The pet I’ll never forget: I’m allergic to cats. But who could resist an abandoned kitten with a missing paw?

<span>Photograph: Supplied image</span>
Photograph: Supplied image

It wasn’t the right time to get a cat. Not only was I in denial about a suspected animal allergy, but I was sharing a tiny rented flat in Dubai that barely had enough space for our handbags, let alone a pet. When I saw a local cat charity begging for someone to foster a three-legged kitten on Christmas Eve, however, I couldn’t resist. With so many volunteers away for the holidays, he urgently needed a place to stay. Tarmac, as they’d named him, had been found in a car park missing one of his front paws. The vets had no idea how he’d lost it, but said he’d need an operation to remove the remainder of his leg as he grew older.

The charity advertised the kitten for adoption, and in the meantime he came home with me. As a tiny, rescued kitten who had experienced trauma, he could have been shy and frightened – but he had other ideas. From the moment he came out of his carrier, he was instantly playful and he would constantly climb into my lap for cuddles. As he hopped boldly around my apartment, I renamed him Roo, which suited his curious nature and bouncy walk.

My flatmate was working as a singer, which meant she was out at gigs every night during the festive season. Roo became company for me over the holidays, following me wherever I went. Like all self-respecting kittens, he quickly learned that Christmas trees are dangerous and must be destroyed. While he spent his time merrily attacking all the decorations, jumpers and blankets he could get his little claws on, I would run around after him, laughing at his antics and cleaning up the trail of destruction he left behind.

I may have loved Roo from the moment he set foot in my flat, but unfortunately those “suspected” allergies weren’t as keen. Although I had grown up with pets, my time away from home had changed my immune response and I’d begun to cough whenever I was exposed to animals. For the first few days it was manageable. I dosed up on antihistamines and aggressively mopped the floors wherever Roo had been. But by the new year I was wheezing and coughing so relentlessly that I couldn’t sleep, and spent half my nights on the balcony to avoid waking my flatmate.

When some would-be adopters with two children came to see me at the end of January, I’ll admit I was relieved. I adored my tiny terror, but I was so unwell that I was ready to see him go to his forever home. From the moment that young family arrived in my apartment I knew they were exactly what Roo needed. I’d worried their children might be concerned by his disability, but they barely seemed to notice. They were instantly smitten, and he went home with them that day. Through the family’s updates I learned that he settled in well to his new home, and his leg operation was a big success. Although I had only known and loved him for a few weeks, I was grateful to know that he’d found the perfect home.

Roo wasn’t my first pet, but sadly I think he might be my last. Since then my asthma has deteriorated, and a few minutes with my friends’ cats can be enough to make me wheeze. I just live in hope that someone will develop a miracle cure for allergies and I’ll be able to have another little Roo in my life again.