Michael Jetson was a familiar and popular character in central Manly, and for many years he was accompanied on his walks around The Corso by one of his pets, a white cat with black ears named Dotti, who sat on his shoulder.
The pair would often pose for tourist photos along the seafront. Michael, a former milkman, also volunteered with One Meal Northern Beaches a food relief charity that offers community meals and delivers food hampers to the needy.
Sadly, Michael passed away in mid-August from diabetes complications, and although Dotti passed away in 2021 after cancer treatment, Michael left behind two other beloved cats – Bluey and Smudge. They are currently in temporary care with CatRescue 901, a feline rescue and rehoming charity. Michael’s friends are hoping they can be permanently rehomed together.
Peter Cantwell, Michael’s close friend who launched a campaign to find a shared home for Bluey, a six-month-old ginger, and Smudge, an 18-month-old calico (both female), explained the situation to Manly Observer.
“I would love for Smudge and Bluey to be homed together because they like to play together. Michael loved his cats so much, they were his babies, and anyone would be lucky to look after them. Everyone I have spoken to about Michael are concerned about the welfare of his cats as they all knew how much they meant to him. They were his life. He had his cats’ photos from the front door to the back door on display as a reminder…
“Being indoor cats we would also love for the new owner to get them on the leash for some quality outdoor time as Smudge loves going outside, and was often seen in Manly around the mall [with Michael]. Bluey would be good on a lead too.
“We’re really hoping his kitties find the best forever home possible now.”
Peter described his old friend fondly to Manly Observer.
“Michael worked in a kitchen from 1980-1984 (before I met him). He was a milkman for a while but when I met him he was working at a service station in Manly Vale, when I moved in with his brother Chris and another friend.
“Michael liked playing pool and fishing so we would often be found at the pool hall in Manly or fishing at Little Manly. He was a good guy. We lost touch once or twice, but whenever we reconnected it was like we’d seen each other a week ago. He was always up for a chat and a cuppa. One Meal [food charity, where Michael volunteered] has been good to Michael and he made a lot of friends there.
“We are still in the process of planning a memorial for Michael. It would be nice to be able to visit the cats when they are rehomed but I understand that may not be possible.”
Northern Beaches Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham also spoke kindly of Michael Jetson after his passing. In an Instagram post, dated 17 August, she said, “Manly has sadly lost another of its special characters. Michael (and Dotti) were always in the Corso chatting to people and bringing joy to many. He will be greatly missed. My condolences to his family and many friends.”
Where are the cats now?
Jenny Storaker, Director of CatRescue 901, told Manly Observer how the feline care charity came to take custody of Michael’s two cats.
“We rehome through five Petstock stores. Petstock Balgowlah contacted us and asked if we’d be able to take them. They’re boarding in Thornleigh Vet at the moment because we’re very short of carers. Our Kirstie works there, so they’re being well looked after.”
Manly Observer visited the two cats at Thornleigh Vet, where Kirstie Blain, volunteer for CatRescue 901, works as a receptionist and is overseeing their welfare.
“One of our volunteer pet transporters brought the two cats in [after Michael passed away],” Kirstie said. “They weren’t entirely happy together so we separated them for a couple of days. Bluey was very nervous at first. I think being the younger of the two – only six months old – and probably only recently moved into Michael’s home before going through the trauma of losing their owner, she took a while to settle.”
Jenny is hopeful that the two cats will be rehomed together. “We will do our darnedest to make that happen,” she insisted. “It is getting harder to rehome older cats that aren’t kittens as a pair, but we will certainly do our best as that is our aim.”
“Keeping Mike in mind, we will tell his story to whomever adopts them,” Kirstie added. “Meanwhile, Bluey needs to be de-sexed, micro-chipped and vaccinated, whereas Smudge we need to get up to date with her vaccinations. That will take place over the next couple of weeks, then they’ll be ready to look for a permanent home.”
What is CatRescue 901?
Director Jenny Storaker explained the charity’s operation to Manly Observer.
“We are a 100 per cent volunteer organisation. We rescue and rehome mostly stray cats. Occasionally we’ll take in a cat if the owner has died – as in this case [Michael Jetson]. We issue subsidised de-sexing certificates, as many as we can afford a year. The biggest problem is the strays having babies, so the less babies, the less suffering.”
“We also have a program called Trap, Neuter, Release,” Kirstie added, “in which we can take perhaps a feral cat off the street, de-sex it, and release it back into their colonies. That way we’re stopping the breeding, which is important in reducing their numbers.
“We have a lot of colony workers with whom we connect that we help with de-sexing vouchers. Last year we had a great bequest from someone who passed away and we used that to de-sex over 700 cats – closer to 800, actually – all off the streets, because that was what she wanted.
“It’s really important to stop the breeding happening rather than deal with the kittens when they arrive. Any kind of bequest or donations to put towards de-sexing is well-used.”
However, when it comes to rehoming cats, CatRescue 901 is in urgent need of more foster carers.
“The more foster carers we have, the more cats we can save,” Jenny said. “If they have their own cats, they need to have a spare room to separate the cat they’re fostering. If they don’t have any pets they don’t need a spare room. We pay all vet bills and supply flea and worm treatment. If possible, we do like them to buy the food we use.”
“CatRescue 901 have over 30 carers throughout Sydney,” Kirstie revealed, “and usually at any one time, we have between 70 and 100 cats and kittens of varying ages. Our busiest period, which we’re about to come into because it’s kitten season, will bump up our cat population. Last year the maximum we had was around 120. There is a lot of behind the scenes work, transporting cats, getting their vet work done – we have a few vets across Sydney that we work closely with.”
Where there’s a will…
How important is it to have a will that takes into account what happens to your cat(s) after you’ve gone?
“It’s absolutely vital to have a legacy in place if something happens to someone and they can’t care for their cats anymore,” Jenny stressed. “I cannot tell you how many times we are contacted to take cats when people die. Very sadly, we don’t often have space to do that.
“The reality is, in most cases the family take the inheritance and abandon the cats. It’s very sad. So many people dump un-de-sexed cats, so that the situation on the streets for stray cats is untenable. The sad reality is if someone has to go to a nursing home or dies, there is a very high chance there cat will be euthanised. So, planning for your cats is vital if you want to ensure they’re safe after you’ve gone.”
If you’re interested in rehoming Michael Jetson’s two cats, or becoming a foster carer, contact