The Birman Cat Club's
PET BIRMAN OF THE YEAR 2012
Owned by Aedamair Kiely
Pushkin, a true AMBASSADOR for all that is best in cats, is a modest cat and so will not speak up for himself leaving it instead for me, his mum, to sing his praises.
Pushkin, a blue point, was born in December 1999 just days after I lost a much loved Tortie, Floss, at the age of 14. Never having had the pleasure of being owned by a pedigree cat but having seen pictures of, and read about, this wonderful creature, the “Birman Cat”, I decided to look for one as soon as possible. Pushkin was six weeks old when his breeder Margaret Kelly phoned to say that she might have a kitten for us but wanted to meet us and see if we were the correct people for her dear kitten. As my elderly parents lived with me my father came with me to see the kittens. It was love at first sight. Of the three kittens, two boys and a girl, one little boy became very attached to dad, climbing up the sleeve of his jacket, so it was agreed that he would come to us when he was three months old. We got to know him as we visited him weekly until he was ready to come home with us.
Pushkin proved to be a very self-possessed little kitten from the moment he entered his new home. He was calm and explored in a very relaxed manner. The calm dignity he displayed the first day he arrived has stayed with him to this day. Living as we do, near a busy main road lined with tall trees; most attractive to any cat, we planned from the start to keep Pushkin as an indoor-only cat. This proved to be far easier than I could have hope for. Pushkin was a home-loving cat from the start. He was the centre of attention and having my retired parents in the house he has rarely been left alone for any length of time and so became very much a “people cat”. I had no experience of showing a cat so I was nervous of taking him to a show and only too late realised his temperament is so relaxed that it would not have bothered him in the least. He has always been a calm gentle cat happy to greet those who wished to meet him while not bothering with people who had no interest in him. Over the years his charming personality has won over many non-cat lovers and they have become “cat converts”.
All Birman cats are wonderful so what makes me feel that Pushkin has that extra “something”? He has never given a moment's bother, with perfect manners and behaviour. His visits for vet check-ups have been so easy, he loves to get in his basket and travel in the car, showing no stress when approached by admirers, and there have been many, looking in his basket. He has been gentle too, and happy about being stroked by children who have often called him a “teddy bear” cat. A very good description for him.
I have made many new friends through him and am now a committee member of SABCCI, our local cat club. Pushkin has made four appearances on national television to help advertise our annual cat show. As he was not competing at the show himself, and with his winning personality, it was felt that he was the perfect cat for the job. The first time, in 2007, I was very nervous, fearing the size of the studio, the lights, all the strange people and sounds might spook him. More fool me; Pushkin was so relaxed and acted like he always does with calm and dignity. The camera people fell in love with him and gave him disproportionate cover. He did not complain. After that there was no stopping him and he made repeat appearances in the three following years. He was not even bothered by having to wait around before the show, his patience just one more of his virtues. He also made appearances at two national pet expos here in Dublin acting as an ambassador of the club. The large crowds and strange songs of various animals did not in the least distress him.
Pushkin has supported me through long-term illness and gave me gentle encouragement after two knee replacements. Always by my side with an encouraging purr.
Pushkin had never had any health problems until he was ten, when in February of 2010 I noticed that he staggered, just once, on his back legs while we were playing with one of his many fishing rod toys. I phoned his vet who said to come at once; sadly after a half day of tests and scans Pushkin was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. We were heartbroken but Dr Pat Keating, Pushkin’s vet, was very positive and started Pushkin on medication. He had monthly checks and I was given the vet's private mobile number with instructions to call at any time of day or night! Pushkin was back to his old self as soon as he came home and just relished the extra attention and paid us back with lots of cuddles.
Very early one Sunday morning in July 2011, having had his tablets, breakfast and a play and brushing session, Pushkin appeared to fall down the last few steps of the stairs and looked to be dead. His tongue was protruding, he was limp and did not appear to be breathing! Screaming as I ran down the stairs brought my father from the kitchen, reaching Pushkin before me. He picked him up, gently massaged his chest while breathing on his nose. Another panic call to the vet and Pushkin was in the surgery within five minutes. Unbelievably he revived a little as he was placed on the exam table. Distraught, we left him in the loving care of the vet hospital staff and came home believing that this was the end for or darling Pushkin. Two hours later a phone call from the vet told us that “Lazarus” as he was renaming Pushkin, was alert and looking around the oxygen kennel….”Would we like to come visit and comfort him”.
That day he underwent a battery of scans, tests and was seen again by the Italian cardiology specialist at the vet hospital. Next morning after his vet had consulted specialist in the UK, Pushkin was started on a new regime, a cocktail of tablets morning and night. The amazing thing is that Pushkin has always accepted his tablets without fuss. He takes his tablets from my hand: in the morning as he is hungry they are enjoyed with a few grains of food while at night a couple of treats are enjoyed with the tablets. Without doubt his temperament and the ease with which he can be medicated have made all the difference to his quality of life. He has slowed a little and gave us another scare a few months later but prompt attention yet again saved the day. I must admit to being a panicky “cat mum” in recent years and he has had several dashes to the vet at all hours of the day…and night. I can only speak of our own vet practice, Raheny Vet Hospital, but have never ceased to be amazed at the excellence of care that Pushkin, and his human family, have received form them.
