Basically, I bought myself a retirement job, and it’s a happy job. It’s a happy business. Even if you’re very miserable for whatever reason, you can be in there and get positive feedback, a purr here, or a shy cat finally pushing her head into your hand. It’s the perfect retirement job.

My business partner is a lot younger and she does a lot of the heavier work and lives on site. I think I’m better at the work in the cattery than necessarily running the business. We’re a bit soft, but we are good at saving. It was a big risk for me and of course we hadn’t anticipated covid. This business is very attached to the travel industry and Covid arrived three years in. Without the government support I’m not sure we would have survived.

I hadn’t anticipated how much the business keeps me awake at nights, at times I would have been very happy to have someone else worry and for me to be the employee. We always have to go to work, you can’t feed animals remotely, there is nobody else. We’re looking after our client’s children, people without pets wouldn’t understand that. There is a huge responsibility.

Hopefully I’ll work full time for another couple of years and then find someone to step into the breach. I don’t have a social life because I’m using all my energy on the business.

I trained as a nurse back in Germany and worked in mental health.  This job is sometimes a kind of a mix between kindergarten and a mental hospital because that’s how cats are. Cats are very much affected by stress so I have found my training was very useful.

After I had nursed for a few years in Germany I went traveling and met my husband on top of a bus in Nepal. Later we worked together in Sydney then got married in Austria before coming to live in Wellington where our two children were born. I worked as a nurse and also part time as a dental assistant for twenty-three years.

When I was pregnant with Felix, I was diagnosed with EDS, a syndrome which makes the collagen in your body not knit properly, all my ligaments and joints were very loose. I couldn’t walk when he was born.

I was offered an operation but if I wanted more children I had to have them first, so when Zoe was 2 I had the operation to fuse my pelvis, and it worked to an extent. I used to be a sporty person but now I have to be very careful. I still ski, but I can’t ski powder anymore. Felix is 32 and in Auckland and Zoe is 30 now and lives in Queenstown.

I don’t know if I’ll stay in Wellington as I’m not sure I can afford it. Both the kids have kindly said I could come and live with them. I would love to be closer. Whatever will happen, will happen.

  • you can find the cattery here www.purrville.co.nz

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I’m scouting for others who will be prepared to share their stories with me. It doesn’t need to be a career, it can be voluntary work, study, sport or pastimes. Most stories will be affirmative – but not all. Some will be people following long held dreams, others changing careers for economic necessity. Please let me know if you or someone you know might be keen to talk about a substantial shift in their lives.

It doesn’t need to be in New Zealand – this is a world wide trend. I have one interview in Australia lined up and another in the UK.

Please contact me at pete@petecarter.nz

Pete Carter is the author of This is Us. Due out in June 2020 it will be published by Exisle and tells the story of more than 200 New Zealanders in words and pictures. The book is really a portrait of the nation and how it is made up. Pete wrote Our Dog Benji a children’s book illustrated by his nephew, published by EK in 2017. He is also the author of two books of poetry. He has had magazine articles published and poetry in anthologies. As a photographer he has had two solo exhibitions and work included in group exhibitions in NZ and overseas and has sold work to and been commissioned by corporate clients.

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