Patricia Barnes has always been a self-confessed crazy cat lady.
Her feline obsession began when she was just three years old and she bought home her first “stray”.
It didn’t matter to her at the time that the kitten was probably someone’s pet she’d picked up at the Adamstown horse stables.
It was the start of what became a life-long mission to care for lost, injured or homeless animals.
And, what followed was a cattery business that absorbed much of her income, her land and her love.
Pat’s feline friendships have since surpassed two husbands, a career in the insurance industry, and a hobby flying planes.
When she turned 90 last month, the Belmont North woman surreptitiously began ticking off items on her bucket list.
She attended the Hunter Valley Airshow and met Paul Bennet, she met flying ace Matt Hall, had lunch at a winery and spent the night at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary.
But, there’s one item on her to-do list that she says is long-overdue.
“I’m not getting any younger,” she says.
“I said I’d be leaving this house in a box and that box is probably getting closer now I’m 90.
“I’ve got to try one last time to find Timmy’s owners and let them know he’s had a good life.”
‘Timmy’ is a caramel-coloured (some might say ginger) domestic short-haired cat that entered Pat’s life around 2010.
He was brought to Pat’s cattery after he was found wandering around a caravan park that was once operating at the beachside suburb of Redhead.
Pat says she searched tirelessly for his owners.
“I could tell he’d been well-loved. He was a friendly, well-groomed young man,” she said.
“He looked to me to be about four or five when he arrived.”
The caravan park, Pat assumes, might have had a no-pet policy meaning the owners didn’t alert anyone for fear of being reprimanded.
Over the coming weeks, she made posters and distributed them all around Redhead hoping the owners would return to collect the cat.
“I guessed they may have been travellers, because if they were local, they would have seen all the posters,” Pat said.
“We didn’t have the technology we do now.”
In the meantime, she gave him a home, and a name – an ode to his unique disability.
“I called him TLC, three-legged-cat, but also because he was in need of some TLC,” she explains.
“But, my staff said, ‘you can’t call him that, he needs a real name’. So, I called him Timothy, or just Timmy.
“By then I was madly in love with him.”
Pat believes Timmy had been well-cared for, making his disappearance even more of a mystery.
“His necessity surgery would have cost a motsa,” she says.
“He’s lost one leg and a tail.”
On March 25, 10 days after her 90th birthday, Pat’s “cat-assistant” Emma Beesley put a call-out on social media to try and help track the cat’s owners.
Hi all, this is a long shot, posting on behalf of an elderly woman not on social media. Found a ginger cat roughly 10-15 years ago at Redhead caravan park. No micro-chip/collar, or response to posters etc. The cat has very obvious identifying features that would only be known to owner. She wanted to see if we could find the original owners and let them know it had a good and loving life with her.
Although she admits the chances are slim that Timmy’s original owners will come forward after almost 15 years, Pat does hope the news does give them a sense of peace wherever they are.
“I just want them to know he’s had a good life. He’s been a great houseguest and he’s a beautiful-natured boy,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.
“I do hope I go before him because I worry about that leg.
“He’s got curvature of the spine, and he’s got arthritis, so he sits with his leg sprawled out, I don’t want a small child or a walker, or a pram or something to run over his leg, I do worry about him.”
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