Two-Year Rehabilitation Journey for Nervous Cats Discovered Living Under Floorboards

Luke and Leia were found in a boarded up property after their owner died

The RSPCA is looking for a special ‘five star home’ for two inseparable cats who were found living under the floorboards of a house after their owner died.

Luke and Leia were rescued by the charity from the boarded up property near Burnley back in February 2021. They were left so traumatised by the experience that it has taken two years to help them overcome their anxiety and learn to interact with humans again.

The duo, named after the Star Wars characters Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, were initially taken to the RSPCA’s cattery at Stapeley Grange in Nantwich after the RSPCA was given access to the property and put out traps to catch them.

Luke and Leia were nervous and wary of being approached and preferred to keep their distance when staff approached their enclosure. It was therefore decided to place them with a local fosterer to give the cats the chance to settle into a more domestic environment.

And now, over two years later, they are finally ready to find a permanent home.

The RSPCA says their story demonstrates the crucial role foster carers play in helping the charity to rehome the hundreds of animals that come into its care.

In foster care, Luke and Leia quickly found hidey holes to disappear into and weren’t seen much during the day, only emerging overnight to eat and to play together. Leia was particularly good at hide-and-seek, secreting herself in bookshelves and cupboards, behind kitchen unit fascia boards and down the side of the washing machine.

Gradually the pair spent more time out in the open but they still liked to know there was a safe space like a bed or a coffee table to retreat under.

At night, when people were elsewhere, they could be heard dashing around, chasing toys and thundering up and down the stairs after each other. They were even captured on camera meeting a soft toy Ewok – one of the diminutive furry bipeds who debuted in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi.

Over the weeks and months that followed, further progress was made. Leia became confident enough to allow her foster carer to gently stroke her paws, chest and neck, while Luke started to enjoy cheek scratches and head and chin rubs.

Both cats will now take freshly cooked chicken – which they are rather partial to – from an outstretched hand, and feel relaxed enough to sometimes stretch out on the floor to show off their tummies.

Nicola Chilton, Stapeley Grange’s cattery supervisor, said: “It was a harrowing experience for Luke and Leia so they were understandably very nervous when they first arrived in our care. They were clearly comfortable in each other’s company, but less so with us, especially when they needed to be examined or treated.

“They would sometimes take treats from our hands, but they didn’t know how to interact with people – when they saw a big hand looming towards them they would back away.

“Their foster carer has done an absolutely incredible job and their progress is testament to her perseverance, time and patience and the wider work of our incredible team of fosterers.

“It’s been a very long journey for them and they are going to need very understanding owners who are going to be fully invested in helping Luke and Leia with this next stage of their recovery. We’d love to see them settled in a forever home and we’re appealing to anyone who thinks they may be able to provide a suitable home to get in touch.”

The cats are still worried by sudden movements and will take time to trust new owners. The RSPCA says a quiet, calm home with people who will give them plenty of space and let them do things at their own pace will be essential. Because of their nervous natures, a household without young children or other pets is preferred.

To enquire about adopting Luke and Leia please telephone the cattery on 0300 123 0748 between 11am and 3pm every day (closed Wednesday) or email To help the cattery to continue supporting cats like Luke and Leia, please consider a donation to the Cattery’s JustGiving page.

Fostering is just one way that people can volunteer with the RSPCA – and the charity is currently also recruiting ‘Wildlife Friends’ as part of the Big Help Out, a mass community volunteering initiative in the lead up to the Big Help Out.

Wildlife Friends includes a choice of simple ideas to help wildlife on the doorstep either on your own, or as part of your family or group of friends, or even the wider community. More information about how to get involved can be found on the RSPCA’s Big Help Out website.

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