Freeport Braintree cat's Facebook page puts shoppers' concerns to rest

Gracie Johnston the cat Image copyright Amy Cartlidge
Image caption Gracie Johnston is a regular visitor to shops around Freeport Braintree, including the Sketchers shoe store

A cat owner has taken to social media to explain to concerned shoppers why his pet has made a shopping outlet her second home.

Gracie, 10, walks half a mile from her home to Freeport Braintree, Essex, every day from 09:00 until it closes.

Her owner Lee Johnston said he created a Facebook page after receiving several calls a day from worried shoppers.

"She's savvy with cars. This is what she's always done, and she's always come out unscathed," he said.

Mr Johnston said spreading the word about Gracie's shopping habit had been a "battle at the start", but the Facebook page seemed to have "sorted it out".

"Once I explain how she loves Freeport, people accept it. I have to convince them that's just what she does," he said.

Image copyright Judy Beard
Image caption Gracie, a 10-year-old British shorthair, is thought to enjoy frequenting shops after living in Wembley in her younger years

Gracie, who was rescued from a centre in Witham, was originally from Wembley according to her microchip - and no-one is quite sure how she travelled the 60 miles in between.

"We think she likes people and shops because she was brought up in the city," Mr Johnston said.

"She likes to pop into a shop, have a look around, go in another, maybe have a sleep.

"She likes sitting in people's laps, a bit of company. She goes in changing rooms."

Mr Johnston said if shops did not appreciate her company they "kicked her out", but she had been made welcome in most stores.

Image copyright Judy Beard
Image caption Staff and customers in the Weird Fish shop are often graced with Gracie's presence

Freeport's manager Josef O'Sullivan said Gracie had become a "very popular visitor" at the centre since moving to Braintree 10 months ago.

"Gracie has become a frequent visitor to Freeport Braintree and almost treats the centre as her second home," he said.

"[She] has become quite the 'celebrity' amongst our retailers and visitors. If only cats could spend money..."

Image copyright Lee Johnstone
Image caption Gracie has become "quite the celebrity", Freeport's manager said

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