Sunday, February 14, 2010

Khartoum Cats

I vowed and declared I would never do this again. I would never again take on the strays of Africa. Back home in South Africa I have seven cats which all came to me, not the other way around. We also have three dogs at home, two of which were rescued and the third which we inherited from my son and daughter-in-law. All these animals are now living the life of Riley, being cared for by Emily and I love each one with a special love.

Yet how long did my resolution last this time in North Africa? Not even a month. A while ago my husband told me that there was a cat to greet him at the bottom of the stairs when he went off to work that morning. That night, along with Curry's food, I took out a vegetable punnet and crumbled some raw mince and a little rice in it. He went downstairs after dinner and placed it just outside the security gate. We know the cat: we regularly see her on the roof opposite our building.

The calico cat which seems to have adopted us as her owners

In the beginning we never saw the cat. Only an empty dish in the morning. Then last Saturday evening as I was on my way to bed, I saw the punnet of food at the top of the stairs. Hubby had forgotten to take it down. No problem. I popped downstairs, intending to slide the punnet through the security gate and leave it there. Only this evening, Calico Cat (as we'd christened her) was waiting for her dinner! I placed the food outside, stepped back into the shadows and watched her devour the food.
She licked the plate clean, so I dashed upstairs, collected the milk jug and came down and filled the punnet with milk. When she had finished this, she walked back to under the General Manager's vehicle parked in the courtyard, and lay down (as cat's do) with her front paws tucked under her body. Leaving a little more milk for overnight, I came back upstairs and went to bed.

Later in the week one morning, I saw her under the vehicle. I filled the now-licked-clean punnet with milk again. She has become used to the evening meal (sometimes I alternate with tinned tuna) and a punnet or two of creamy milk in the morning. We often speculate whether she recognises us from where she lies every evening on the roof opposite our balcony. What we don't need to speculate about is that she has found two cat lovers who have adopted her as their porch cat!

The stray cat at the vegetable stall in the city
But that's not all...
Two weeks ago when we stopped at the fruit and vegetable market in the middle of the city (not the riverside fruit sellers), a small white cat came and wrapped itself around my ankles while I was choosing my goods. I bent down and stroked it after which it disappeared under the stalls.
When I saw it again last Monday, I noticed it had a sore eye and was very thin. I also realised then that it was a very young cat and probably struggling to fend for itself under very difficult circumstances. The vegetable stalls are situated in a large open field which has been devoid of all trees, grass and shrubs. There are no birds or rodents, or even insects around. To top it all, there are four stray dogs who lie behind the other two stalls nearby who'd probably kill the cat if she ventured out. When I visited the market again on Thursday I asked the stall owner where the Kadissa (cat) was. He bent down and pulled it out under the racks. It was shaking and looked absolutely listless. He broke a few small pieces of his pita bread and threw it on the ground. This poor animal pounced on the dry chunks of bread and gobbled them up. My heart broke at the sight of the cat's hunger. As we were leaving to go into the city on Friday, my husband opened the cooler box which I had waiting at the top of the stairs. When he saw a bottle of milk and a carton of bread and mince, he merely lifted his eyebrows...
This time when we stopped at the vegetable stall, the owner saw me and started to call the cat. It was eventually located under the makeshift house which stands to one side. He brought it to me and together with a friend, he placed a few pieces of bread and meat in the container lid, while I poured a little milk. The cat did not devour the food as I imagined. Instead it ate little bits and lapped some milk. I left the small bottle of milk and the remainder of the food in a margarine tub. The stall owner said he'd feed the cat "baad al youm tani" (later today again)
Yesterday I took another little juice bottle with half frozen milk and a container of rice, tuna and bread bits, softened with a little water. At first the owner couldn't find the cat and eventually located him on the roof of the stall. None too gently he pulled it off there and this time there was a group of men helping to feed the cat while I took photos.
While I realise that I may not always be there to feed this little lad, I feel that at least now he may gain strength and be able to fend for himself. Next week I will crush some worm tablets into his food and I believe that he'll soon be able to stand on his own [four] feet!
The pregnant cat at the "water" shop
The list goes on...
Almost a year ago, when my husband first began to support the "water man" by buying his bottled water at his shop in the city, he noticed that one of the two cats in the shop had a terrible injury at the base of his tail. With gestures and the odd English and Arabic words, the owner told him that it had crossed the busy road and been hit by a car. The next day hubby took a tube of Podene (an iodene ointment), applied it to the wound and left it for the owner to continue with the treatment. Within the week, the cat's tail had healed and the owner was most grateful. Of course, my husband took me to see the two cats way back in August last year.
Over the weeks since I've been back, every time we stopped for our large bottle of water, I'd ask if he'd seen the cats. Always he answered in the negative but said the owner said they were there. Then last Monday (the day I first noticed the white "vegetable" cat, I saw him stroke a cat out on the veranda. Sitting in the vehicle, I lifted my camera and took a few photos. When hubby got into the ute, I said that I'd noticed the cat. To which he replied, "Yes, a very pregnant one." My heart sank. I'd never thought one of the cats was a female.

