THESE pets have a new lease of life after death – now that they’ve been stuffed.
From Luisa Zissman’s horse to a cat turned into a cuddly bedfellow, here owners reveal why they wanted to preserve their pets.
Stable hand Chloe Lee, 23, had her beloved cat of 16 years stuffed to help her with the pet grieving process.
Married Chloe, from Boston, Lincs, studied taxidermy so she could do the procedure on furry friend Nicky.
She said: “I got Nicky as a pet when I was six years old.
“She was shy and timid around other people but around me she was loving and snuggly.
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“Over the years Nicky was the one constant in my life. She’d lie on my chest or shoulder. She had a favourite position to lie curled up on my bed.”
But when Nicky died of old age in 2020, amateur taxidermist Chloe couldn’t bear to be apart from her beloved cat.
Animal-lover Chloe had taught herself taxidermy from books and YouTube videos before going on specialist courses.
She said: “I didn’t want my little Nicky turned into ‘maggot food’.
“The comfort I got from holding her on my lap was something I knew could continue after she died.
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“I spent fifty hours processing her body. It helped heal my grief.”
And stuffed Nicky is so lifelike, Chloe’s friends and family often mistake her for a live cat.
She said: “When people see Nicky on the sofa or bed, they assume she’s a sleeping cat.
They’re astounded when they learn she isn’t.
“My Nicky is with me forever. I hope I can give the gift to other people as well.”
'I'm sure people think it's creepy'
When Luisa Zissman’s beloved horse Madrono died in 2019, she decided to have him preserved by taxidermy.
Now she’s considering turning her Shetland pony Haggis into a rocking horse when he dies.
And the ex-Apprentice star says anyone with a problem with her choices can, well, get stuffed.
The 35-year-old said: “It’s like having ashes in a box or a headstone, I don’t know why anyone would have an opinion on it.
“That’s because I’m so disinterested in what everybody else does except myself. I just couldn’t care.”
Luisa first bought the white Andalusian stallion in 2014 but had to put him down after he developed internal cancerous lumps.
It’s like having ashes in a box or a headstone, I don’t know why anyone would have an opinion on it
She said: “It was really awful and very heartbreaking. But to be honest I had to do it because there were really no other options. He was suffering.”
Shortly before the horse was put to sleep, Luisa arranged for him to be mounted by taxidermist Simon Wilson – also known as Simon the Stuffa.
The taxidermy process took a year and a half and involved creating a fibreglass model of the horse and tanning his skin in Belgium.
She said: “The artistry and skill and the technique that goes into doing something like that is absolutely incredible.
“A lot of people think you just gut them and stuff them but you don’t. The skin is really carefully removed, the eyes were carved.
“Even Madrono had a little scar on his face and that is in exactly the same place.
“It’s craftsmanship basically. It’s a lengthy process.”
After waiting a year and a half to be reunited with Madrono, a tearful Luisa saw the finished product live on-screen on This Morning in April 2021.
She says seeing her beloved pet once again brought up mixed emotions: “It brought back quite a lot of grief.
“It was sad because it was like he was there but not there.
“It did bring back a lot of feelings, but I’m really happy that I did it. And I’m happy that I get to have him forever.”
It did bring back a lot of feelings, but I’m really happy that I did it. And I’m happy that I get to have him forever
But cruel trolls were quick to criticise Luisa’s decision, with one writing online: “Taxidermy’s so creepy, couldn’t do that to a pet.”
Unfazed Luisa says she couldn’t care less what anyone else has to say about how she preserved her horse.
She said: “I’m sure people think it’s creepy. People would have said she’s got more money than sense.
“I can pretty much tell you without reading the comments what the comments would have said. It doesn’t bother me.”
Her pony Bailey also passed away in the same year but Luisa chose only to preserve “beautiful” Madrono.
She says she’s unlikely to mount any of her other six horses, but is toying with the idea of turning her Shetland Pony Haggis into a rocking chair after he dies.
She said: “The little Shetland – I might turn him into a little rocking horse.
“I’ve seen people put them on rocking horses and stuff. I’ll maybe do that with him but I’m not sure. I’m hoping that they are all going to stay alive.”
‘They're just as beautiful dead'
Former arachnophobe Claire Jones, 49, taxidermied her four favourite tarantulas when they died and keeps them proudly on display above her desk.
Claire said: “People think it’s odd keeping, let alone preserving tarantulas but they’re just as beautiful dead as they are alive.
“I saw other people had done it so when Helen – named after my personal trainer – passed away last year I put her in the freezer and contacted a lady in Yorkshire who I found on Facebook.
“Another two males, Shelob and Mungo, passed away shortly afterwards so I froze them too.
“Then Mike – who turned out to be female – died a few months later so I sent them all up to her asking if she could mount them all.”
Now Claire is planning on preserving more of her 30 pet tarantulas when they pass away.
But while she loves her eight-legged memorials, she says some friends are terrified.
She said: “They’re definitely a talking point.
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“Some people absolutely love them and others don’t even want to go near the dome despite the fact they’re not living spiders in it.
“I love having them near me though, they’re such beautiful creatures, such vibrant natural colours, it seemed a shame to not have them live on in some way.”
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