Tabby holds a very dear place in the heart of Catexplorer

Tabby was Catexplorer's founder Hasara's first cat and was in her life for 23 very special years.

Tell us about Tabby

Tabby was a stray kitten who followed us home. When we got home, she walked straight in and started playing with everything.

And just like that, she wriggled her way into our hearts. Well wriggled into my dad's heart, my mum and I were smitten the moment we laid our eyes on her.

Tabby was full of personality - she was cheeky, lovable, stubborn, protective, possessive, playful and downright adorable. As an only child, she became the sibling I never had.

When we first adopted Tabby, we had no idea how to look after a cat in Australia. My parents were bought up in Sri Lanka, and had very limited knowledge on how to look after a cat. 

The first night we had Tabby, we tried to feed her some bread and cows milk (we really believed the stereotype) and she refused to have any of it.

She was also covered in fleas so my parents insisted that she stay outside in the backyard.

In hindsight, I am sure that she caught her dinner that night.....

We didn't even know how to take Tabby anywhere. The first time we took her to a vet, we actually put her in between 2 shopping baskets (one on the bottom and one on top as the lid). We had no idea about carriers. The vet actually made us buy a carrier from the clinic because she was worried that she would escape! 

Being a stray kitten, Tabby was also fairly sick. She had fleas, a skin infection, an ear infection and an eye infection. 

But we loved her. She was our kitten, so we spent as much money as we could to make her better.

Once we got rid of all the fleas, she became an indoor-outdoor cat.

She loved staying indoors with us, but also loved the outdoors and exploring, hassling dogs and sadly hunting.

Given what I know now, I would never have let her roam. Cats who roam typically have a much shorter lifespan than indoor cats as they are more likely to be injured. They also hunt wildlife and in Australia, this has contributed to some species becoming endangered.

Luckily my primary school (i.e. elementary school) ran a few lessons on responsible pet care and during these I learnt that being a responsible cat owner meant that you don't let your cat roam.

But we couldn't change that Tabby loved the outdoors.

After seeing a few dogs on a walk, we thought it would be a good option for Tabby. If a dog can do it, why can't a cat?

So we started harness training her.

All this in the 1990s, before social media, the internet or anything that would highlight that walking your cat was a thing. We were just the weird people in our neighbourhood who walked our cat. (And yes, everyone stared: cars, buses, taxis, trucks would stop and stare at us!)

How did you harness train Tabby?

While it was not love at first sight with Tabby and her harness, she was relatively easy to harness train.

She was nearly 4 years old when we started harness training her. Through consistent repetition with wearing the harness and outside walks she became used to it. She also absolutely loved the special cat milk treats she got afterwards! We think the treat really helped!

What kind of adventures did Tabby go on?

Most of the time Tabby's adventures were very small, just to the local park next to our block. She loved these - smelling the plants, eating the grass, rolling around in puddles and watching everything come and go. She also had a love-hate relationship with one of our neighbour's boarder collies (who absolutely adored Tabby) and would they would bump into each other during Tabby's walks.

Did Tabby go on any holidays?

When we first got Tabby, we went on a family holiday and left her at a boarding facility. Tabby did not handle that well. When we came back she was thinner, her coat was lacklustre and she just did not look well.

We realised that she was very attached to us, and refused to eat or groom herself if we weren't around.

So we decided as a family that we would no longer go on family holidays that Tabby couldn't join us on.

Luckily the majority of our family holidays were road trips in regional New South Wales so Tabby joined us on these.

How did Tabby find travelling in the car?

She LOVED it.

She would stay in her carrier while the car was in motion. But at every rest stop, she would get out of the carrier and explore the car. Sometimes, if it was safe, she would even explore outside the car. As soon as my dad sat down in the driver's seat, she would jump straight back into her carrier and get ready to keep going.

Did Tabby ever travel on any other mode of transport?

Yes, we once took her to the Gold Coast on a plane.

In Australia, pets have to fly in the cargo, they don't fly in the cabin. 

And Tabby HATED it.

And I will never do that to another animal again.... The sounds, the smells, the stress - it isn't worth it. I would add a couple of days of driving to a trip, rather than flying another pet in cargo again.

How did you find pet friendly accommodation? Was it even a thing back then?

We definitely didn't know about pet friendly accommodation, and I'm not sure if it even was a thing. 

We used to just take her along to whatever accommodation we were staying at - and I can not stress - Do Not Do This!

In hindsight, it was so risky. What if the next person in those rooms was severely allergic to cats? What if there was something in those rooms that was toxic to cats? There are so many what ifs and now I would only stay in pet friendly accommodation.

How did Tabby adjust to the new places on holidays? Don't cats like routine?

We used to go on a road trip every few months, so Tabby became accustomed to travel and new places.

She absolutely loved exploring new accommodation and seeing all the new sights.

We even moved a lot during this time, and she loved that whole process of packing, moving, unpacking and settling in a new home.

How long did Tabby adventure for?

Tabby travelled on holidays with us for a very long time. It was only when she was 17 and started showing signs of renal failure that we stopped  taking her on holidays with us. At the same time we stopped going on frequent road trips and had a couple of overseas holidays.

During these time Tabby stayed at the amazing Calabash Kennels and Cattery and they looked after her really well.

Tabby continued to go on walks till she was 20. After this she had supervised time in our gardens and occasionally in our neighbours yard.

At the beginning everyone used to stare at us when we used to walk her on a harness through the neighbourhood. But she then went from being an oddity, to a loved oddity that everyone wanted to help and nurture.

When we had to say good bye to her in 2016, we were touched by how many people had fond memories of her walking on a harness and seeing her watching the world go by from our windows. Apparently she used to interact with passers by through the window (we had no idea!).

Tabby taught me many lessons about cats - how to look after them, what to feed them, how to be a responsible cat owner, how to travel with cats, how to train cats to explore with us and many more.

But most of all she taught me about the special bond you can develop with a cat and how they cement themselves in a special place in your heart that can never be replaced.

And she started the passion in me, that led me to train Lumos & Noxie to walk on a harness and leash and then to start Catexplorer to help other owners train their cats.

Historically, it's probably not the case - but to me, Tabby will always be the first catexplorer, who was ahead of her time.