And by Saturday last week, when hubby returned to the vehicle from his purchases at this shop, he said the cat had had two kittens, would I like to go and see them?

I could just hear this poor mother cat asking: How do I feed my children?
I ran into the shop clutching my camera. The owner was waiting to show me where the cat was. She was lying on a used pizza box on slightly raised shelf. She was very stressed when the owner lifted her to show me the kittens. I motioned to him to leave her babies alone and rather to place a barricade against the small gap under the shelf. In my mind's eye, I could see the kittens slipping off the shelf, and under it from where the mother cat would not be able to retrieve them. He had a bowl of milk near her, and when I brought my hand to my mouth in an eating motion, he nodded vigorously. I took a few photos but left the shop feeling very despondent about the fate of those kittens.
She gave birth to two kittens on a used pizza box

The remaining kitten is strong and healthy
The second day of being fed properly, you can almost hear her purr... If you look closely at her fur, you'll notice how glossy it is compared to the close-up of her in the pizza box

On Friday after I had fed the cat at the vegetable stalls, we stopped at the water shop so that I could check on the cat and her kittens. My husband told me to buy whatever I could in the shop to help the mother cat. The shop owner greeted me enthusiastically and led me down behind the counter to the back of the shop. He had moved the cat. He reached down behind the fridge and picked up a kitten. When I asked about the other one, he shook his head. I realised it had died. In a nest he'd made out of old sacking, the mother cat was looking up anxiously for her kitten. Once I'd placed the kitten at her teat, (I was thrilled to see it latch on with determination) I walked to the shop shelf and found a tin of tuna. I paid for it and asked him to open it. He dashed to the shop next door and returned with a huge knife! He managed to open it almost to the end. I turned the end over and carried the tin and it's yummy, oily fish to the back of the shop. As I placed it on the floor beside the cat, she leant over, stuck her face into tin and virtuallly sucked up the contents.
By this time a young women had entered the shop. She spoke a little English and I asked her if she could ask the shop owner for a small plastic bowl. He produced a pot plant saucer. I fetched my bottle of water from the vehicle (telling my husband waiting patiently, that I would be ready to leave shortly!) and filled the saucer. I placed it beside the cat's nest with the young woman watching. She explained to the owner what I had done and told me he would top up the water when necessary. Halleluja!

As I placed the tuna in front of the cat, the shop owner brought the water bottle and topped up her dish
On Saturday my husband popped into the shop to buy our bottle of water and I followed him. This time clutching a can opene along with my camera! The owner took me to the cat who immediately sat up when she saw me. I took another can of tuna off the shelf, paid for it and opened it on the shop counter. I carried it to the cat in her nest behind the fridge, and while I placed it close to the cat, the shop owner brought the water bottle and filled her water bowl. Yippee.
The above photo says it all...

