Returned to the RSPCA by four different families in the past seven years, “demonic” Chester may be the least-loved cat in Australia, but workers at the shelter are still determined to find him a home for Christmas.
The grumpy eight-year-old moggie was described by his last owner as “anti-social” and “a real Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. On his surrender form, the former owner wrote that while Chester was “great with chickens” and “tolerates the dogs”, he also “attacks our old cat and the neighbours”. She told the RSPCA that she had visitors who would not enter the house unless the cat was locked away.
But team members at the shelter say he is one of their favourites.
Chester first came into the South Australian RSPCA in 2013, as a young and loveable one-year-old.
“He was a stray from Port Lincoln, so we don’t know what his story was at that stage,” said the RSPCA’s media relations manager, Carolyn Jones.
“He had a notch out of the ear so he might have been living a bit rough on the street before he came to us, but he was a character from the get-go. He knew what he liked and didn’t like in no uncertain way, but he was extremely affectionate and would come up to you and give you those head-butts.”
Jones said he it wasn’t hard to find him his first home but much to everyone’s surprise “he didn’t last too long”.
Chester stayed at his next home for six years but his owner was forced to surrender him when entering aged care. He was well-loved there despite his habit of gentle “biting whenever he wants your attention”, according to the owner.
The third family lasted only two weeks and slowly that independent and loving nature hardened into a grumpy exterior.
“The last report card was particularly surprising. He was with a lady and family that had a lot of experience with cats and he was a bit of a nightmare for them by the sounds of things. You know, making it a little difficult for them to have guests around and certainly not making it too pleasant for the old cat that lives with them,” Jones said.
“She thought she would be able to manage it and unfortunately she couldn’t but she did give it a red hot go.”
Those at the shelter who try to pet him too much are met with meows and bites, and he gained a “bad boy” reputation for bullying other cats. Despite his cranky attitude, Chester has been able to win over the workers at the shelter.
RSPCA worker Jenny Sherring said he is a lovely animal, you just need to know how to handle him.
“He will swipe but it’s generally just him telling you when he has had enough,” she said.
“He has had four owners so I would say his patience levels are probably at an all-time low at the moment. But if you can learn how to read the signs and you know to tell when he’s had enough, then I hope that we can find the right home for him. It’s just a matter of being patient.”
Sherring is keen to point out Chester’s good qualities for potential new owners.
“He is so chatty, he sees people, comes up to them and chats to them straight away. He can be really affectionate when he wants to sit on your lap, but then when he’s had enough he will simply leave you alone,” she said.
With the adoption market flooded with kittens this time of year, Chester is one of around 20 adult cats still looking for a home in the RSPCA Lonsdale shelter this Christmas. But Jones said they want to make sure animals aren’t bought as gifts unless everyone in the house is sure they want a new pet.
“Christmas can be a really good time to bring a pet into your family or into your household because a lot of people are on holidays … But what we say is pets should never be a surprise present. They are not inanimate objects, they are living creatures, and so when you’re getting an animal, the whole household needs to be on board and understand what that animal needs and how everybody is going to help look after it and to keep it safe,” she said.
“The days of the adverts where they would have a puppy in a box under a Christmas tree, frankly that gives us the absolute horrors. That is not how you treat any living creature.”
While Jones said the days of a post-Christmas rush on animals being surrendered are thankfully disappearing, impulsive animal purchases can still lead to serious neglect.
“It can have very poor welfare outcome for that animal. You know this is where we have animals that are turning up starving in backyards, left tied up with no water on a stinking hot day, or even worse, have died in backyards.”
But Jones said she just knows that an avid and educated pet owner is out there that would give Chester the love – and personal space – he needs to finally find a home.
“Don’t be swayed by those cute little kittens, come and get one of our beautiful older cats. We’re very hopeful that, with his face emblazoned [in the news], that he is going to find the right home,” she said.
“This time we’re really keeping fingers crossed that [home] number five will stick.”