Cats make Cambridge garden centre their second home

Fatty the cat
Image caption,Fatty the cat found her special place at the garden centre when she was just a kitten

By Helen Burchell

BBC News, Cambridgeshire

A garden centre and its comfortable patio furniture have become a second home for two cats.

Fatty has been visiting Scotsdales in Horningsea, near Cambridge, for about 15 years and was recently joined by her “brother” George, a handsome tabby.

While both share the same loving owners in the village, they are now “like staff members” at the garden centre.

However, staff have a nightly ritual of finding and putting them out at closing time, as they set off the store alarms.

Fatty – a fluffy black and white moggy – has been visiting the garden centre since she was a kitten, and is a favourite with both staff and regular customers.

George, an equally fluffy tabby, is a relative newcomer, and at about two years of age has only one year’s experience of perusing the store.

Fatty the cat
Image caption,Fatty was named by her owners’ daughter, as apparently she was just a “big ball of fluff” as a kitten
George the cat in a nativity scene
Image caption,George is not particularly keen on the camera and looks more angry than angelic in the centre’s nativity display

Most mornings, both cats greet staff at the door as the garden centre prepares to open to the public, store manager Jeff Hodges said.

And then they have free range of the outdoor plants, indoor displays, the Christmas section and the barbecue display which, situated just beneath one of the heaters, became Fatty’s favourite spot.

She would take long naps on a cushion on her favourite garden bench near the barbecues.

However, when the bench was recently sold, Fatty’s “bed” was no more.

Staff obviously did not sell her fur-strewn cushion, but despite placing it on a new bench – in the same spot – Fatty was not happy.

Cat at a checkout till
Image caption,No, she is not for sale
George the cat wearing a Halloween hat
Image caption,Occasionally George seems happy to pose

Sarah Phipps, seasonal supervisor at the centre, said: “Customers do come in and ask for the cats, because they seem to love them.

“When Fatty got injured and had to be kept at home, people would come in and ask where she was.

“She’s like a member of staff.”

Staff posing with a cat in a garden centre
Image caption,Staff (left to right) Claire Turner, Jeff Hodges, Sara Phipps and front, Chris Compton with Fatty the cat

Claire Turner, who works in the gift and food hall sections, said when Fatty once jumped into a delivery van, everyone rallied round to find her.

“The driver saw her jump out several miles away at his next stop and called us,” she said.

“A few staff drove over to try to find her, and several people from the village also helped bring her safely back home.”

Chris Compton, who works in the horticulture section, is one of Fatty’s favourite humans.

“She often jumps into my car to greet me when I arrive, and spends a lot of time in our shed – which is our office,” he said.

“If we leave the window ajar, she opens it with her paw and comes inside – she’s a real sweetie.”

Fatty the cat
Image caption,Fatty loves to sit among the flowers

Broadcaster and cat expert Roger Tabor told the BBC that cats who sought out other people and enjoyed attention from regular contact with strangers were “in the great minority”.

Fatty and George subscribe to this theory, apparently unfazed by hundreds of customers filing past them, many with dogs – and seem intent on amusing themselves, staff and customers for many years to come.

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