Monday, December 9, 2013

Jess and Blackie

Many months ago, at the end of February this year, Grant and I met new South African expats, Dick and Rina in Mwadui. Dick had come to take over as manager of a mining, agricultural and constructions  company. The day before we'd had one of our typical tropical downpour in Mwadui. That evening while driving home from work  Dick spotted two half-drowned kittens sitting on the side of the road. He stopped, loaded them into the car and took them home.

Dick and Rina had never owned cats before but they realized that they were very tiny; their eyes were still milky and when Rina placed a saucer of milk in front of them, they lurched forward and dipped their chins into the liquid. Eventually they got the hang of it and lapped up the entire bowl. Rina rubbed them down with a towel. She placed them on her sofa wrapped in her fleecy jacket while she cooked up a whole chicken for them. (was she hooked or what!) The kittens slept peacefully while their new mama prepared their first solid meal.
 Teeny kittens only just visible in their warm bed

A few days later I popped around to see them and they were still very small and slept most of the day. 
 A pair of blue-eyed kitties who'd not be here but for the kindness of Dick who rescued them

In the first days of owning cats, Dick and Rina told us that though they were thoroughly enamored with their new charges, they were experiencing a messy problem. Even though they carried the kittens outdoors at intervals, these little mites didn't have the strength to dig in the hard sand.As soon as they were back in the house they'd dash behind the fridge or washing machine and relieve themselves. 

I suggested they set out litter trays: small cardboard boxes filled with sawdust which we'd give them from our large supply in the garage. Dick duly fetched a bag of sawdust from me and the problem seemed to have been solved. However, two days later they told us that although the cats originally used the cardboard box, they were now using the spot on the floor outside the receptacle. When I asked how many boxes they had out for the cats, it turned out they only had one. So we suggested they buy two baby baths at a local shop here in Mwadui. Grant took Dick to the carpenter's workshop where he was given a large bag of sawdust.  

Bob's yer uncle!

By now, Dick and Rina had become fully-fledged, qualified cat-owners. They'd named them Topsy and Tipsy and although there are no cat toys as such, available in Mwadui, Dick an Rina found a key ring with a toy rabbit attached;  Amanda made them a felt ball with a tinkling bell inside; I purloined two of our cats' toys (they have dozens) telling my cats they have to be generous to others less fortunate than they are. (they didn't agree!) Grant showed Dick how to remove the roller applicator in a deodorant stick which, once rinsed and dried,  becomes the perfect plastic ball . 

 The roller at the end of a deodorant applicator makes a perfect ball for cats to play with

Dick and Rina were enjoying the little ones tremendously. Then Dick said he was concerned that they were going out on leave to South Africa in May. What would happen to their kittens while they were away. I said Grant and I would look after them here in our home. Little did I know what an impact this offer would ultimately have on our lives! 
 Topsy and Tipsy on Rina's sofa a few days before they arrived at our home where we babysat them for two weeks

When we babysat the kittens the first time in May, they weighed 2kg together. They were playful and enjoyed the run of my bathroom (where we'd set up their cat-tree, toilet boxes, toys and food and water bowls) As they were only going to be staying with us this once, I didn't see the need to introduce them to our three male cats and cause undue stress between all. 
 Topsy on Rina's towel, sniffing around Grant's bathroom
Tipsy (left) and Topsy, under the pillow, during their visit in May this year
Topsy on the cats' tree watches as...
...Tipsy makes merry with the toilet roll

All too soon, Dick and Rina returned from the holiday. Although I told them to settle in at home before collecting the cats, they stopped off here first as they'd missed their babies so much! 
 Each time we visited Dick and Rina, we found that the cats had grown 

 Grant and Topsy share a cuddle while we visited Rina and Dick

Then it was the end of August and time for Rina and Dick to go out on leave again. As their two cats were nine months old now, we didn't think it a good idea to have them in our house with our three cats. Originally the idea was for me to feed them in Dick's house. Then with a change of mind we decided to have them in our house again and like last time, keep them separated from Ginger, Shadow and Ambrose. The decision turned out to be a good one in the light of what happened when our friends were out on leave in South Africa. 
 Topsy and Tipsy now tipped the scales at 4kg each!  

Although I kept the visiting cats separate from our resident trio, Ambrose wanted to play with the new kitties. (He's posted about these cats on Sundays when he annexes my laptop)
 Ambrose and Topsy explore the kittens' tree together 
 On the floor below, Tipsy inspects the box of toys

During the last week that we were looking after the cats, Rina phoned me from SA and said Dick had been hospitalized with a bad bout of malaria. This was very bad news; malaria is a serious disease and if you contract it in Africa and immediately seek treatment, you have a far better chance of surviving than if you're in a First World Country. And this is what happened to our dear friend. Within three days Dick was dead. You can read about this sad happening here. 

