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Cat World, April 2019

Lola’s Legacy to Cats

The tragic loss of their beloved black and white mischievous cat spurred Simon and Eve Davies of ProtectaPet on, to prevent other cat owners from experiencing the same heartbreak.

There was never a dull moment with Lola around. She was rescued from a farm barn as a tiny kitten and - as if relishing every moment of her precious life - she certainly lived it to the full. She was so playful and liked conventional cat-toys like feathers on elastic and laser pens, but she also loved to play with brown paper bags and egg shells! From climbing the textured wallpaper in their rental-property like spider-man to deliberately splashing water on guests, there was never a dull moment with her around! Simon comments: ‘We’d leave the tap dripping just for her amusement!’

Sadly, this May marks the ten-year anniversary of Lola’s premature death in a road traffic collision in 2009 when she was just two years old. Simon and Eve had tried to keep her as an indoor only cat but even as a kitten, Eve reflects how she would sit on the window sill, watching the birds and chattering her teeth, longing to go out to play: ‘If we ever opened a window or door, she would try and slip out. The week before she died, we were sat in the garden watching with horror as she scaled the roof from an upstairs window. We felt torn between keeping her indoors but fearful that if we allowed her to go outdoors, we would expose her to the dangers of a busy road and popular dog-walking spot.’ While the exact life-expectancy of indoor cats versus outdoor cats is hotly disputed, free-roaming outdoor cats are exposed to increased risks including traffic and territorial disputes with other cats.

Simon reflects: ‘After Lola’s death, we were determined that her brother, Leo, wouldn’t reach the same fate and so I set about researching what we could do to give him safe outdoor access. I graduated in product design and relished the opportunity to prototype a cat fence barrier. I spent weeks trailing different types of mesh and different styles of bracket and configurating the perfect combination. Once installed, we were just overwhelmed by the peace of mind and assurance that Leo had a safe outdoor territory. There were lots of unforeseen benefits too: he had a limited territory in which to hunt so we didn’t feel concerned about him raiding bird-nests. His reduced capacity to hunt live prey meant fewer pests such as ticks and worms. But most of all we were just delighted that when we came home, we knew he was there: safe and content.’

Simon and Eve had the cat-proof garden for three years before realising that they had stumbled across a business opportunity. Simon said, ‘Friends and family who owned cats started to ask me if I could fit a similar system for them. I realised that I had designed something that other cat owners would benefit from and so in 2012, I placed my first advert under the brand-name of ‘ProtectaPuss’. In the early days I was a one-man band travelling up and down the country, simultaneously optimising the designs while installing them. It was a great way to understand the requirements of all shapes and sizes of gardens from little suburban gardens to sprawling mature gardens with mature shrubbery. Before long, I extended the range to include free-standing enclosures so we could offer a solution to everyone.’

Ten years on, ProtectaPet cat fencing solutions are installed in over 3,000 UK gardens and protecting over 10,000 cats with distributors based in the Netherlands and Germany too. They have regional installation engineers operating across the UK with a head office based centrally in Stoke on Trent. Last year, ‘International Cat Care’ – an arm of the ‘International Society of Feline Medicine’ - awarded ProtectaPet with the prestigious ‘cat friendly’ accolade at their annual awards ceremony in Westminster, recognising the product’s significant contribution to the enhancement of feline welfare.

Eve Davies, Communications Director at ProtectaPet, says ‘I think that it is inevitable in an age when roads are becoming busier and cat territories are more densely populated that responsible cat owners are looking for ways to keep their cat safe in an outdoor territory. Fifty years ago, dogs wandered the streets of Britain but now that is unheard of. Proposed changes to the law, such as the drafting of the ‘Cats Bill’ - which is promoting compulsory microchipping and reporting of cats in road traffic accidents – are key indicators that there is a feeling among cat guardians that the legal status of cats should be brought in alignment with dogs.

‘Our cat fencing solution saves cats’ lives up and down the country every day and for me and there is no greater job satisfaction. I look back to the dark days after Lola’s death when I really struggled to come to terms with her loss and the gaping whole she left in our lives. I am thankful that we managed to come through it and I feel that establishing ProtectaPet is a really fitting tribute to a wonderful, curious and fun-loving character who was so loved and adored.’