For 48-year-old web designer Barbarella Buchner, finding another man after her seven-year relationship ended was the last thing on her mind – because she believes she’s found happiness, companionship and emotional fulfilment with… her cats.
Incredible as it sounds, Barbarella thinks she’s found not one, but two soulmates in the form of her male cats, Spider and Lugosi. Her devotion to them is so strong that 10 years ago she even married them in an online ceremony.
“They’re the loves of my life,” she claims. “I have no regrets and I don’t care what people say.”
Cat-mad Barbarella has always been an animal lover. “As a child I was surrounded by cats,” she says. “Our family regularly owned at least one or two. They were my favourite animal.”
At 34, Barbarella finally got the chance to adopt her own cats, and she took the opportunity very seriously.
“For me, it was like when you know you’re having a baby,” she says. “Before you have a baby or adopt a child, you look on the internet to learn as much as possible and read lots of books. That’s what I did before I got my cats.”
In March 2000, Barbarella adopted two eight-month-old tabby cats from the same litter at an East London animal shelter.
“It was love at first sight when I laid eyes on my boys, Lugosi and Spider,” she recalls. “I’ll never forget that day. They were rubbing against the cage and purring.
“I knew I wanted those cats… I could tell the feeling of love was mutual judging by their purrs and the way they were brushing their little faces against the bars. That was it; they were coming home with me!”
Barbarella – who now lives in Lanzarote – has had a few long-term relationships with men, but never wanted to marry.
She explains, “I didn’t know if I had it in me to be a wife. Some women are built to clean up after their men, and I’m not like that. But I never minded being my cats’ servants. I’m not a submissive person but I’ll do anything for Lugosi and Spider.”
Barbarella says the cats were a comfort to her after her most serious relationship with her boyfriend of seven years broke down.
“My ex was the most important person in my life until things stopped working between us,” she says. “He’d come home and we’d argue over something, or he’d want to chat when I didn’t want to. We ended up sleeping in separate rooms. I thought there was hope for us but in the end, there wasn’t.
“It was so painful breaking up with him. I cried for weeks after we split up, but the cats really helped me through the process. I would cry into Lugosi and Spider’s fur. They were on the sofa with me all the time and I felt calm.
“After my boyfriend left, Spider and Lugosi were still there for me, helping me get through the separation anxiety and feelings of sadness. I have loved and lived with a couple of partners before but I realised that my love for my fur babies is so much deeper than anything I have felt for a human.”
In 2004, Barbarella decided to make their love official and looked into ways to marry her cats. She found a website called Marryyourpet.com. The site has a list of rules they expect the human marrying their pet to adhere to – such as ‘You are not allowed to mistreat your pet in any way’ – and once Barbarella had been approved and had paid a small fee of about £20, she tied the knot with Lugosi and Spider in a quickie online ceremony, where she clicked on the words ‘I do’.
“Marrying Lugosi and Spider was something I had to do, for myself,” she says. “Some people may call me a bigamist for marrying two cats or even call our marriage incest because they’re brothers. But I’ve never been one to care about what other people say or think, especially when it has anything to do with my cats and the unusual relationship I have with them.
“Obviously I don’t have sex with my cats. It’s just pure, spiritual, unconditional love on both sides, as simple as that.”
Barbarella spoils her feline hubbies and admits she would happily go bankrupt for them.
“My cats eat better than me. I want them to stay healthy so I’ve put them on a pricey, raw meat diet. Their food is far more expensive than mine.
“One cat’s meals cost £17 per week. I also mix vitamin powder into their food which is £50 per bag. I would take out a loan to save my cats or borrow money if they needed an operation. There’s no limit to what I’d do.”
To celebrate their three-year anniversary, Barbarella got a tattoo of her two tabbies on her right leg.
“I wanted something of Lugosi and Spider on my body. If they died, I would never marry another cat. They’re my first cats and no other cat in the future can change that.
“If a man ever approaches me, I just tell them straight off, “Sorry, I’m married to my cats.” If they think it’s odd, I don’t care.”