By Hollie Bone
A psychic ‘funeral cat’ who spends his days consoling bereaved families as they say goodbye to loved ones has become a surrogate pet to one mum who lost her daughter to breast cancer.
When Paddy the ginger moggy’s owners, Christina Jones and Stuart Hague leave their home in Eastham, Wirral, to go to work, so does he – to offer support to families as they say goodbye to their loved ones at the nearby Mayfield’s Burial Grounds.
Staff at the Co-operative Funeral Care home insist the eight-year-old mourning moggy has a ‘sixth sense’ for knowing exactly the right time to turn up, attending more than 100 funerals to date – but his shocked owners only found out about his double life three years ago when they thought he had gone missing and put up local flyers to find him.
Veterinary nurse, Jan McKinnon, 64, from Upton, Wirral, met Paddy when she lost her only daughter, Mel to breast cancer in May this year and now the ginger tomcat has become part of the family after he paid his respects to the animal-loving 36-year-old.
Jan said: “I met Paddy for the first time when I went into the funeral home to organise the day and the staff told me about him.
“I’m a registered veterinary nurse and so was Mel, she was a cat lover too so I was hoping and praying on the day that Paddy would turn up.
“When he arrived I was so happy. He came along and even sat in an empty chair to listen to the service, it was like it became even more of a special occasion because he was there.
“It wasn’t morbid like a funeral normally is, it was just lovely, full of laughter and Paddy made it even more wonderful.
“Now when we go to visit Mel’s grave, we always say ‘we’re off to see Mel and Paddy’ – he’s sort of become like a part of the family.”
A huge cat lover, Mel was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, but had always told her mum that her next cat would be a ginger tomcat.
Now, Jan sees Paddy as Mel’s next cat, as he regularly meanders around the burial grounds where the young veterinary nurse has been laid to rest.
After losing her only child to the disease, the family were dealt another blow when Jan discovered she also had breast cancer in August last year – but the humorous mum and daughter duo turned it into a running joke, insisting they did everything the same.
Jan said: “Mel had a little black cat called Mambo but she always said that her next cat would be a ginger tomcat.
“We were like peas in a pod, we did everything together. Mel was originally pursuing a career in acting, until one day she came home and said she wanted to do what I did – retrain to become a veterinary nurse.
“Mel was diagnosed in September 2015, but then last August I was diagnosed with breast cancer too.
“It actually became a bit of a running joke that if she did or had something I’d have to have it or do it too.
“I still get upset, it can feel terrible at times, but I know Mel wouldn’t want me to be upset and it’s so lovely to have had Paddy come and pay his respects to her and knowing he spends so much time there with her.”
But it’s not just Jan that Paddy has helped – staff at Co-op Funeral Care says the clever kitty has touched the lives of hundreds of families and insists he as sixth sense, knowing exactly when to walk through the door.
And despite initially worrying that Paddy had gone missing, now proud purr-ents, Christina and Stuart have embraced their cat’s independent lifestyle, adding that it is heart-warming knowing how he spends his days.
Stuart said: “We thought he had gone missing when he didn’t come home for a few days, but when we put flyers around we got a call from the funeral home and found out all about what he had been getting up to.
“It’s lovely to know that he’s doing that while we’re at work, he has such a lovely temperament so it’s nice to know that people who are really in need of a bit of affection and compassion are benefitting from Paddy’s kind nature.”
Officially titled as their Chief Moggy Mourner, Paddy has been working with Co-op staff for more than three years, in which time he has attended more than 100 funerals.
Carol Paton, Funeral Arranger for the Co-op at Mayfields, said: “Paddy is such a special cat.
“He genuinely seems to have a sixth sense for when a funeral is about to take place, and will turn up just before to pay his respects.
“If the family then ask for him to stay, we allow him to attend.
“Every funeral we do at the Co-op is unique, but Paddy really does provide that extra special touch, helping provide comfort, affection and even entertainment for families at one of the most difficult times in their lives.
“His timing is impeccable. During one funeral service he made an appearance outside the window, just as the eulogy got to the part about the individual’s love of cats.
“And once when arranging a funeral with a client for her partner, it turned out the client had always wanted a ginger cat, but her partner had never agreed.
“Then in strolled Paddy, lightening the mood as if he was a sign from the beyond.”