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The Sunday Post’s agony aunt explains why she loves to take her cat for a walk

© Andrew CawleyMaggie Clayton takes her cat Nico out for walks on a lead.
Maggie Clayton takes her cat Nico out for walks on a lead.

Getting through lockdown has changed life for all of us. We’ve had to adapt to new rules and regulations and it has presented challenges which we have learned to meet with resilience.

So what helps to get you through? Well, what gets me through is a morning walk with my cat, Nico. It has proved the best start to the day.

Instead of having an extra half hour in bed on dull, grey mornings I’m up, showered and dressed and I clip on his turquoise cat lead and off we go for our morning stroll.

On the way we meet the regular dog walkers and stop for a chat. Some people are perplexed about why my cat is on a lead – isn’t that just for dogs? I explain that when I brought him to live with us I wanted to introduce him gradually to the neighbourhood so he wouldn’t get lost when out on the prowl.

At first he wriggled and struggled against the lead as if it was an affront to his cat dignity, but gradually he accepted it and now prances around, merrily sniffing the grass, and enjoying the experience.

When our four children were young we had cats – Tigger and Polly and Zara were part of our family life – but when Zara died I thought we’d have a cat-free household for a time. But I soon realised that, for me, a house without children or a pet just didn’t feel like home.

© Andrew Cawley
Maggie and Nico (Pic: Andrew Cawley)

So when I was offered the chance of choosing from a litter of newborn cats I said I’d love one. One afternoon when I was sitting in a classroom in Glasgow studying French I got a phone call to say the kittens were now six weeks old and would I like to come and choose our cat?

On the drive over I was very excited. As soon as I saw the litter I knew exactly the kitten I wanted.

He was small, with glossy black fur, white markings on his chest and a long tail.

On the drive home I sat in the back of the car with him and practised my French: “Mon petit chat tu est tres beau.” He purred with joy and I decided to name him after the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, Nico for short.

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He has brought me lots of joy over the past year and, yes, a fair proportion of mice. Our walks are a lifesaver for me.

I enjoy the conversations with other owners about our dogs and cats. It reminds me of being a new young mum years ago and sharing anecdotes about our toddlers at playgroup.

He isn’t entirely happy at being on a lead but puts up with it to please me. At other times he pushes his way through his cat flap and is off on his own, doing his cat thing.

I practise my French with him every day and he purrs as I stroke him and say: “Mon petit chat tu es magnifique. Je t’adore.” When I watch TV he looks up at me with his big, green eyes and both of us are very happy. Nico is part of our family. He is loved by our grandchildren. He is tolerated by my husband.

Mon petit Nico est très adorable. He has got me through lockdown with resilience.