It's been a month this week since I said goodbye to my best pal George who inspired this interview series about creative instagrammers and their furry friends and I miss him every day. I'm going to try and put my thoughts and feelings about George and the whole experience into words, so look out for a very personal blog post soon.
In the meantime I hope you will enjoy this interview with the lovely Lily of Tiny Grey Cat. Lily has two beautiful cats and two chinchillas too - her pets have helped her through some very difficult times, and now she's repaying the favour by acting as a foster carer for several other cute critters aswell! Find out more below...
When and where did you get your cats Soldier and Molly? Am I right in thinking you've have Soldier since he was a kitten and Molly was rescued from a car park?
Yes! Soldier was one of four kittens born to my then-neighbours' cat, in 2005. The poor kitty was less than a year old and tiny - she couldn't produce enough milk to feed them all, so they had to be bottle fed from about 2 weeks old. On top of allowing their kitten to become pregnant, the neighbours were off to Sweden for the summer, so I stepped in to raise the kittens, bottle feeding them every few hours (yep, even through the night) until they were old enough to be weaned onto solid food. Soldier was the only kitten they kept, but we clearly had a bond as he spent more time at my house than theirs, so in the end I officially adopted him and we've now been best buds for twelve years. We have no idea why but Molly was left in a box at a supermarket car park when she was 4 months old. The person who found her took her to a local vet, from where she went into Cats Protection care. I had been thinking about rescuing a second cat and when I saw her on their website, I knew she was the one.
Where did your business name Tiny Grey Cat come from?
It is actually named after Soldier! He is a pretty small cat under all the floof and although he looks quite brown in photos, he's actually a grey tabby. I was originally going to go with Little Grey Cat, but all the social media handles were already taken (which I remember being miffed about at the time!), so I went with Tiny Grey Cat instead, and I'm so glad now! I much prefer it!
You're clearly very into 80s and 90s toys and cartoons and they've inspired many of your products - where does that love come from and do you have a favourite?
I grew up in the 80s and 90s so it really stems from my childhood. Toys from this era are very trendy right now but for me it is genuine nostalgia - these are the toys I grew up with. Having said that, we were not at all well off and I am one of four children, so there was a lot of sharing and hand-me-downs - anything that was 'mine', I fiercely protected! I only had one Polly Pocket and I don't think I was allowed any My Little Pony as they were too expensive. I had a Popple, a couple of Sylvanian Families, some Strawberry Shortcake figures in a giant strawberry, and a Rainbow Brite doll with her horse, Starlite. I think my favourite was always Polly Pocket. A friend of mine had loads of the compacts and I used to love going round to play with them. The only one I had was the pink heart compact, with a little cat figure (of course!). It's still my favourite one.
Do you still have your chinchillas Popcorn Poppet and Rosie Rocket? Do the cats get on with them? They seem like such funny creatures.
Yes I do! They really are funny little things and look like real life Pokemon. They aren't 'easy' pets though and are considered exotic pets, making insurance much harder to get (and more expensive) and appropriate vet care harder to find as well. It makes me nervous when people comment saying they want chinchillas because they're so cute - they need a lot of research and consideration! For a start they live up to 20-25 years, so are a huge commitment. They are also not the tamest of animals, so as cute as they are, they are generally not going to be a cuddly pet. The cats do not get on with them - the chinchillas are kept in their own room, which the cats are not allowed in. In the wild chinchillas are prey animals, so the cats would see them as food and the chinchillas would be highly stressed by having them near them. They are definitely a specialist animal, so I urge anyone considering them as pets to do serious research and visit someone who has them first.
You're very open about your battles with cancer and your recent mastectomy - would you say that your pets have helped you with recovery? I always think they have such healing powers.
Absolutely. I don't know how I would have got through it without them, honestly. Soldier was with me through the whole ordeal and was such a comfort. I was in turmoil at the time as well though, as I was so scared that I was going to die and was terrified about what would happen to him if I did. I adopted Molly about a year and a half or so into my recovery. I was not in a good place mentally, in fact I was severely depressed and still so weak. Molly is like a tiny fluffy angel sent to help me! She has brought so much joy into my life and I firmly believe that we both needed each other. She and Soldier were both instrumental in my recovery and in my will to live. Plus, it has been scientifically proven that cats purr at a particular frequency that promotes and aids healing! Further proving my theory that cats are magical creatures!
You've recently started fostering animals - can you tell us a bit about how that came about, the critters you've hosted in your home and what it means to you to be able to help them?
I have been officially fostering for a year now and it has been emotionally draining but so rewarding. I've always rescued and rehomed animals whenever I could, but I've been fostering for Cats Protection this past year and it's great having the support and resources. It came about when there was a stray female cat in my neighbourhood who I was feeding. She quickly became pregnant and when it became clear she was going to have her kittens outdoors, I couldn't stand by and do nothing. She went into Cats Protection care, safely had her babies and all were found lovely new homes. I wanted to help more so I became a fosterer. I knew Soldier and Molly wouldn't be happy having another adult cat in the house, so I foster orphaned, abandoned, or feral kittens, as well as rescuing stray adult cats, who go to one of the other fosterers. In the past year I have fostered and rehomed a total of twenty kittens and cats. It breaks my heart to think of what would've happened to them if I hadn't stepped in - however hard it is to say goodbye when they go to their new homes, knowing what a difference I've made makes it all worth while. I love receiving pictures and updates from their new owners and seeing them thriving and happy. There are so many animals in need, I encourage anyone who has the time and space to give fostering a go!
Where do all your pets get their names? I love the fact they all have two names!
I have no explanation for this really! I'm a writer and love words and how they sound, so I guess I just think two names, or the number of syllables sound better?! That and I'm a bit eccentric?! Soldier was already called Soldier when I adopted him and I have a habit of calling things 'bean', or adding bean onto the end of things, so he became Soldierbean. Molly Mayhem is so called because she is a bit of a nutter and does zoomies around the house, often causing mayhem. The chinchillas' names just really suited them - they are so fast and jump around a lot, so Rosie Rocket and Popcorn Poppet was fitting and I thought sounded like a great duo. People have at least two names, so I figure my pets deserve the same, especially if they reflect their personalities.
Who are some of your favourite creative instagrammers who share photos of their work and their cute pets?
Oh my goodness, there are so many! One of my top favourites is puptartlondon and her sweet little pup, Indy. Her little pink tongue poking out gets me every time! Other favs include Jo (@Sunshine_Jo), Nikki (@nikkimcwilliams), Rachel (@onrshop) and Harriet (@_helloharriet). I could go on, but it would be a very long list!
Thanks to Lily for her lovely insightful and honest answers. Lily's online shop is on holiday at the moment, so keep an eye out on her instagram for updates, I know she has some exciting products that'll be up for sale again soon.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to read the other interviews in the series - Jo, Nikki and Rachel who Lily mentions above have all been featured previously. I must interview Harriet too!
Got a recommendation for a future Crafty Critters interview? Let me know on instagram, I'm @zabbyallen!