An active couple residing in Sydney, Natalie Watt and Chris Gatt are doting pawrents to three-year-old Kombu (a kelpie-corgi mix dog who they adopted from a farm) and four-year-old Yuzu (an extremely shy cat who they adopted from a small, independent rescue). Natalie chats with Waldo’s Friends to share why other people should consider adopting animals as well as how the two animals brought so much joy into their lives.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): Did you have previous experience with animals and/or pet rescue? How did this affect your decision to adopt your pets?
Natalie Watt (NW): When I was 16, I adopted a street cat who wandered into the family house one night. We decided to keep him and he lived to be 18 years old. Then, I adopted another tabby cat from a friend about six years ago after she found out her newborn was allergic to cats. I fostered Jasper for a while when my friend was pregnant so I didn’t want him to go to some unknown home. I had him for about two years before he passed away from cancer. Having “adopted” my whole life and volunteered at the shelter, adopting was a no brainer.
WF: Can you share Kombu and Yuzu’s adoption stories?
NW: In 2016, we were looking at adopting a dog on different rescue pages, but we couldn’t decide on the breed/age. A friend heard we were looking and mentioned a friend of his who recently had an unexpected litter of two. The mother was an eight-year-old working kelpie, and the farm owner didn’t need anymore working dogs since they already had several. The owners suspected that their neighbour’s corgi jumped the fence and mated with their kelpie.
We looked at the photos sent to us of the six-week-old puppies and decided to go to Mudgee, NSW to meet them. Kombu was actually quite shy and kept chasing his mother for milk, while his black-and-tan furred sister was outgoing and climbed all over me. However, we decided on the boy because he would suit our personalities more. Little did we know, he wasn’t a shy dog at all. As soon as he came in the car with us, he immediately clung to me during the car ride.
Growing up, Kombu has shown how much he loves to play ball and LOVES the ladies (and people in general). It’s been amazing raising him from puppyhood and feel our bond grow by the day. He acts differently around me and Chris. I’m the “serious mum” and Chris is the “playful dad.” He would do all sorts of crazy things like play fighting with Chris, but with me, he is more cautious and respectful. This is not a special rescue story but it’s been great to know that an unwanted working dog can be raised in a city home and live a fulfilled life.
As for Yuzu, we adopted her about a year after Jasper passed away. We already had Kombu, but we felt a hole in our lives. I looked at rescue sites for a while, but I wanted to adopt from a smaller local organisation as opposed to someone from RSPCA who has more funding. I saw Yuzu on Butterfly Wings Animal Rescue and I was immediately attracted to her (ugly) face. She wasn’t ugly per se, but she had so many fur colours she looked almost like a chimera. I contacted the rescue page and they called back that evening as they were concerned. The foster mum said that she wasn’t a typical cat and had been in foster for a while because she wasn’t friendly or outgoing.
At that time, Kombu was already displaying jealous and protective behaviour toward other animals at the dog park. I thought maybe a not-so-friendly cat would actually be more easy for Kombu to adapt to.
When I went to meet Yuzu at the foster home, the foster mum introduced me to several of her fosters who were friendly and playful. They couldn’t introduce me to Yuzu as she was hiding! After a while, Yuzu came out to eat and I watched her for a while. After she felt comfortable with me and got on the cat tree, I started playing with her, which was surprising to the foster. According to her, Yuzu never played with anyone that came to meet her, so they always ended up adopting another cat.
Knowing that Yuzu was extremely shy, we wanted Chris to meet her as well just to be safe. Chris and I went to meet Yuzu the following week and the same thing happened: Yuzu started off hiding and then came out to play with us. The foster mum was finally convinced that we would be happy and able to handle Yuzu’s unique personality. She did, however, warn us that we would never have a lap cat, which I was fine with as I’ve had cats my whole life and knew that they all had different personalities.
WF: What were the first few nights at home like for Yuzu?
NW: Yuzu was very shy and scared the first week at our house. We had a spare bedroom and I put her in there to separate her from Kombu. The first few days were tough. I had several beds, boxes, coves, and cat tree for her so that she could choose whatever height and spot she wanted. She chose a well-hidden box and sat in her own urine for a day. Her foster home previously had six cats, two dogs, and three birds, so maybe going into an empty house scared her too much.
