10 March 2014
lost and found
A few days ago I saw a lone ginger kitten emerge briefly from the dusty grass next to a dirt road many kilometres from the nearest farmstead. I'm not sure what made me stop a hundred metres down the road and turn around to investigate. The last stray kitten I tried to rescue as a child was a terrified, un-tameable wild animal, spraying faeces everywhere whenever disturbed. Not an experience I'd care to repeat, especially inside my car with cloth upholstered seats, and sleeping bag and pillow on the back seat.
This little bedraggled mite had definitely been living rough for a while. Emaciated, filthy, patchy fur, tattered whiskers, scarred ears, and hosting more giant fleas than I've ever seen. But as I approached slowly, something unexpected happened. The purring started, and he came running over, rubbing up against my ankles. So into the car he went, and I set off with great trepidation. Apart from shedding flea eggs like sand, he only looked around with great curiosity at this novel experience, before settling down on the passenger seat.
The next day he joined our meeting, ate raw sausage and lapped milk like he'd never seen food before. He survived threats of drowning and shooting from two stern conservation men who rightly disapprove of all cats, and especially voracious, future bird and reptile murdering strays, but clearly didn't have the heart to do him in. However, we cannot keep a cat, I am mildly allergic, the cockatiel is very allergic, and the dog would consider him a snack. I stopped in Bredasdorp, the nearest small town on the way home, to drop him at the animal shelter. After looking over the miserable cages, and knowing his likely fate there, I was slightly relieved that they were closed and there was no answer on the after hours mobile number. In Cape Town, Rosie had already established that all the nearby animal shelters were full. So for a few days he was banished to the garage, with brief excursions when the mewing was replaced by constant purring. That time was enough to establish that he was intelligent and civilised enough to figure out how to use a sand box after one day, and exceedingly hungry all the time. After the fleas were dealt with and he accepted being bathed with minimal fuss, it became apparent that he really was thoroughly adorable, that the purring might never stop, and that laps were a lot more pleasant to be in than end of summer dry and dusty wheat fields.
The power of social media saved us from becoming cat people, and on Saturday the ginger kitten joined a loving family and was named Lenard. The pictures and video posted so far show a very small cat establishing that he is the boss of two large dogs, a besotted, gentle blonde toddler, and the adults in the house. He is now certain of the finest food money can buy, comfort and constant love. Sometimes a happy ending is that easy.