Grant and I were due to go out to SA on leave in September and attended Dick's funeral in a town not far from where we live. Understandably we found a very distraught Rina; it had all happened so fast and because we always survive malaria in Tanzania, this seemed such a senseless waste of a life. 
 Grant and I with Rina at Dick's funeral 

Rina and Dick had no home in South Africa so it didn't seem as though she'd ever be reunited with her cats.  Although through her tears she kept asking about their cats, she said she would never be able to afford to bring them back to SA. We consoled her and said for the time being we'd happily look after her kitties. 

At the end of our holiday, we returned to Mwadui where Regina and Michael had been taking care of not only three but five cats for us! When I opened the bathroom door,  the cats were lying on their tree. They hopped down and ran to me. We were amazed to see two HUGE cats in the place of the slender adolescents we'd left behind three weeks before. 
Topsy at the end of September
His brother, Tipsy at the end of September

Apart from being two heffa-lumps, both the cats were showing signs of pushiness (they're never aggressive as they have the most beautiful natures) and a definite restlessness. Regina also told me that she didn't let Ambrose play in the room with them as before, because Topsy had started to bully our little boy.  It was time for me to call Dr  Mawaluko to do a house visit at the Hedges Kitty household. 
In the middle of October, the vet arrived on his motorcycle. I'd set up a makeshift operating theater in Grant's large bathroom. There I assisted the vet to neuter first Topsy and afterwards, Tipsy. 
 Tipsy reacted very quickly to the anesthetic and was soon asleep
Topsy, on the other hand, took 47 minutes to fall asleep!
While they were under, the doctor administered their annual vaccinations which I'd brought from South Africa. He also inserted a Microchip under the skin of each cat's shoulder.  These chips have a corresponding bar coded number on the blister pack which is peeled off and stuck into their vaccination books. All our cats are Micro-chipped as we need to get them back to SA one day. 
As the cats were now ostensibly ours, Grant - who names all our pets - decided to rename them. A sort of Kitty Barmitzvah! He decided Topsy  should be Jess after Postman Pat's black-and-white cat. Tipsy became Blackie.
 Recuperating after their ops

A few days after being neutered I began to let the cats out of our bedroom area into the house. Shadow, Ginger and Ambrose always spend the day on their bed on the veranda. So I'd close the inter-leading door and let Jess and Blackie explore the rest of house. 
 Blackie and Jess enjoy looking out of a different window! 
 Blackie snuggles up to our cats' multitude of toys 
But although I repeated this ritual every day for an hour over a period of three weeks,  I couldn't stop Ginger and Shadow from hissing through the screen door at the young cats. Then Topsy and Tipsy began to growl and hiss at our three whenever they made eye contact through the window. One night Blackie managed to push past me as I opened the bedroom door. Ginger was in the dining room behind me. What followed was the most horrid cat fight. Although Ginger is a hefty 4kg cat and the Alpha male in this household, Blackie soon overpowered him. I had to use force, a broom head wedged in between the two cats until they broke free and I could collar Blackie and place him behind the closed bathroom door again.
As I joined Grant in the bedroom, I said that I would be starting proceedings to get these kittens back to Rina. I phoned her the next morning and asked whether she was able to have the cats. She was ecstatic but was worried about the cost of their relocation.  I told her not to think about it; Grant and I would make sure the cats were sent to her at no cost to her whatsoever.   

That was the easy part. 

Now began the mountains of red-tape; veterinary examinations and declarations; forms to be completed. Enough to fill the Ngorogoro Crater here in Tanzania. 

More about all this in tomorrow's post. 

As I knew I would miss the cats once they leave, I took dozens of photos of them as keepsakes.
Blackie and Jess
 Brotherly love

Birdwatching together 

I hope you're all having a wonderful Monday!






  1. Sometimes cats just do not get along. It's wonderful you are taking care of the cost of getting the now fully grown cats back to Rina. I'm sure she could really use their company at this time. It sounds as if you and Grant have really had to adjust your lives around the cats for these past few months. There is a saying around here that you don't own a cat, they own you! lol. I think it is so true.

  2. Oh good, they are going home. So glad you know how to make this work. And super happy for Rina. You are a miracle worker.

  3. JO, you are wonderful to do what you did for Topsy and Tipsy or Blackie and Jess. I am sure Rina will be very happy to have her kitties home with her. Have a happy day and week ahead!

  4. I wonder what my sausages will do if I bring home a kitty

  5. Those kitties look so beautiful and healthy! Surely Rina will enjoy having the brothers back. Have a lovely day. :)

  6. Having pets for the first time kind be a daunting experience especially when they are so small.

    I would say they are hooked for sure. :)

  7. Hi. Thanks for sharing the story about the cats. you did a great job but it is probably better that they are with their Mama now.

  8. That is an amazing story of your love of cats and people. You should collect all your cat stories and print them in a book. You could use "Blog to Book" company. Such as sad story about Dick and Rena. I hope she is managing okay and I'm sure the company of her cats will help ease the pain. They grew into huge cats.

  9. Oboy, I really am behind in my commenting.
    I would never have imagined one of the kittens would be able to beat up Ginger!
    Now to read Part Two.

  10. I have missed this post ! Sad that they didn't get along with your 3 !


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