I eventually enticed her out, washed her, and cleaned up her space. In the second week, she grew more confident, explored the entire house, and met the dog. When she finally relaxed, she sat on my lap! As the weather got colder, she eventually came out of her shell and decided to sleep ON MY FACE to keep warm. She was tiny at the time and only fit on half of my face. She’s still tiny and weighs about three kilograms now. She also has shorter legs, so I think she might have some dwarfism in her. I still think she’s ugly but very cute nonetheless.
Initially, I was very worried that I could not provide her with what she needed, but after lots of time spent with her and showing her that she could trust me (including hand feeding her while she was too afraid to come out of her box), she eventually did.
WF: What makes your pets unique?
NW: All animals are unique and have their own personalities. While they all display typical behaviours, our kelpie is playful and energetic, while cat is, well, cat…
Kombu absolutely cannot roll on his back. He physically cannot do it. He is not interested in dogs and would rather spend time playing with balls or saying hello to humans. However, one time during bring your dog to work day, he met a female kelpie (in a cast no less as she had a broken foot) and started playing with her. According to the owner, she never plays with other dogs either, so I guess that’s love at first sight! I’m still trying to organise a date with the other dog.
Yuzu is the biggest goof and sulk. She speaks to us and demands pats and love. Yuzu still hates having visitors at the house, but is much more open to Chris and I. She doesn’t sleep on my face anymore but is still happy to snuggle either in Chris’s tummy or my back and shows affection in her own way. However, I’m certain she loves Chris more as she gave him a moth about a month ago. I’m still waiting for her to give me a gift!
WF: What are the things they enjoy doing with you?
NW: Kombu enjoys everything. He’s a bit of a Velcro so as long as we are around, he’s happy. He has a fear of water. He was pushed into a river while playing with another dog at about three months of age (his first time at a dog park) and we’ve never been able to get him near water. But we have been successful in getting him in a very shallow lake last Christmas, so he’s slowly understanding water. Hopefully, he can enjoy it one day.
Yuzu enjoys food and parkour. She would randomly do a cat zoomie and parkour onto the walls at times and run down our long corridor nearing bedtime. And after three years of trying, she’s finally understood grooming and at times enjoys my brushing her.
WF: Could you talk about the dynamics of Kombu and Yuzu? Do they get along?
NW: They “hate” each other. Kombu is always “herding” her and sniffing her bottom, and she hates it. But at times I would find them snuggling up and sleeping together, so I think they all just put on a show in front of us!
WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for people with cats and dogs living in the same home?
NW: Don’t force them together. Give the cat plenty of heights and hiding spaces that the dog can’t get to so the cat can feel safe. Yuzu has a two-metre cat tree, two window perch beds, and toys in the bathtub that Kombu can’t get to and destroy.
WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a rescue animal? Why would you personally encourage them to adopt?
NW: Research breed traits that best match your lifestyle. Talk to and visit shelters and rescue groups, and meet or even volunteer with them before adopting. If it’s your first time getting a pet, do your homework and don’t take it lightly. Understand that it’s a lifetime commitment, and no matter how fun or well behaved they look on the internet, lots of hard work and training are needed. Training is for a lifetime too! My dog is three and I’m still training and teaching him new things.
Adopting a mature animal is great as you know exactly what you’re getting, and oftentimes, the rescue would have already done some basic obedience training. But if you really want a puppy/kitten, be prepared for the hard work. Lots of people don’t realise the amount of work and energy needed to raise a baby animal, and that’s the reason these animals often end up in a shelter through no fault of their own.
WF: How has your life changed after adopting your pets?
NW: Hectic! Having a pet is like having a child. It’s a lot of responsibility, sacrifice, and compromise. It’s a lot less crazy than having a human child, but the responsibility is not reduced. You are responsible for a life and you have to respect that life!
I’ve had to give up some social life and traveling when Kombu was a puppy, and I often felt guilty if I was leaving him at home to go out for a night. And yes, I couldn’t just get up and go on a month-long holiday. He’d wake me up early in the morning even when I want to sleep in, and I can’t have nice furniture or clothes because he gets everything dirty. But I wouldn’t have it any other way! The furbies have brought so much joy and challenges in my life, I couldn’t imagine life without them. It’s magical having this bond with an animal.
Read more rescue stories here! Do you know of an interesting pet adoption, foster, or rescue story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!