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At first glance, the residents at the Cat Haven look like any other cats: playful, fluffy bundles with pads on their toes and keen eyes for treats.

Some move agile and alert; others lie sleepily, hoping for a quick tummy rub while stretched out on the sofa. Take a closer look and many of the cats living here have unique qualities that make them different. Some are deaf, some have brain damage, others just need that extra level of care and attention.

Every cat however is special and each one is loved and nurtured by the Cat Haven founders, Sarah and Jay Pressler. Set up around two years ago, Sarah has always loved animals – especially cats – and previously worked rescuing and rehabilitating horses.

It was then that her life changed dramatically.

“The Cat Haven was borne out of me becoming disabled,” says Sarah. “I have ME and Fibromyalgia. It causes chronic fatigue and huge amounts of pain. I get muscle cramps, sprains and strains. Most people can function with it but mine has gone the full hog and apart from walking around the house or going around a small shop, I can’t do anything really.

“I used to be really healthy – riding horses and going to the gym. I’ve gone from that to having limited energy and chronic pain. I can care for the cats but sometimes I struggle to get out of bed and do simple tasks. But with the help from my daughter and my husband, we manage.”

After giving up her job, Sarah stayed at home. With a love for cats, she then made it her new mission to care for her own family of felines. Mya, Jasper, Furzy, Jeeves, Forest, Wispa, Oscar and Sarah’s daughter’s cat Lacey, made up the original eight at the Cat Haven two years ago. The family has now grown to 15 cats in total.

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Most of the cats at the Cat Haven are disabled or need extra special care but that hasn’t put Sarah and her husband off. In fact, it has only made them want to care for them more knowing that they are giving their cats a second chance at life – especially as many of them faced being put to sleep before they were taken into care.

“They are my whole life,” says Sarah.

One resident at the Cat Haven who does stand out is Forest. One of the original eight cats at the haven, Forest was born with cerebellar hypoplasia which meant he struggled to walk. After suffering a huge seizure, he developed hydrocephalus which means there is a build-up of fluid on the brain.

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“He was too small for surgery or treatment – it was just a case of looking after him,” says Sarah. “He didn’t die, he kept getting better and now he hasn’t been unwell for ages. He’s a miracle.”

Donned in a pair of snazzy pants from his cat-sized wardrobe, Forest never ceases to amaze with his ability to overcome obstacles and get on with his life. A true inspiration, Forest is a regular star on the Cat Haven’s Facebook page with regular updates, videos and posts detailing his daily adventures.

With eight cats under their wing, Sarah and Jay took on seven more cats: Lilly, Trevor, Eva, Tabetha, Norma, Willow and Luna.

“I wasn’t looking for more after we had the original eight,” says Sarah. “But then Wispa came along and opened up the joys of having deaf cats. They’re unique!”

With 15 cats now under one roof, Sarah is kept busy caring for them all as well as looking after the Cat Haven Facebook page.

“Forest is the highest maintenance, followed by Trevor who is deaf and has brain damage. He is a needy cat and can get very anxious if he gets lost in the house. Sometimes he can’t recall where he is so he’s permanently with us.”

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Not only has the Cat Haven social media page been a great way to share the various goings on with all the different personalities, but it has also given Sarah an opportunity to meet other cat carers around the world as well as make friends and stay in touch.

“I did the page as a bit of fun but now we have so many followers and lots of people message me. “Without my cats I would have no life and thanks to Facebook I have lots of friends.”

Sarah and Jay care for the cats out of their own pocket and with 130 tins of cat food and 20 bags of litter to buy each month, it certainly isn’t cheap! However, they are regularly overwhelmed by the kindness of the group who want to help and many of the cats now have sponsors.

“When I started the group, people were asking if they could sponsor the cats. I was hesitant at first, but people insisted and wanted to give money,” says Sarah. “We have an Amazon wishlist and people will send us money for things like vet bills. We’ve been really blown away by how lovely people have been.

“It’s only because of the group that we’ve been able to keep the last five or six cats – the support has just been amazing.”

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Having tried re-homing, Sarah has found with all the work they put into the cats that keeping them as part of the family has been the best option for all.

“We work so hard, we just can’t let them go,” she says.

And even though it’s a big job taking on such a large family that needs so much care and attention, Sarah has found a new lease of life through caring for them.

“It’s their company that I love the most,” says Sarah. “Looking at them and knowing that they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for us taking them in. Trevor would have died, and Norma and Willow would have been put to sleep. “I see them now, running around and playing - if I hadn’t taken them in, they wouldn’t have had a life at all. “We’re one big, massive, kooky family. They’ve all got their routines and I know where they will be at any one time. Seeing them be normal cats brings a tear to my eye and I’m just so happy I can provide them with such a happy, safe place – it makes my house a home. There’s always someone who wants a cuddle and a fuss, and there is always someone to play with and talk to – they’re great company. It’s immensely rewarding.”

 

Find out more about the Cat Haven and meet the family, here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1782522741982647/%20

 

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