Joey the cat can be found on a daily basis snoozing to his heart's content in the arms of either Christina or Simon Huggett. His snoozing proves just how blissfully unaware he is to the fact that he's heir to a $200,000 fortune, left to him by his loving late owner. In fact, Joey may just be New Zealand's richest cat!
He may be old in years and completely blind, but his Auckland-based caregivers Christina (83) and her son Simon (40) insist the moggie, now worth a down-payment on an Auckland home, is one of the most intelligent cats they've ever come across.
"As an animal, he's always been really, really bright. He lets out a couple of meows in a certain way and we know we've got to pick him up and give him a cuddle," Christina chuckles.
Joey came into their care after his owner and Christina's long-time neighbour Ivan Downs died four years ago.
"We discovered Joey under Ivan's villa one day," she says, recalling how Joey came into the war veteran's life.
"He was wild and only little. He must have been abandoned and he did well to survive under there. Ivan's other cat had been run over, so he started to feed this little one and look after him." But the elderly pensioner was growing old and after his wife Betty died, Joey became his companion.
"He was a lovely, lovely man who lived to 100 years old. He and Betty had no children, so it was just Joey," Christina tells.
After Ivan's death, however, she received a huge surprise. His will stated that Joey the cat would be left to Christina, along with $200,000 for all of his feline needs.
"Ivan and I had never spoken about the money, so it was such a shock to me. I had no clue!" Christina says. "To Ivan, looking after Joey was like looking after a child. So I think he's left that money to make sure Joey would live to be as old as he was."
Simon nods, "I think Ivan always knew that no-one else in the world would take care of Joey like my mum would. And I think Mum was more surprised that Ivan had so much love for the little cat and knew that love would be returned by her," he says.
So as a wealthy cat, is Joey strutting around drinking from gold bowls while dressed in a cat tuxedo? The answer is an emphatic no. The money is held in a trust controlled by lawyers, which goes towards vet bills and food, and it's coming in very handy to make sure Joey lives a peaceful life in his later years. After all, he is around 22 years old!
"He loves his food – he eats a lot," Christina says, looking adoringly at Joey. "I get him a little bit of Fancy Feast and put a little bit of gravy on top and he tucks into it!"
He also attends monthly vet appointments to keep him in tip-top shape.
"About a month ago, he had to have his teeth out because his back teeth looked bad," Christina says. "But his heart is good, his kidneys are good, so it was a good time to have that operation to make sure he wasn't in any pain.
"The vets call him the legend because they can't believe he's still going. We ask every month if he's in any pain, but he's just an old cat that needs touch-ups every now and then," Simon chimes in.
Looking after such an elderly puss means special care and attention needs to be paid, such as taking Joey outside to the toilet at least three to four times a day to avoid any accidents on the carpet, Christina says.
"He's so old. He's just enjoying his last years and has opened up his little heart to receiving some love. We don't know how long he's got to go – he just eats, and mooches around and sleeps and really loves cuddles. And I really love him!" she gushes.
When Joey does finally pass on, he won't be the only benefactor of his doting owner, with plans in place to make many more moggies live richer lives with the remaining funds.
"The money will get passed onto charity, which was Ivan's wish," Simon confirms. "We're aware it's the SPCA that he has chosen in Joey's name."
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