A formerly stray black cat is living the high life after being taken in by a couple six months before they won the lottery.
Tony, 71, and Deb Pearce, 63, started to feed Billy at a time when they were facing financial difficulty.
The Essex couple feared they would have to sell their house after sinking into debt in 2017 – until they scored £1 million on the National Lottery.
Rumour has it black cats are unlucky, but they say nothing could be further from the truth.
Nowadays, the pet owners ‘jump through hoops’ for Billy’s specialist catering whims, while he holidays with them at their second home in Norfolk.
Deb has joked that she wonders ‘who is the National Lottery millionaire around here?’
But there’s no doubt she and Tony have also enjoyed their newfound wealth – spending it on holidays and their dream wedding.
‘When Billy appeared we were close to selling our beloved home and becoming strays ourselves’, Deb explained.
‘Tony had stopped working due to ill health and we were in serious debt.
‘It looked like our only option was to go into rented accommodation then, six months after Billy arrived, lady luck struck and our lives changed for good.
‘We were able to stay in our home and renovate it into our own perfect slice of heaven.
‘We’ve enjoyed holidays away and, closer to home, bought a place in Norfolk, somewhere we have always loved spending time and somewhere the whole family can enjoy.
‘To top it off, we finally said “I do” at our dream wedding.’
Billy, thought to be 8, has been diagnosed with diabetes, meaning he has been placed on a tailored hypoallergenic diet.
‘Aside from having us on call for his twice-daily injections, we also jump through hoops for his catering whims’, said Deb.
‘Perhaps it’s due to his days as a stray when he must have enjoyed a very varied diet, but now we have to keep a selection of food for him.
‘If he has more than three days on the same flavour, he turns up his nose and while he enjoys the chicken and vegetable meal, Billy doesn’t like the peas.
‘I find myself rooting through his food, picking out the peas and wondering who is the National Lottery millionaire around here?’
Tony said they have bought a ‘huge carrier’ for Billy to travel with them to their Norfolk holiday home ‘so he has space to move about on the journey’.
He said: ‘Now, whenever the carrier comes out of the loft he hops in as if to say “come on, let’s get going!”
‘To make sure Norfolk is a home from home, he has the exact same set-up there as he has in Essex and this level of attention seems to suit him well.
‘He arrives, has a little sniff around the decking and then settles down as though he’s never been away.
‘When I find myself paying the bill for vet care or Billy’s specialist diet, that comes in at more than our annual trip to The Savoy, I can’t help thinking that it might be Billy who is also lucky.
‘It’s not a bad life for a Southend stray who clearly turned up on the right doorstep at the right time and proved to us that black cats are in fact lucky!’
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