Back at the counter, I bought another can of tuna and explained in halting Arabic (I'd worked on and memorised the phrase at home) that he should open it on tomorrow (which is today) and feed the cat. And I asked him to remember to fill her water bottle as well. He nodded, this time comprehending what I was saying and he greeted me with an enthusiastic handshake, I left his shop.

My husband will pop in there on Monday again and check on the cat and her kitten. I hope to get back to the city with him on Tuesday and will make arrangements for the city cats to be fed again for the next few days.
For more stories on pets, click here.


  1. Jo...I am so glad there are people like you in this world. These cats are very lucky to have you checking on them. And you husband sounds like a good guy too!

  2. Hi Jo,
    You have a kind and loving heart. How lucky these little cats are that they have you.
    Sunny :)

  3. Bless you and your loving heart!

  4. Dare I say that cats can see a soft-hearted person coming from a kilometer away? LOL!
    You are sweet and kind. I couldn't have passed these darlings up either. But will you adopt one of the kittens?

  5. Thanks Lori, my hubby loves animals as much as I do, but he has a very soft spot for cats. Now me, I'd go around feeding the stray dogs behind these stalls, carrying buckets of water for the many donkies in the city, and buy up all the birds in overfilled cages in the pet shops!

    Thanks Sunny;)

    Hi Ladyfi;) you are so sweet to say that. Thanks.

    Hi Dedene;) absolutely. There is only one kitten and if possible we want to have the mother spayed and adopt the kitten. The stall and shop owners asked me this question this morning!

  6. O I so love reading stories like this! They give hope and warmth! Shadow wandered into our home and decided to stay! We can't say no! And the pleasure we get from seeing a little animal grow in health and trust and beauty is simply priceless!

  7. Hi Gemma;) I agree, the reward for nuturing the animal back to health and happiness far outweighs any inconvenience the caring poses. Thanks for popping in.

  8. Your post has made my day and I will think of it often sandy

  9. You are a true cat lover! We don't have any pets now because we are gone too much, but we did have a cat adopt us once and really enjoyed him for several years.

  10. What kind and compassionate people you and your husband are. They are such beautiful cats, all of them. Thanks to you they have a chance of living long and healthy lives. Bless you!

  11. You are such a wonderful provider to the cats of the world. I know you must miss all your pets.

  12. Jo, I feel the same way as the others, and I, too, am glad there are people like you and your husband in this world!! How lucky these little cats are indeed to have been found by you. Thanks for all you do!


  13. I think my comment got lost - me being too impatient again, I expect.
    It's wonderful that there are caring compassionate people like you and your husband who look out for the unfortunates in the world. Thanks to you several cats hopefully will now live long healthy lives. So many people wouldn't bother. Bless you both!

  14. Hi Sandy;) good to see you again. thanks for you kind comment. I'm off to see your blog.

    Hipat;) yes, that's one thing about having pets. You have to be there for them. I'm not at home in South Africa for my cats and dogs but dear Emily (my houselady of many years) takes care of them in my absence. Thanks for popping in.

    Thanks Jabblog: I don't actually want to make them dependent on us. Just fatten them up so they have a better chance out there. Especially the Vegetable stall cat.

    Hi Gaelyn;) I try to do what I can.

    Thanks Sylvia;) I know what an animal lover you are and that is heartwarming too.

  15. I admit I'm not much of a cat person, but your love and attention is touching. Your husband's obvious commitment to you and the kitties was also sweet. Amazing how the cats remember you after just a few visits. Kindness is bonding.

    <3 Sandy

  16. It would make my heart bleeding ! I just would take them all in and I know it it impossible. but it's good that they have you and at least they get a little food. what a life when I compare it to my pampered cats !

  17. Jo, you really warm my heart with your kindness towards these helpless animals. God bless you for your love and compassion. Big hugs xx


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo