A Friend For Life

10th Jan, 2017

Written and photographed by Gronja Lennox

Cougar came to live with us when he was about three months old. His mother, a stray, had only one kitten; my brother and his family took them in, but, as they were leaving for Australia, this wasn’t a permanent arrangement. While the mother cat found a home, the people who’d agreed to take her little white-and-tabby kitten changed their mind. Although we already had elderly cats, we couldn’t turn this kitten away.

Playful Cougar in peril

Our geriatric cats were not at all interested in playing with him and he started roaming the neighbourhood; one day he didn’t come home. We searched, sent out WhatsApp messages, and called local vets… until one of the neighbours pointed out some fur and blood in the road. We were sure it was him, and that he’d been run over by a car.

A week went by. Everyone searched… but Cougar never turned up. We feared the worst but put out a WhatsApp anyway, saying that we were walking the neighbourhood and greenbelt one more time. We were touched to discover neighbours waiting silently outside the gate to walk with us, offering sympathy and support. I couldn’t just write Cougar off, so I made pamphlets to hand out. The very next day we received news that, after seeing the pamphlet, a neighbour had spotted our boy hiding in the shrubs in their garden.

He was in a terrible condition – emaciated, with his back leg torn and shattered. We took him straight to Panorama Veterinary Clinic near Cape Town, where they told us that he would never use the back leg again and they would have to amputate. We were unsure: how would this extremely active cat adjust to being disabled? But he coped and began hobbling around soon after returning home. In no time, our tri-pawed cat was running swiftly, jumping onto tables and visiting the neighbours, who were quite in awe of his progress.

Lonely guy seeks fun-loving friend

Still, nobody played with him. One by one, we soon lost the remaining cats to old age. We moved house, with Cougar being the only cat. Our new home is on a busy road and completely enclosed with electric fences; Cougar’s thrill-seeking, roaming days were over – and he was not happy. He began howling at night and would not be placated. We were losing sleep walking around with him in the garden at all hours of the night. My husband would sit with him in the dark; only then was Cougar satisfied. It was obvious: he needed a companion. He had, however, shown aggression to other adult cats, especially males (even though he was neutered), so a female kitten might be the best option.

My friend, Linda, accompanied me to an African Tails adoption day in Pinelands. There were so many cats, some of them so tiny. How to choose? We ended up in front of a cage containing two three-month-old sisters who’d been abandoned and were in foster care. One of them – a little calico girl – put her paw through the bars and patted me on the hand. It was decided.

I was told that she was very confident and playful. Thankfully, we passed the home inspection and went to collect her, very anxious, as we had no idea how Cougar would react. As soon as we put the cat carrier down, Cougar hopped over to touch noses through the bars. There was no spitting or hissing. When she first came out of her room, Cougar lay with his back to her, acutely aware of her presence, but waiting for her to come to him. She was unused to dogs and hissed at them but, when they ignored her, she soon began to run around exploring her new home. It wasn’t long before they began to play. Nowadays, the two cats race around the garden, bouncing over the furniture, the dogs and us.

It was the best decision we could have made, as Cougar is a much happier cat. His new friend tires him out with all the chasing and wrestling games, and they often curl up and sleep together. She turned out to be exactly the right choice – and she loves her new home. We all love having her around; she is such a character! African Tails called her Queen, but we renamed her Amie. In French it means ‘friend’.

Thanks to the wonderful staff of Panorama Veterinary Clinic for their compassion and the excellent care they gave our little fur kid, Cougar. Thanks also to African Tails and the tireless work they do to save our street dogs and cats. Sometimes there is a happy ending.