Cat raises couple's lockdown spirits by delivering letters from mystery neighbour

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·4 min read
Olga Shipunova, 29, and her partner Zack King, 37, who live in a ground floor flat in Hackney, London, first found a note attached to their cat Billy’s collar in September.
Olga Shipunova, 29, and her partner Zack King, 37, first found a note attached to their cat Billy’s collar in September. (SWNS)
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A rescue cat has been raising the spirits of a couple during lockdown by delivering letters to and from a mystery neighbour.

Olga Shipunova, 29, and her partner Zack King, 37, who live in a ground floor flat in Hackney, north London, first found a note attached to their cat Billy’s collar in September.

The couple have now been exchanging messages with this neighbour for more than four months but have no idea who it is.

Shipunova said they have shared hummus recipes, movie recommendations and their favourite podcasts - all with Billy acting as a postie.

A dozen messages have been exchanged since September. (SWNS)
A dozen messages have been exchanged since September. (SWNS)

The one-year-old British shorthair first returned home with a message tucked under his collar and wrapped in cling film one evening in September.

It read: “Your cat likes to come visit us when he is outside. He will sit at the door and meow to be let it (sic).

“It’s actually hilarious and we love him. We have no idea where he is coming from. What’s his name? We call him Billy. From your friendly neighbours.”

Read: Have your say: When will the UK return to 'normal'?

Shipunova said she then attached her own reply to Billy’s collar, which read: “We’re glad he’s making friends with the neighbours. And his name is Billy.

“So you guessed right. Give him lots of chin scratches. We lost his name tag, we need to get him a new one.”

A dozen messages have been exchanged and Shipunova said the notes were the highlight of her year. She added that she felt like she had “found a friend” thanks to her cat.

Billy now even wears his very own "mailbag" - a tiny heart-shaped plastic container.

Shipunova said that she felt like she had “found a friend” thanks to her cat. (SWNS)
Shipunova said that she felt like she had “found a friend” thanks to her cat. (SWNS)

Shipunova said: “I ended up looking forward to every message. I really didn’t expect it - when he first came home with the note I don’t know why but I thought maybe he broke into someone’s flower pot.

“But I was so pleasantly surprised when it was this nice note from a neighbour and I feel like we’ve found a friend.

“The last year has been quite grim and we’re now working from home so I think Billy is a bit surprised by how often we’re here.

Watch: Couple use lockdown to make over stately home

“It’s been great to have such a nice surprise to keep us looking forward to something - and also get Billy out and socialising."

Shipunova and King adopted Billy after he was abandoned as a kitten just over a year ago when they moved into their flat.

They immediately installed a cat flap so he could roam freely but never expected him to return with a handwritten note.

Shipunova has said the novel notes were the highlight of her year. (SWNS)
Shipunova has said the novel notes were the highlight of her year. (SWNS)

Shipunova, an account manager, said: “We love the idea he just sits there meowing until he’s let in.

“We absolutely love Billy and he is a very sociable cat - but we never expected him to come back with a note and definitely not for this friendship to come of it.

“The letters are just wonderful. In many ways totally inconsequential but really meaningful at the same time.

Read: 'One last push': How the national media reacted to England's new lockdown

“We want to thank the neighbour because this would have never happened with them.”

King said he hopes to continue exchanging the letters but despite being curious, he said he feels it’s best the neighbour remains anonymous.

The advertising strategist said: “It would be nice to know who she was, but there’s no need - it’s quite nice the way it is.

The messages have been exchanged through Billy for months. (SWNS)
The messages have been exchanged through Billy for months. (SWNS)

“You lose a bit of the mystery. I like not knowing where he’s off to but it’s nice to know he’s visiting someone who is kind to him.

“We know they’re Canadian and that’s about it. We never expected it to spiral into this friendship but it’s been truly lovely.”

The couple said they will keep exchanging the "lovely notes" as long as they receive them and will look forward to the next one.

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown