’ll see about the cat.”

By the time she returned to the garden, an hour later, the cat was gone. Natalie frowned. It had looked so frightened and forlorn, and she felt anxious for the little thing. Then she heard a small meow from the direction of Julia’s door and looked over to see it greedily lapping at what looked like a saucerful of tuna. Julia stood over it, frowning, then looked up and caught Natalie’s eye.

“Well, I couldn’t let it starve while we wait for someone to fetch it, could I?” she protested. “But it’s not getting over the door.”

“Quite right.” Natalie nodded, hiding a grin. “I’ll call Alex’s uncle Drew – his wife Annabel runs a cat sanctuary. She’ll know what to do.”

Annabel Wadham was sympathetic to Natalie’s call.

“What a callous young man!” she exclaimed.

Poor little kitty. But, Natalie, I’m afraid we don’t have room for it right now. Would you be able to look after it, just for a few days?

“I don’t know…” Natalie wavered. On the one hand, she felt desperately sorry for the abandoned cat. On the other, she had William, Lyra and Lottie to care for, and had just been thinking about getting back to work for a couple of days a week. How could she add a cat to the mix? But if it was only for a few days…

She looked out of the window to where the cat had retreated to its nest under the hedge, and sat licking its paws. “OK. But let me know when a space comes up, please. I have enough on my plate without a cat.”

Julia, who had been trying to appear not to be listening in to the conversation, snorted. “You’re such a soft touch, Natalie. You should phone the RSPCA.”

Natalie shook her head. “We know no-one will be looking for the poor thing, and they might not be able to find it another home…” Her voice tailed off. “It’s just a few days.”

Julia stood up and marched to the internal door that divided their homes.

“I’m off to the shops, now. Do you want anything?”

Just some peace and quiet, Natalie thought wryly. But there was no chance of that with William demanding to be let out to play with the pussy cat, while the twins began grizzling with tiredness. She looked back at the cat and her own eyes filled with tears. How could anyone be so callous?

When Julia arrived back it was by taxi. Natalie stared in astonishment as her grandmother walked up the drive, followed by a disgruntled driver bearing at least three carrier bags.

She watched as her grandmother let herself into her own house, paid off the driver, and closed the door behind her. Only to emerge a short time later with a proper cat bowl full of food, which she took down to the cat under the hedge before retreating back into her home.

Natalie checked the twins were sleeping soundly, then knocked at their adjoining door.

“Just wondered if you could do me a favour?” she asked innocently. “The twins are down for their nap, and William is watching cartoons so I’ve got a spare half hour. I thought I’d nip out for some cat food.”

Julia drew herself up.

“There’s no need. I picked some up at the supermarket. And a couple of bowls – I don’t want an insanitary cat licking at my saucers. I got litter and a tray as well.”

“I thought it wasn’t getting over the door?” Natalie said mischievously.

“I don’t want it digging up my flowerbeds,” Julia said. “The snowdrops are looking lovely just now, and the crocus can’t be far behind. I’ll put the litter tray at the back door – let’s hope it’s been trained to use it.”

Within a few days, that unwelcome cat was firmly ensconced in Julia’s home!

Refusing to acknowledge it had also wormed its way into her heart, she hadn’t yet named it, so they all called it Puss-puss. The twins delighted in its presence, cooing over it as it made itself at home between the annexe and the main house, and became increasingly confident and playful under William’s rough and tumble. But it always returned to Julia.

And then Alex arrived home one evening with some news.

“I was scrolling though Facebook during my lunchbreak,” he told Natalie as they cleared up after their evening meal. “And look.”

He handed over his phone and Natalie saw the post from the local Missing Pets site immediately.

Clara, Female Tabby, aged 18 months, went missing from our home on January 12. She was our son’s cat, and may have returned to the area she knows around Linden Grove. If anyone’s seen her please let us know. We are desperate for news.

Natalie let out a long slow whistle.

“So she wasn’t abandoned. Oh, Alex, I should have let the RSPCA or the police know we found her. I’m a catnapper!” She covered her face with her hands.

Alex pulled her to him.

“No you’re not. You’re a kind and caring animal lover. And so, surprisingly, is your grandmother. There’s no harm done – we can let the couple know their cat is safe and sound, and they’ll come to get her.”

“But there is harm done.” Natalie’s face was white as she lowered her hands. “Grandma is going to be devastated at having to give her back. And the twins and William will miss her, too. So will I,” she admitted.

“And me,” Alex said. “But you know what we have to do.”

Mr and Mrs Whiteford were a lovely couple who were delighted to find their son’s cat had been so well cared for, and waved away Natalie’s fulsome apologies about not handing her over to the authorities as soon as she’d found her.

“You acted for the best,” Mrs Whiteford said cheerfully. “And on good advice, too. We should have thought about phoning round the cat sanctuaries, then your aunt could have told us you had taken in Clara.

“We’re just glad she’s safe. Our son couldn’t take her with him to the Caymans obviously, but he loves her dearly and we’d have felt so awful if anything had happened to her.”

“We haven’t dared let him know she went missing,” her husband confided.

“And we’ll make sure she’s kept firmly indoors now until she accepts us as her new home until Kristopher gets back.”

During all this exchange, Julia Jameson had said nothing. She remained silent as Clara was coaxed into her basket, then abruptly left the hall, to return with a carrier full of cat stuff.

“You’d better have these,” she said sniffily. “There’s food and treats and bowls, and her favourite toy.” She turned without another word, not even a farewell to the cat, and returned to her own home.

“I’m so sorry,” Mrs Whiteford whispered as she and her husband left, Clara howling in protest at her confinement.

Once they’d gone, Alex looked from Julia’s firmly closed door to his wife’s tear-filled eyes to his little son’s doleful countenance at the loss of his new playfellow.

“Right,” he said. “Good job I’ve got Uncle Drew and Annabel on speed dial. Annabel did say the sanctuary was full of cats who really do need a new home, didn’t she?”

He knocked at Julia’s door, and she opened it.

“We can’t replace Clara, we know, Julia. But if you fancy a trip to the cat sanctuary tomorrow, I’m sure we can find a cat just as loveable.”

Within a week, Clara, named in honour of the first Clara, was firmly ensconced in the home and hearts of Julia, Natalie, Alex and their little children, who adored the playful black cat with white paws.

At the end of another busy day, as she cuddled down with her husband Alex on the sofa, Clara purring on her lap, Natalie reflected on all that had happened since she and Alex had returned from Vietnam four years ago.

She had survived a pandemic, married, started a business, had three children, and reconnected with her father’s family, in particular her grandmother, Julia. And she had a whole new family in the Wadhams’ extended clan over at No. 23 Elderslie Terrace.

Life was pretty perfect, and although she knew challenges would lie ahead, as they do for everyone, tonight she was able to give a sigh of contentment and count her blessings.

There was so much to look back on, and so much to look forward to. She couldn’t wait.


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