Cookie was one of our rescues who had been traumatised, and this year we suddenly found huge tumours on her, took her to the vet and he said, “It’s cancer, there’s nothing we can do.”

Our cats make the house feel alive. When we bought this house in 1988, it came with two outdoor, feral-like cats. One of them was hit by a car and killed, and then the second one was hit by a car and had to go to the vet for quite a lot of reconstructive surgery, so we made her an indoor cat. And then to get her some company, because the other one had been killed, we went to the shelter and adopted a couple of cats, and that started us down the road. Cheesecake, Chocolate, Nutter, Butter, Crumple, Rumple, Cookie, Poppy-seed, Kuro, Noui, Secret, Wasabi, Coffee-bean, Donut, they’re all rescues. We adopted them from various shelters.

We began getting kittens every year. Over time more and more, and then we realised, there are so many cats.  At a certain point, there’s no turning back, it’s like, this is their house and we’re just their tenants. All the rooms are connected. At night sometimes, at two or three in the morning, they’ll start chasing each other on the catwalks. They can go really fast. It gets pretty loud. It wakes us at times.

The catwalks, I think the first one I built in 1995, have probably cost us about £40.  They can be done a lot cheaper but although the catwalks are for the cats, they are also for me, they are architecturally interesting to me, the colours, and something else interesting, the shapes.

There are spirals, there are bridges and arched bridges. A lot of our cat tunnels have faces on them, and one of my favourites is in the upstairs bathroom, where there’s a tunnel with a shark, and the carpenters actually made teeth, and when the cats walk through the teeth they scratch the back of the cat. So the cats like to go back and forth through that. You can’t really feel there are 15 cats because they never assemble in one group.

And they’re very calming. So I like them because when you come home and if you’re stressed and you sit down, two or three will come and purr and it just relaxes you. The koi pond is the favourite area for the cats. They love to watch the fish, they also walk across the koi pond on the rocks and even sometimes put their paws in the water. They’ve never hurt or eaten a fish. We have about 22 litter boxes throughout the house, and we put a lot of them in cupboards, with ventilating fans that run 24/7 to pump odours outside. If there’s negative air pressure, the smell stays in the closets. We also have five Roombas in the house we run every day, that do a really good job of picking up cat hair. And then it’s just us, picking up after the cats a lot.  At first, I wondered, how can we get rid of these cats? But now I can’t think of a single one that I would not want.

Cookie was the one we rescued who had been traumatised, and this year we suddenly found huge tumours on her, took her to the vet and he said, “It’s cancer, there’s nothing we can do.” But we opted for surgery, and after two major surgeries, they were all benign. They had never seen anything like it. She’s fine now.

The idea that we can rescue these cats brings a lot of satisfaction. You know, we can’t solve the world’s problems, but we can solve a tiny problem for these cats.