When Jan and Findlay found they needed to make a job-related move from the hills outside North Rome to the heel of Italy, they knew that moving house was not going to be a simple as it would be for most of us.

This quiet couple have managed to accumulate two dogs, Angel and Sam — and  33 cats, all but one of whom needed to move too.

Through their compassion for animals they have been rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming cats in their local area for more than 10 years. They have rehomed many litters of kittens, keeping the mums. Jan, who does not overlook any opportunity for educating and promoting the welfare of cats, educates new owners and neighbours about caring for cats and the importance of neutering as a method of controlling populations.

Many of the cats they have kept are semi-feral and have never lived as house cats. Cats that cannot be rehomed have joined their extended family — and are in fact the lucky ones, as Jan and Findlay live in a rural area with plenty of space for them to roam safely.

We were very impressed by the fact that every cat is an individual to them. They know their characters and their idiosyncrasies. This was very important when it came to deciding how they were to be transported. Fortunately for Animalcouriers, Jan and Findlay are calm, logical people who had planned today’s move down to the last detail.

When we arrived at their house last night to meet them and the cats, all the cats but one were indoors. Jan knew where it was thanks to the tracking system and was planning to go out later. (Which she did, and reported to us by email: “Just got the last one (Lotta)  in after much rushing about in the dark and shouting.”)

All the furniture had already gone, and dotted around the house were cushions and cat beds containing some of the calmest cats we have ever encountered. It was hard to believe they weren’t all lap cats. We left a large pile of cages and cat carriers in which the cats were to travel, had a chat about plans, and left to stay in a nearby village.

After we’d gone, Jan and Findlay left the cages and cat carriers around the house, each with a little ‘bed’ of their used clothing in it so that the cats could get used to them. During the night they could hear the cats working away at the blocked-off cat flaps that had been sealed to prevent them getting out. Knowing their cats, Jan and Findlay took a mattress each: Jan slept against one cat flap while Findlay slept against the other!

In the morning Jan ‘scatter fed’ the cats with biscuits, placing some in the cages. So as the cats walked in to find their breakfast, Jan and Findlay gently shut the doors behind them. By the time we arrived most of the cats were ready to be loaded into the van. The whole operation went like a well-oiled machine thanks to the calm and thoughtful approach from  Jan and Findlay.

Of the 33 cats, 32 are travelling. The 33rd, Gandalf is an un-neutered tom who no-one has ever caught, so he is going to stay and keep an eye on the new owners, who will watch out for him.

As we shut the door, ready to leave, Jan said: “Now they are all loaded and on their way, I can wind down.” We hadn’t noticed that she was even slightly ‘wound up’!

The cast of characters: