A LEADING cat breeder spends more than £700 a MONTH on her 40 cats.
Marlene Howes, 67, has spent nearly 50 years breeding and showing felines — earning her world fame among enthusiasts.
And the divorcee — who chose her pets over her husband — admitted: “Everything I do is for the cats. They get fed the best food and sleep in the best beds. They get free rein of the house and garden and the fields at the back.
“I’ll admit I’m a slave to my cats — I would do anything for them and they’re very pampered.”
Cat breeding runs in the family for Marlene whose mum Barbara Patch was also a leading breeder of Persian cats.
When Barbara passed away in 2004, Marlene took on her cats as well, taking her total to a whopping 40.
Marlene said: “She left all her money to the cats. I used it to pay for the cats’ living costs — vets bills, food, litter, that kind of thing.
“I also had a small conservatory built at the back of my house for the cats to use. It’s got a couple of sofas and some other bits in there for them to climb on and play with.
“My mother would have wanted her cats to continue living a life of luxury — or at least looked after in the way Persian cats should be.
“She liked her cats to be fed fresh food and ensured they had all the necessary veterinary treatment.”
Marlene received her first cat as a gift from her mother when she was seven and her obsession with her feline friends has stemmed from there.
She said: “I’ve had them all my life so to me they’re not difficult to look after.
“I know them all by name, and they all have their own personality.”
Marlene has dedicated her whole life to breeding Persian cats and prides herself on the high standards she maintains.
She said: “A lot of breeders let standards slip in the 1990s. They were importing cats from the USA and other countries.
“Their Persians developed a flat face, which can lead to health problems, whereas I keep mine with a short nose.
“It’s paid off as my cats have won more prizes than any other breeder over the years.”
And the moggies played their part in the breakdown of Marlene’s marriage in the ’70s.
Marlene confessed: “It got to the point where my husband more or less said, ‘It’s me or the cats,’ and I chose the cats.
“He felt I was spending too much time and money on them. He didn’t like me going to shows or meeting other cat people.
“So when the time came to choose between them it wasn’t a hard choice — cats are my whole life.”
But Marlene, who has also adotped other cats from animal shelters, fears that the cost of keeping her pets may soon become too much.
She said: “I love showing cats and hope to continue to do so for many more years, but I just don’t think I can afford it.
“I’m now limited to cat shows near to my house because of petrol costs. It’s not like before when my mother and I went up and down the country to shows in front of packed audiences.
“I honestly don’t even know how I’ll continue to feed them — it’s a very sad state of affairs.”