Five years ago my dear father was diagnosed with advanced cancer and believed to have about three months to live. He surprised everyone including his oncologist and had four and a half years with a good quality of life. Throughout this time Pushkin was the ultimate caring cat and I believe that the bond between the two of them did wonders for Dad; he often said how therapeutic he found the lovely loud purrs of his best friend Pushkin. In mid-July Dad became seriously ill and was admitted to hospital; the following morning Pushkin had one of his turns resulting in another dash to the vet. It seems clear that he sensed things were not at all well with his master and was distressed by it. Yet again he recovered and I bring him for checks every two weeks. It has been a time of disruption in the house with our routine thrown into turmoil but Pushkin was always there for me to comfort and distract me when I came home from visiting Dad in hospital. On one vet visit Dr Pat suggested that Pushkin was obviously missing my dad and he knew that Dad would be missing Pushkin. Dad spoke to Pushkin daily on the phone! – with Pushkin head-butting the phone in response to his master's voice.
The vet thought we should make an effort to get Pushkin to visit Dad. I never thought it could happen but with encouragement and advice from the vet it was arranged that Pushkin could visit Dad so long as he was brought in quietly and went directly to Dad’s room. They clung to each other and Pushkin lay by Dad enjoying being stroked. Next day when I went in the nurses asked, “Where is the cat”? They said that after Pushkin’s visit Dad's blood pressure had lowered favourably, so important for a patient with a brain tumour. From then on Pushkin became a regular visitor, always travelling through the hospital in his basket covered with a coat or shawl and he never a made a sound until he was in Dad's room with the door closed. He became something of a celebrity visitor, staff from all departments came to see this lovely cat, so still and calm that some thought him a toy until they saw the twitch of his tail. On a number of occasions we had to leave the room while physiotherapy or other staff tended to Dad but on each occasion we were surprised to be asked to leave Pushkin in the room rather than take him to the car. One staff member accidentally left the door open during the half-hour session with Dad but Pushkin just sat in the window observing yet making no attempt to go on a walking tour of the hospital!
Sadly we lost Dad on September 1st; his beloved Pushkin had been with him only hours before. When I came home from the hospital I was met by Pushkin who clung to me and purred louder than I have ever heard and did not object as I sobbed into his fur. He stayed strangely calm that weekend but on the Tuesday morning, the day of the funeral removal, Pushkin collapsed in a heap on the kitchen floor as I was getting his tablets and breakfast. It was 7.30 in the morning and I called the vet again. Pushkin was rushed there very sad and miserable looking. He was once more admitted and put in and oxygen kennel. It felt like my whole world was falling apart and I thought Pushkin wanted to go with his master. Yet again, with the wonderful support of all the vet hospital staff, Pushkin was pulled back from the brink. His heart continues to weaken but he is in no pain, eating well and, while slowing down, he still plays gently and his coat looks good.
Pushkin has helped me through this stressful time and I know that Dad gained so much comfort from his visits. He is a truly healing furry presence to have around. He was described by one of the hospital staff as an ambassador for the power of pet therapy and has resulted in a change of attitude to animals in that hospital. Pushkin behaved so well that it has become part of their policy for palliative care patients, where practical, to be allowed visits from their pets. Pushkin has helped not just his own family but also other patients and families.
I’m so proud of you Pushkin, my beautiful brave blue Birman. I could sing his praises all day with stories of how he loves to be brushed and enjoys strange foods like blue cheese and cranberry juice. All this pales into insignificance in comparison to the loving warm support he has given us.
The two Runners-Up in the competition are
Owners Angela & Richard Walker
||Owner Gabriele Shaw|
Pushkin's story is also published in the Winter 2012 magazine together with those of Winny and Misty.
Information and an entry form for entering the 2013 Pet Birman of the Year Awards will be be published in the Summer 2012 magazine or you may download an entry form here if you wish.
Only paid-up members of the Birman Cat Club are eligible to enter.
It is the members of the Club's Committee who determine the winner of Pet Birman of the Year, by voting for their favourite stories as submitted to the Magazine Editor who then calculates points on the basis of the voting.
The Pet Birman of the Year winner receives a Cup trophy to engrave and hold for a year, a personalized rosette. a Certificate with photo, and £25 in store vouchers. 2 Runners-Up also each receive a trophy to engrave and hold for a year, a personalized rosette, a Certificate with photo and £15 in store vouchers. In the event of any of the winners being from overseas, the owner will receive a small engraved salver to keep, in lieu of the returnable trophy and store vouchers
Owners of all entrants receive a special commemorative rosette for their Birman.
Graphic illustration by John Assiter-Tuppen, © The Birman Cat Club