Salty seacat Nelson is enjoying his retirement on dry land after making a new home with two of his fans.
The tabby’s dock-side days came to a close after he followed Andrea Huntley-Crow and her husband Dave Crow to their car one wintry night as work began to convert Seaham’s north dock into a marina.
Now, the 20-year-old is being cared for by the couple, both self-employed trainers for the College of Policing and forces around the country, at their home in Seaton, Seaham, while he undergoes treatment for cancer.
Nelson and his brother began living in the harbour after they were rescued from the water by fisherman George Metcalfe.
George found a bag of kittens in the water, with the pair being the only ones of the litter to survive.
They then lived in George’s cabin in what is now the heritage centre, home to the George Elmy lifeboat.
Nelson was named after admiral Horatio Nelson by the couple because he was left with one eye after a fight with his sibling.
Others who also went to feed them also nicknamed him Patch.
Andrea said: “He adopted us really.
“It was just in the nick of time as he wouldn’t have lasted long in the bitterly cold winter.
“We just want people to know he’s still around.
“He even has visits from fans who used to visit him at the docks.
“He has a cod fillet and prawns for his breakfast every morning, followed by chunky chicken, tuna and maybe even some cat food, as long as it’s fish flavour.
“That’s good for a former dock cat.
“He’s spoilt rotten, and we love him very much.
“All in all, he is a very special cat and clearly a little fighter.
“He talks all the time and if he could speak, his memoirs would be a bestseller.”
Andrea and Dave, who also have another cat called Minnie, found out that Nelson has a tumour on his heart after he became ill earlier this year. He is being treated at Simply Cats in Fence Houses, with treatment helping to shrink the tumour.
Head nurse Bev Mallabar said: “We love the cats we treat, and we have some real characters, like Nelson, so it’s important for us that they stay healthy and well and enjoy a great life.”