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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 14:17 GMT
Widdecombe tells of pets anguish
Ann Widdecombe
Ann Widdecombe: Her cats are in feline heaven
As a Tory minister Ann Widdecombe wore her uncompromising and combative style as a badge of honour.

Now, in the space of two weeks, we have lost both of them and we feel bereft

Ann Widdecombe

But when it comes to her beloved rescue cats, Miss Widdecombe is like most animal lovers - an old softie.

So for the grandly named Carruthers and Pugwash to die within a fortnight of each other has left the MP for Maidstone and the Weald devastated.

Miss Widdecombe chose the two black cats with her elderly mother at a Cats' Protection League shelter in Kent only two years ago.

"Now, in the space of two weeks, we have lost both of them and we feel bereft," she admits in an article penned for the Daily Mail.

Cat carriage

The piece shows a touching side to the woman normally seen as fearless and a tough talker.

When Pugwash disappeared after a weekend away, she frantically cooked fish and opened all the windows in her house in the hope that the smell might entice him back.

My home seemed incomplete without a couple of furry, purry companions and so we acquired Carruthers and Pugwash

Ann Widdecombe

She also tells how Carruthers enjoyed his final months travelling on Ms Widdecombe's mother's stairlift.

The MP explains how she had not owned cats for some years because she had been living in a first-floor flat.

"When, just over two years ago, I moved into a house with a garden, my home seemed incomplete without a couple of furry, purry companions and so we acquired Carruthers and Pugwash," she said.

"They fell on their feet, those cats.

"Carruthers was old - perhaps 14 or more - and had been badly treated in the past. The vet told me he had almost certainly been starved.

"Pugwash was a young, fierce feline who had been deposited with the shelter because of his tendency to terrorise other cats.

Humphrey, the Downing Street cat
Miss Widdecombe was a fan of Humphrey, former Downing Street cat

"Now Carruthers had a garden to meander in and my mother's permanently available lap in which to curl up.

"Pugwash could climb the fence and seek adventure in other people's gardens.

"He quickly learned which houses had dogs and made friends with a neighbour's black and white cat.

"Sometimes I would look out of my bedroom window and see them sunning themselves together."

Miss Widdecombe said she had always known that she would not have Carruthers for long, but Pugwash had "boundless energy".

Carruthers was put on a special diet when he began to ail. While mother and daughter were "sad but resigned", their comfort was that he had "two happy years with us".

Blessed release

"At the end, I held Carruthers, still purring, in my arms while the vet administered the final injection. It was very quick," said Miss Widdecombe.

"When I put him down on the surgery table, his paw rested on my arm."

While at first Pugwash seemed to revel in his new status as top cat, a week later he was sick and his health began to deteriorate, resulting in acute renal failure.

"I could not believe what I was being told," said the MP.

"Pugwash had always been so well and he was still a young cat. At least I thought he was. One of the problems of getting a cat from a rescue centre is that you can never be sure about their age."

Miss Widdecombe received regular updates from the vet while she travelled to Manchester for BBC's Question Time and to Exeter to talk to the Conservatives.

Moggie heaven

"In Exeter I even broke off in the middle of giving a lecture to take a call," she said.

It was finally decided that it would be cruel to keep Pugwash alive until she returned to London and he was put down.

Miss Widdecombe, a devout Christian, said: "I hope that in the great feline heaven Carruthers and Pugwash are curled up in a celestial armchair being fed fresh fish by the angels.

"I expect every so often, they wake up, peer lazily down at us mortals rushing about our daily lives and wink at each other.

"Perhaps occasionally I shall slow down, look up and wave," she added.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Ann Widdecombe talks back
03 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Widdecombe's last stand
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